CDT MT Section 11 CDT WY Section 1

Day 96: Summit Lake

I went back to sleep after the 4am alarm on purpose, and then, figuring 6 hours of sleep was plenty, especially since my back was miraculously not hurting in the usual spot or between my shoulders, I started packing after the 5am alarm. I hit the trail just after it got bright enough out to put up the headlamp, around 6:15.

Just before 8am, I had to take a break in the woods above the trail, and I heard some footsteps crunching by on the road below. I caught up to the owner of those feet a mile later sitting beside the road with his JetBoil out. Cooking something at 8:30 after walking only 5 miles or so? I think he said his name was Windy. He said he didn’t have a permit for Yellowstone and just intended to stealth the first night, then stay in places like Grant Village that didn’t need permits until he hiked out of the park. Apparently, hiking through with no permit is a common tactic for sobos and rangers are not being too hard on them when caught.

So I hiked on another mile to the pond, the last water source for the next 17.5 miles. It was extremely muddy and it clogged up my filter almost instantly. I ended up spending well over an hour babysitting it, squeezing it, backflushing, clearing air, etc. just to get two liters filtered. I walked out with a dirty liter still in the dirty bag. Knowing i had no choice about doing a 24 mile day, I really felt that lost time.

I also really felt the heat. It was shaping up to be a hot one by usual Yellowstone summer standards, in the mid-80s. It was also bright, sunny, and clear. Cheerful weather, but I was still, as I had been all evening the night before and all morning to this point, just walking down a wide, dry loose dirt and gravel road. There were occasionally trees, but they were small and there was little shade to be found along the road.

Eventually, the trail turned suddenly into the woods from the road for a mile or so, and I found a very nice bit of shade with a good sitting log in this little section of single track, so I stopped to have lunch. Soon after that, the trail joined another dirt road, followed it up onto a higher plateau, and stayed on it for several more miles. Even when it seemed like a single track might return, it was just a way to get to another ATV track that had been eventually blocked to motor traffic but still looked like a dirt road.

It wasn’t until I was approaching the Yellowstone boundary that the single track returned for good. The boundary turned out to be a bit anticlimactic for how much advance planning is required to legally hike through Yellowstone. A tiny little boundary marker sign. And it’s not like this was not an official park trail. It gets plenty of traffic from CDTers. Do better, Park Service.

From the boundary, the next half mile is a steep climb for some reason. You can see me get winded climbing it in the video. It levels out a bit after that and opens up. It’s not a very interesting section. Two miles of that and the trail enters Wyoming, leaving the “Zone of Death.” And here is where I left Idaho for the last time. There’s no official marker for the boundary, but a hiker made an unofficial one.

There were quite a few nobos coming out of the park as I came in, but the last one I saw before I stopped for supper was the biggest surprise. It was Kaleidoscope from the PCT last year! In a brand new pair of tie-dye-colored shorts (and by brand new, I mean he probably hiked the whole CDT thus far in them). He was the same as ever: cheerful, fast, eager to get going, not much for small talk. The encounter started and ended so quickly, I didn’t even think to take a picture until he was already walking away.

Anyway, I stopped right after that, just before 6, on a log in the shadow of a tree. I had enough water for dinner plus enough to get the last 4 miles to camp if I filtered the last of the mud in the bag. With some babysitting, I managed to get all of it filtered in the time it took to treat my entree and use the result to make dessert. I accompanied dinner with the last can of cider packed out of West Yellowstone, or 90% of it anyway, since it did explode on opening and pushed foam out with such force that trying to suck it up just pushed it down my windpipe. Not very effective.

From there it was a relatively flat 3 miles to Summit Lake campground. I started seeing and smelling signs of the volcanic nature of the park. There were white flats where plants weren’t growing that were dry and smelled of sulfur.

But that didn’t stop Summit Lake from being wet and beautiful and full of life when I reached it. The clear, calm water was a lovely contrast to the muddy pond swarmed with yellow jackets I had spent the morning next to. After dropping my food and attractants in the food storage area, I wandered around until I found a nice flat spot not too far from the water. I set up and then went to collect some of that good clear stuff. Then I turned it brown through backflushing my filter into it until it was flowing well enough to fill my clean water bag.

I thought I would see Windy camping nearby since he said he was going to try to stay in official campsites, but it turned out I had the whole lake to myself. Not counting the wild animals of course. From there, it was 8 miles to the Geyser Hill boardwalk, 10 miles to Old Faithful Village, and 21.2 miles to my next campsite. In other words, I could get up early, spend some time hanging out with the geysers and the town food, and still have no trouble getting to camp at a reasonable hour. It was going to be another warm clear day following another warm clear night. Nothing but fun to look forward to.

Trail miles: 23.2

Distance to Dubois: 109.9 miles

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