It’s now June 18. We’ve decided it’s a good day to climb Mt. Washburn, which was really pretty close to our campsite.
This is something we hadn’t managed to do when we were there 9 years ago.
Nine years ago, when we were part of a tour with my sons’ Boy Scout Troop, we had a picnic lunch at the Dunraven Picnic area on the side of Mt. Washburn. But folks didn’t want to do a hike up to the top (about 5.2 miles round trip). We did a short stop, and a few of us headed up a short distance, when this picture of me was taken on one of the remaining snow banks.
But this time my son and I were going to do the whole thing. The hike starts at the Dunraven Picnic area at an elevation 8859 feet, and the top of Mt. Washburn is at 10243 feet, for a climb of 1384 feet.
Let me show that Yellowstone map again in case you want to orient yourself. It was just a few (really curvy) miles south of our campsite.
Here’s my son at one of the grand curves.
And here I am at the same point.
While this is a challenging hike (because of the elevation gain, and just the elevation in general), it’s really not a difficult hike. The trail is an old road, so it is comfortably wide, and it is never too steep.
There is still snow on the trail, though, in mid-June.
This was actually pretty fun to walk on.
The surface itself wasn’t too bad, at least in the lower reaches.
In that photo, you can see the peak of Mt. Washburn, off in the distance to the right of the photo. That extra little “hump” is the fire tower that sits on top (which is why they built the road in the first place).
Near the peak is a large herd of bighorn sheep. We’d seen plenty in the Badlands, but there were plenty more (including females and kids) up there. Here’s a bit of the herd.
There were a bunch of kids gamboling about.
They were racing about just having fun.
They were really having fun. I managed to catch some of the “bighorn games”.
Shortly after this, we got to the fire tower, from which I managed to get this picture of a mother and some of her kids. You can see how she is still shedding her winter coat.
Here’s the view, from the fire tower, of the trail we took coming up.
From this zoom look, you can see it was actually pretty crowded.
As you might imagine, a fair number of people commented on the fact that I was hiking up there barefooted. I kind of tried to minimize it: “Yeah, I suppose there are maybe 200-300 people hiking up here today. But I bet I’m the only one doing it barefoot today.”
Actually, I suspect I’m the only one who has done it barefoot in quite a long time (if ever).
From the top, with my telephoto lens, I got a good shot of Mt. Holmes (which we saw the day before from the Monument Geyser Basin).
If you look closely (click on the picture) you can see the fire tower on its peak, too.
Here’s a (stitched) panoramic shot to the southwest of Mt. Washburn.
[Click for the larger version.]
You can see a bit of the road that goes by the mountain.
Also from the top of Mt. Washburn you can see the Washburn Hot Springs. These are on the east slope. As usual, the hot springs areas are devoid of vegetation.
At the very top of the picture, in the background, you can see the gap that marks the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Most of the hike was pretty easy on my bare feet, even though there was a fair bit of gravel and other rough surfaces. But right near the top there the surface was really pretty difficult. Here’s what it looked like.
More Washboard than Washburn. But I managed.
Finally, let me finish up with a shot from the official elevation marker at the top.
Way in the distance (over my son’s shoulder) is our campsite.
Let me mention for just a bit the cell-phone service in Yellowstone (we have AT&T). In general, it sucked. However, it turns out that AT&T had an antenna on top of Mt. Washburn, so we had service there. (We also had service whenever we had a direct line-of-sight with the fire tower atop Mt. Washburn. In the end, that meant that when we headed out in the morning, passing Mt. Washburn, we’d catch up on our email, and then we’d do the same when we headed back to our campsite in the afternoon.) The service was pretty bad, though. There was just the one antenna, and everybody tried to use it. (Somehow AT&T hadn’t managed to increase its capacity). So we got a lot of failed attempts, even when showing 5 bars. Boo. Hiss.
From here, we headed back down the way we’d come up. At this point, my soles were getting a bit tender, but I just persevered and made it all the way back down (occasionally working hard to walk on the grass instead of the hard, gravelly surface).