I’m continuing writing about my son’s and my trip out west. It’s our third full day in Yellowstone: June 19. Our plan for the day was to hike up to Grizzly Lake, which lies in the shadow of Mt. Holmes.
Hiking to Grizzly Lake isn’t any sort of real challenge. It’s some pretty easy hiking in a gorgeous area, but it does get one away from the crowds that we saw going up and down Mt. Washburn. The trail starts in the valley near the beginning of the Gardner river, climbs about 400 feet up a ridge and then down about 300 to the lake. It’s only about 1.8 miles (one way).
Here I am on one of the switchbacks heading up the ridge.
You will of course notice something different about me. Those are a pair of Teva Zilches.
I trained the best I could in advance of the trip, but I just got nowhere near the sort of stimulation on my soles that comes from hiking every single day on varied terrain. And at this point my feet were feeling pretty tender. (Actually, the rest of my body was feeling it a bit, too.)
On top of that our campsite at Tower Fall made the usual assumption of shoddishness. It was constructed assuming that everybody would be wearing shoes. So there was gravel everywhere. That didn’t help me at all.
I also wonder if my age had anything to do with my feet not responding well enough. We know that, as one ages, one loses the fat in ones soles that helps provide padding. (For some reason, as we age, the fat leaves our faces and feet, and settles in our bellies.) I’ve mentioned before that I’ve heard stories from old-timers on other hikes I’ve been on about how, when they were kids, they would run around all summer barefoot, even on gravel. So, maybe if I were 30 (or even 50) years younger, I would not have to have resorted to the sandals.
However, a strong reason I go barefoot is to help me get closer to Nature. But that doesn’t mean I have to endure strong discomfort to do so. This trip was supposed to be fun. So, I swallowed my pride and put on sandals. But I only did it for the times when I needed them—often, just a small discomfort was easily overcome by communing. But I also didn’t see a need to take it too far.
So, here’s the map of the trail to Grizzly Lake.
And let me just put that in the context of the whole park.
Grizzly Lake is in the northwest side of the park, between Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs. We spent the whole morning in the area.
Also on the way up that first set of switchbacks, there was more wildlife. See if you can spot the yellow-bellied marmot that was living in the roots of this dead tree.
Hard spotting it? How about this blown-up version?
It didn’t take us too long to make it up to Grizzly Lake. The trail meets the lake at the north end, near the outflow. Here’s the view (oddly lit because I was mostly shooting towards the sun) up the lake.
As you can see, I’m barefoot again. The grassy trail made that enjoyable again.
The lake is drained by Straight Creek, which is fairly wide. I forded it. (BTW, there was a really nice backcountry campsite right near there.)
We’d kind of decided this was about as far as we were going to go on this hike, so my son didn’t ford it (he’d have to have taken off his footwear, and then put them back on again onto wet feet) but stayed behind to take pictures, instead.
Here’s a better view of the size of the creek, on my return trip.
Of course, bare feet on old logs is always delicious.
You can also see that the creek really wasn’t all that deep (though the deeper part, mid-calf, was near the farther shore).
Climbing back onto the ridge, there were spectacular view of Mt. Holmes behind Grizzly Lake.
The trail up the slope had gotten very sharp (at least to footsore soles), so I’m afraid I shod up again.
And here is my son with Mt. Holmes in the background.
I also got out my good zoom lens, so here is a close-up of just Mt. Holmes.
If you look very carefully, you can see a fire tower at the very top. I don’t know if it also had cell-phone antennas, like Mt. Washburn did. But if so, it wasn’t with our carrier.
After getting back to our car, we headed north towards Mammoth Hot Springs. Along the way was another point I wanted to visit: the Obsidian Cliffs.
This is an area where the volcanic oozings had just the right chemical consistency to produce obsidian, which is a black volcanic glass.
One really cool thing about it is that they have found this obsidian (identified by its chemical signature) in Hopewell burial mounds here in Ohio. This obsidian was part of the Hopewell Interaction Sphere.
[Photo from Brad Lepper’s blog post on The Hopewell Mortuary-Ceremonial Interaction Sphere.]
The best guess at this point (from what I understand) is that the Newark Earthworks/Octagon were a place of pilgrimage, since the Octagon celebrates the moon’s 18.6 year cycle, and that many of the items from the interaction sphere were offerings.
Here’s a picture looking that the cliff edge-on.
Taking a close-up look at the rock in the foreground, you can see the obsidian intrusions (the really shiny stuff).
And here is some more that’s part of a rock that was edging the road.
By the way, the whole area is closed to people. They are trying to preserve the resource. If you aren’t Hopewell yourself, you have to leave the obsidian there.
Heading north again, there was the usual wildlife (bison) in the meadows near the road. Yawn. (Yet, one get’s that way after a while.) But, we did stop when I spotted these sandhill cranes.
You can spot the whole family. The father is in the foreground to the right, and in the rear left you can see the mother with two chicks.
Here’s a better (zoom lens) shot of the mother and chicks.
And here’s a decent close-up of the father.
On our way back to Tower Fall, heading east of Mammoth Hot Springs, the road’s traffic stopped dead.
There was a mother with two cubs.
Yes, I know this was supposed to be “A Grizzly Kind of Day”. Yes, I know that those are black bears. But cut me some slack.
What we did was, as long as we were stopped, my son got out of the car with the camera and zoom lens, walked to where the crowd had gathered, and I stayed in the car creeping along with the traffic.
Then when the traffic started to clear, and I caught up with my son, he jumped back in the car. That worked out fine.
Oh, and starting the hike? The thing that really made it a grizzly kind of day?
At the very beginning of our drive towards Grizzly lake, ascending towards Mt. Washburn, we came across a lone ranger car with his lights on.
There, right next to the road was Ol’ Scarface.
According to the ranger, he is the oldest bear in the park, at age 27. They keep careful track of all the bears, if they can. You can even see the tracking collar on Scarface’s neck.
As we drive along, particularly up Mt. Washburn, we see all these people with massive spotting scopes scouring the meadows below hoping for a long-distance glimpse of a grizzly.
And we, with nobody else nearby except the one ranger, had Ol’ Scarface walk along the road next to us. He’s about 10-20 feet away from us, here.
That was sure a good start to a grizzly kind of day.