Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 52 - Goldilocks water

Slept in a bit, since we only had 20mi to do. It feels strange to write that, but it was a leisurely day, when most days we try for ~25mi.

Today, we had the three best water features on the trail so far.

First, this morning, we hiked along the shores of beautiful and broad Shoshone Lake. We saw (and heard) a few Sandhill Cranes, which was my first time ever. The first 5mi were a chill walk around and along the lake, until we came to our biggest ford across the outlet of Shoshone Lake. The water was 2-3' deep, and limpid with perfect clarity to the bottom. There was hardly any current, so we trod across without any difficulty. We sat on the other side in awe of the breadth of the amazing lake. We saw a pair of kayakers, looking so smooth, glide down the outlet to adjoining Lewis Lake. They waved, and we wished them good morning. When they came to the part where we forded, we actually heard their hulls scrape the rocks at the bottom, and they had to use their hands to push through the shallow section. We then saw the quietest family of four paddle close in two canoes, with the kids furiously paddling, and the parents working their paddles as rudders. We also wished them good morning, but they were barely speaking above a whisper. Odd.

Our next water feature was the aptly named Witch Creek. The Ley maps, and Nobos Gnar and Pod, mentioned that this was a great spot for a hot spring. At the first point we crossed Witch Creek, cool fresh water was mixing with sulfurous geyser water, and it was a little too hot to get in. We dunked our hands and pulled back, deciding that downstream might be a better option. The creek was beguiling though, with a slight sulfurous smell, long wavy green plants, and steam rising from the surface. Witchy indeed. The valley was dry, with dead yellow grass, except for the verdant ribbon of Witch Creek. Though sulfurous, it was fresh enough to sustain the grass around it. Truly magic.

We crossed the creek a second time, and it was perfect hot tub temperature, but we were at the height of the heat at 3pm. The temperature must have been in the high 80s, and there was little tree cover due to the '88 fire. We decided that while it would be fun, we'd probably turn into jerkied versions of ourselves if we decided to hot tub there.

The third water of the day was gorgeous Heart Lake. Like Shoshone Lake, this is a large broad lake, with clear water. We met Steve there, who had just taken a dip. Though the water was a little chilly, we quickly jumped in, and I had my first bath since leaving Old Faithful. So, the first water was too cold, the second water was too hot, but this was our Goldilocks water. As we were drying in the sun, we saw a pair of pelicans floating a several yards off shore, which surprised me. I always think of them as ocean birds.

After our dip, we reluctantly pushed on to our campsite further down the lake. We ran into Sparrow, who we had lost somewhere at Old Faithful. So, full camp tonight, including us, Sparrow and Steve. A true Sobo party.

Three great water features + a Sobo party = one of my best days on the trail so far.

Tomorrow, we leave Yellowstone with great sadness, and get back to reality. It's been a terrific visit, and can't wait to get back to see the rest of the park some day.

Mileage: ~20mi from Moose Creek to Heart Lake

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