After all of the wildlife encounters on June 19, it turns out that we really hadn’t exhausted the day . . . or ourselves. By mid-afternoon, we were bored and wanted to do something else.
We’d been talking about ascending Specimen Ridge but hadn’t gotten to it yet, so off we went.
If you look at the map around our Tower Fall campground, you can see a tiny road leading up to a “Petrified Tree”. What is there is a petrified tree, but that really didn’t sound like much of a challenge if there was the lone tree and you could drive to it. But off to the east of it (and east of our campground) was Specimen Ridge.
We’d been on a small portion of Specimen Ridge when we’d done our introductory hike on arrival at Yellowstone. But this new hike contained a major ascent.
The “specimens” of Specimen Ridge are petrified trees. One of the times when the Yellowstone volcano erupted the ash covered and killed a bunch of trees. They eventually became petrified, and were now re-emerging.
They were re-emerging about 2,000 feet above the Lamar river. He’s a view of the ridge from the trailhead near the river.
(I took this picture at the end of our hike, so you can see that the lighting is somewhat different.)
Partway up one gets spectacular views of the Lamar Valley. This is a stitched, panoramic shot, with the Mammoth Hot Springs area on the far left.
The trail starts at about 6,200 feet, and the first petrified stump is at around 7,000 feet.
These are really nice specimens (hey, they call it “Specimen Ridge” for a reason), and well-worth the climb. They clearly look like tree stumps.
In fact, you can even still see and count the tree rings.
In addition, as the petrified tree erodes away, it tends to do it tree ring by tree ring.
Here is another great piece.
Our car is down at the bottom somewhere.
We finally made it to the peak, a total climb of nearly 2,000 feet. Here’s the view along the ridge (looking southeast). (Another stitched, panoramic picture.)
And it was steep. It was all I could do to keep going. My son was patient.
Do you like the cairn that’s been built up over the years by hikers?
Another thing that was nice about this hike and ascent (aside from the feeling of accomplishment) was that it got us away from the Yellowstone crowds again. We met one person on the whole hike. If you are willing to make the extra effort, it is possible to enjoy Yellowstone without feeling like you are in the middle of a city.
From the top, we were also able to see Mt. Washburn, which we had ascended the previous day.
If you look carefully, you can see the fire tower on top. You might also recall that AT&T’s cell antenna is up there. That meant we had a great signal.
Here I am atop the ridge.
Yes, I still had my sandals on. I’d been putting them on and off during the hike, depending on the surface I was walking on. On the trail itself, a groove had been cut into the surface, so there was the chippy rhyolite in it. However, the grass on the side of the trail was often pretty comfortable.
We could also see our campground from the top.
The valley in the foreground (left to right) is the Yellowstone River valley, and the valley heading off into the distance is for Tower Creek. The campground itself is in the area where the two valleys meet.
On our way down, there was a nice western bluebird nearby.
We also went by another of the petrified trees that we’d seen on the way up. By this time I was barefoot again.
I was barefoot again because we went down a different way than the way we came up. Here’s a map of the hike.
The location of the trail is not marked on any map, but before we’d left, I’d used Bing’s satellite view to find the trail and mark it (in blue). We headed down the more western (and lesser-used) trail. After a bit it disappeared, so we just bushwhacked (actually, grasswhacked) our way through the grass (in purple).
We were able to see a few bison down there as we descended; we also made sure to keep our distance.
Right near the end of the hike we came upon the remains of one of the bison.
Its bones were scattered over about a 30 foot radius. There you can see part of the spine, and the size of the vertebrae.
This was one of those short (distance-wise) hikes that was a real challenge and worth the effort.