Trek America - Yellowstone NPMay 18, 2015 in the United States
It was a cold night under canvas in Yellowstone National Park (NP). With the hoods of our mummy-style sleeping bags drawn tight around our heads with only a small breathing hole left, our bodies were kept from freezing but we still awoke with cold feet. Getting over the initially shock of leaving the relatively warm embrace of the sleeping bags we got ourselves warm by readying breakfast and making our camp 'bear safe' before leaving to explore the park. Due to being in the middle of a national park with a bear population you should not leave any food or scented items, e.g. toiletries, in your tent or camp site, either overnight or when leaving camp as this attract bears looking for food.
Fortunately no bears came into our camp however we did get to see a grizzly bear at a safe distance later in the day. Driving across the expanse of Hayden's Valley we spotted the dark shape moving across the grassy plains (as had a number of other park visitors). As we got closer along the ridge line of the road we could see it in detail. The fur underneath it's frame was wet from water nearby and it's snout was almost a yellow against the dark brown of its thick fur. At the distance we stood from the bear it did not appear particularly large, but undoubtedly it would have been fearsome up close next to our flimsy human frames. A park ranger was present to ensure that none of the spectators got too close or did anything stupid (people are killed in national parks every year because they don't respect the dangerous nature of all the animals present - during our time in the park a girl was gored by a bison that she tried to hug for a photograph). The bear however went about its business of assumedly foraging amongst the grasses. We later saw bison (crossing the road in front of us) female elk and smaller wildlife.
We went to the 'grand canyon' of Yellowstone, a canyon of yellow and reddish stone that gives the park its name. The yellow in the stone was stoked by the sun with the colour falling down into the chasm of the canyon below where it met the deep blue and white water of the river flowing through it.
In the afternoon we hiked the Bunsen Trail, which is a 2 mile ascent up to Bunsen Peak standing at 2599m with commanding views over the park. We followed the trail through pine forest and grassland, remaining mindful of the possibility of bears, before taking the steady, but in places steep, incline up the peak as the path cut back and forth over the hillside. A couple passed us on their way down, warning of slippery snow further up the trail, some of which we found and thought not much more of it. However what they really meant was the last 50 metres to the summit, which was a thick blanket of snow and ice. The weight of the sky's bright blue ceiling pushed down on us as we scrambled and slid up the snowy slope. Breathless in the crisp air with legs burning it felt very uncertain as to whether we would make it. Yet after one last burst of energy we arrived gasping but elated at the top. The sun stood proud in the sky as we gazed out across the picture-postcard scenery of green woodland, slate and white mountains and cloudless sky. At this altitude the sun felt powerful against our faces but the wind also sent a chill when it picked up. We stayed on the summit for about 1/2 hour contemplating life at what felt like the top of the world.
If the climb up through the snow had felt difficult it certainly felt almost impossible attempting to come back down. We stood on the slippery gradient with the world falling away at our feet thinking 'how the effin' hell are we getting down here?' before Lowrie in a stroke of both genius and comedy decided that she was going to slide down on her backside. After that we all decided to do the same like a bunch of lemmings, one after the other, bouncing and sliding down the 50m gradient to relative safety.
The remainder of the descent was relatively easy and we returned to camp proud of our achievement. Unfortunately the glow we felt was dampened when we arrived back at camp to find that it had been subjected to a localised rain and hail storm leaving a number of our tents inhabitable. Fortunately there were spare tents and we grouped together to set the camp back to some semblance of order. It was another hard cold night in Yellowstone as the sun set and her campfire dwindled but tomorrow we were on the move again and heading south.Read more