Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yellowstone Backcountry - Buffalo Plateau Trail - Part 2

Got up early and headed for the creek to retrieve the packs and food bags. In the light fog, I spied a lone bison on the opposite side of Hellroaring Creek making his way towards a clearing along the bank. Tom joined me to get the packs down and as we made our way back to the campsite, we found the bison had crossed the creek onto our side ans was ambling up the slope. Glad we didn't set up the tent in that clearing like we had talked about the night before!

Campsite 2H4: Big Agnes tent and Osprey Aether 70 packs

We pumped water from Hellroaring Creek with my new MSR Hyperflow (nice and fast!), made breakfast, coffee and oatmeal, and reorganized our packs for the uphill hiking we would do this day. It took us too long to clean up our respective "yard sales" of gear, food, trash, and clothes, but we finally bid our campsite and the bison farewell.

Hellroaring Creek

Starting out at around 6000 ft, we retraced our steps to the junction of the Hellroaring Creek trail and the Buffalo Plateau Trail and made the left and started the climb that would continue on for the rest of the day's hike.

Trail signs

In the morning we were fresh and the open grassy terrain did not seem like too much of an obstacle. We talked and joked jovially, and watched our footing in areas where the trial was rutted.

It was obvious that the Buffalo Plateau Trail was not heavily travelled, but it was easy enough to follow.

At first, as we passed the carins, at least I didn't recognize them for wheat they were; they were just curious features as we climbed. This easterner is used to blazes on trees. But after seeing half a dozen or so we figured their purpose out and repaired as many as we could along the way - restanding poles, renailing orange metal blazes to the posts, stacking rocks, etc.

Within the first mile or two, we came across this erratic with a circle of antlers at its base and a few more left on top of the rock.

We continued on steadily upward, taking breaks as needed and stopping for lunch along the grassy slope. As we neared the Wyoming/Montana border and started to be flanked by some wooded areas, we came across this burned trunk that reminded us of one of the Easter Island monoliths.

Tom and I were both getting tired and we stopped for a break, a snack, and a drink in the shade of a tree right next to the trail. Half an hour later, my eyes opened. My fellow TATC members would probably frown, but a trailside nap is SWEET!

At close to 8,400 feet, we made the left turn off the Buffalo Plateau Trail and headed to our campsite for the night - a stock site labelled 2B1 on the maps. We stopped at a small stream to pump water again, at this point not wanting to carry the weight, but worried about not having a source of water for cooking at the campsite.

The distance from the turn off the Buffalo Plateau Trail to campsite 2B1 was supposed to be 0.7 miles according to the Nat. Geo. Trials Illustrated map and it was supposed to be mostly ridge running. NO WAY! I wish I had GPS because we hiked for an hour or two thinking we had somehow missed the campsite, especially as we hiked up and down several steep ravines. We stuck to the trail, and finally spotted an orange blaze, and as we got closer, a nice bear pole and fire ring. We had done about 8.5 miles and 2,400 of elevation gain in about 8-9 hours on the trail (hiking, breaks, lunch, water-pumping, and nap!).

We scouted out a place to put the tent. The ground was all hummocky (animal activity) so flat ground was at a premium. We finally found a spot within a crescent of live trees that was fairly flat and level. We set up the tent and then got busy making dinner.

I had brought along a "Pack-it Gourmet" meal of Ya Ya Gumbo. There was an ingredient missing for the sauce, and the preparation was more time consuming than I would have liked, but the result was good and we ate heartily after the arduous hike.

We hung the packs and food from the bear pole and enjoyed a nice campfire until it was time for bed. The next day's hike would be more of the same - up and up.

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