I’m still writing up the trip Out West that my son and I made back in June. I’m now up to June 20.
When there is a canyon like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, what do you do with it? Why, you have to hike down to the bottom and back up again.
We started at Inspiration Point overlooking the canyon, and hiked the five miles to Sevenmile Hole.
Huh? Why is it called Sevenmile Hole if it is only 5 miles? Well, it’s seven miles from the lower falls, and Inspiration Point and the trailhead are farther downstream.
The hike starts in a very nice pine forest.
The trail was littered with rhyolite, that chippy volcanic rock, and I’m afraid my soles were still too tender from constant hiking, so I opted for the sandals, at least for the beginning of a long hike.
As you hike along the top of the rim, you get a great view of the canyon itself.
That’s what we were about to head down.
At this point our elevation was about 7,900 feet, though by the time we started our descent, the canyon rim had risen to a bit over 8,000 feet.
And then we started down.
Yellowstone is of course riddled with hot springs, easily seen because the heat kills all of the vegetation.
Here’s my son at a great overlook about halfway down just before we passed through a large hot spring or thermal area.
And here is that broad swath just before we descended through it.
Shortly before the bottom the trail leveled off for a bit.
There are a lot of these cascades running down the side of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The rock is just so hard that you tend not to get steep waterfalls.
We finally made it to the bottom, at around 6,900 feet, for a descent of 1,100 feet.
Here’s the view looking upstream from Sevenmile Hole.
There was a rock about 10 feet into the river, so you know what I had to do.
Yes, one needs to be careful. But the water was only about a foot or two deep, and while the water in the center of the river was moving very quickly, this was a bit of a backwater. There was, still, a fair current there. But that is where my hiking stick, along with the ability to feel how good of a grip my bare feet had on the underlying rock, came in.
Here are another set of pictures, this time looking downstream.
No, that rock did not tempt me (much). It was too far out.
Here I am on my previous rock, just looking the other direction.
From there we just turned around and headed back uphill.
That’s the problem with canyons. When you climb a mountain, the easier part is at the end. When you do a canyon, all of the hard work comes at the end.
And it was a slow slog (at least for me). And no pictures on the way up. I was concentrating on breathing.
When my son and I had contemplated this hike, I had noted that the Washburn Hot Springs were a short (a bit over a mile) diversion off the trail. Here’s the topographic map showing the Sevenmile Hole trail (red), and the trail heading off to Washburn Hot springs (purple).
[Click for larger version.]
While ascending, it was hard to imagine doing the diversion. But then at the top there was a bit of a stretch on more-or-less level ground. Breath returned. Energy returned.
So we headed to the Hot Springs.
I should mention that, while we met a fair number of people on the trail, it was not the crowded superhighway that the Mt. Washburn trail was. The number of people willing to make the extra effort declines with distance and elevation change.
And on the Hot Springs trail, we met only one other group (and they were park employees/interns on their day off).
We’d already seen the Mt. Washburn Hot Springs . . . from a distance. They stick out nicely from the top of Mt. Washburn, as we saw when we climbed it.
One reason I was fine with heading to the hot springs was that the trail was pretty level. The only elevation change was a quick climb down, then back up, in order to cross Sulphur Creek.
Sulphur Creek itself did not smell of sulphur, just a bunch of its little feeder streams. There must have been other feeder streams with water fresh enough to dilute it by the time it reached us.
And then we made it to the Hot Springs.
Which were incredible.
This is why I like making the extra effort. My son and I got to see a part of the park that very few other people ever get to see. And there were no boardwalks with warning sign—it all depended on our good judgement, and we could move around to get the perspective we wanted.
And they were really good hot springs, too.
Here I am just a bit downstream of the previous pictures, where the water flows out of the area (and crosses the trail).
By the way, if you want to test how hot the water is, the best way is not to just touch it. It could easily scald. What I did was just hold my hand above the water to get a feel for how hot it was. It this point it had cooled down quite a bit. It was obviously warm, but not dangerously so.
Yes, I am wearing my sandals in that photo. But from that point, I took them off and did the return hike barefoot. I’d already been over the terrain and knew what it was like. (There was actually some pretty marshy stuff on our way to the hot springs that was quite delightful.)
It was a delicate balancing act of really wanted to go barefoot, but also not wanting to overdo it so that I couldn’t go barefoot later.