As of today there are six weeks and one day until the 100 mile Hike Club concludes, and my coworkers and I are feeling that deadline fast approaching. I’m at 62.5 miles right now which isn’t bad, but if I keep going at my current rate I won’t hit 100 in time, so it’s time to step it up.
Few people know that Yellowstone has a natural bridge. It’s a 2.4 mile hike, on the north end of Yellowstone Lake near Bridge Bay Campground. The trail is mostly flat (by Yellowstone standards) and follows an old road that use to take visitors right up to and on top of the bridge.
There isn’t a lot to see on the way in terms of scenery, it’s set in a young lodgepole forest with a couple small meadows. We do see three marmots, several other rodents, and a few birds including a gray jay however, and as with most of the park bears are a possibility so come prepared.
The land bridge is more impressive than I was expecting! It’s 50-some feet tall and 20-some feet wide and even this late in the season there’s a little water running under it. You’re not allowed to cross it anymore, in fact there’s a big gap in the rock that goes all the way through so I wouldn’t feel comfortable on it anyway, but you can hike up behind it and get quite close. I love the old tree growing out of the middle of it, my coworkers and I wonder if the roots are what’s holding the rock together.
The last natural bridge I saw was in Missouri this past spring, and while this one isn’t as big I think it’s neater looking. It’s not as thick which makes it easier to see that it is in fact a bridge, and it’s also easier to photograph.
Afterward, I convince my coworkers to take a quick trip through the campground.
It’s huge! Over 400 sites on ten or so loops, a person could get lost in here if they’re not careful. The first few loops are more open, the ones farther in are forested and offer a bit more privacy, but even these offer only so-so separation. I prefer campgrounds like the little NPS ones in Lamar that I reviewed last post, but I know some people would like this better.
It’s $22.50 a night, and includes flush toilets no but showers. Generators are allowed, it is a reservation campground, and there is a dump station but no full hookups. One big plus though, you’re within walking distance from the lake and marina, which has boat rentals and tours as well as a general store.
Brr! One thing I’ve noticed about living at high elevation this summer, there’s often a huge disparity between the low and high temperature for the day. A 30 degree difference is quite normal, and 40 degrees or more is not uncommon. My phone says it’s 25 degrees out, but will get up to 69 by the afternoon.
There’s frost on the windshield as I’m getting ready for today’s trip, but my unprotected water hose remains unfrozen. While it can get cold at night, it doesn’t stay below freezing long since the temperature climbs so much during the day so for now my plumbing isn’t in danger. I dress in layers and head out.
Today’s original plan was to drive the Beartooth Highway between Cooke City in the northeast corner of Yellowstone and the town of Red Lodge, but I have my doubts from the very beginning. Smoke from the wildfires in Idaho has been moving into the park the past few days, and today is the worst I’ve seen it. I hold out hope that maybe the air will be clearer on the other side of Mount Washburn on the northern range.
Nope, it’s worse. Remember that “top 10 things to know about full-timing” post I put up not long ago? This is a classic example of how plans need to be written in jello because things can go wrong. Today’s a poor day for sweeping vistas, but there are still plenty of things I haven’t seen yet in Yellowstone that don’t require being able to see far. So I focus on those. Like this beautiful view of Tower Falls, just over 100 feet tall and surrounded by hoodoo rock formations.
It’s only a quarter mile or so hike from the parking lot at the Tower General Store and is paved for easy access. If you’re up to more walking, you can choose to hike down to the shore of Yellowstone River (unpaved) for an additional half-mile of distance, but once you go down you’re committed to climbing back up again!
Right across from the Tower General Store is Tower Campground. This brings me up to four out of twelve Yellowstone campgrounds toured.
It’s small and there’s quite a bit of climb to get into it and one hairpin curve. If I had to guess I’d say the sites would be less level at this one given the terrain, but again I don’t get out of the truck to snoop because the campground is quite full and there are a lot of people around.
I do like how high up it is, it’s a neat location. It’s another NPS campground with only vault toilets, no hookups, no generators, first come first served, 31 sites, and max length for all equipment of 30′ (so no Cas).
One nice thing about living here, I’ve learned where a lot of the “neat” stuff to photograph from the road is, so that when it comes up my camera is primed and ready. Like this cliff of columnar basalt, formed from rapidly cooling lava. There’s a pullout to get pictures of it but this time of year it’s often full so if you can get a drive-by picture, more power to you.
If you look closely, you can see there’s two rows of it on the adjacent cliff overlooking the river. It’s a lot neater looking in person though.
Remember that Yellowstone River Overlook hike Jayne and I did a week ago? Today I take a quick walk along the opposite side of the river, and get a different view of that large thermal area, which I now know is called Calcite Springs. According to the sign, sometimes sulfur or even oil get superheated in the ground underneath and bubble up to the surface where it flows like molasses.
And here’s a picture of the trail we walked on last week. You can see the columnar basalt right near the top of the cliff, and the fins of eroding rock underneath. What a neat area.
Back at the parking lot, a small group of people have their cameras trained on something, two bighorn sheep ewes, and one lamb!
Next I park in a pullout in Lamar Valley and read in the truck for a while, sitting in the passenger seat with the door wide open to watch for animals in the valley. I see a hawk spiraling above for a while, a bison herd off in the distance, and a pronghorn wanders by on it’s way down to the water. Lamar has been called America’s Serengeti and I’d agree. If you want to see wildlife in Yellowstone, this is the number one place to go.
By noon I’m getting hungry, so I climb back into the driver’s seat and drive west from Tower Junction to Mammoth. More bison cause a brief traffic jam, but they’re quick crossing the road.
I’m going to cut the post off here as it’s already getting long and I need to hurry and get this up before it becomes prime time and I can’t get online – it gets so crowded at Old Faithful with so many people trying to use their phones that the cell tower becomes overwhelmed and it’s hard to get even a phone call out.
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