Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Backpacking Yellowstone—Northeast: Lamar River; Miller Creek; Hoodoo Basin (Part 3 of 3)

Campsite 3M7, with Hoodoo Peak in the background.

Tentsite at 3M7. This area is just above and across from the hoodoos, which are visible from the thin line of trees on the left.

The hoodoos, as seen from the line of trees along campsite 3M7.

Park boundary about a quarter mile beyond 3M7, looking back toward the camping area and Parker Peak.

Hoodoo Creek drainage just outside the park.

Back at camp. Hoodoos in late afternoon light.

Next morning. Turns out this was an illegal campfire because the park issued a ban on open fires while I was already out in the backcountry.

Hoodoo Peak.

View from high up Hoodoo Peak. The two snow patches at lower left are the ones along the hoodoos near campsite 3M7.

Back at camp. I was surprised to see and hear a mourning dove way up at 9,800 feet.

Smoke from a few wildfires in the region made for a dramatic evening sky.

Sunset over the Hoodoos.

Before dawn the next morning I heard a single elk call from the forest above camp, then the clatter of hooves just outside the tent. When I opened the tent flap I saw this elk cow (at right) with two youngsters.

Hiking through a profusion of wildflowers back to site 3M6.

Camp at 3M6.

Late afternoon, with more weather on the way.

Elk seen from 3M6.

On the way back, I hiked up to the summit of Parker Peak, skirting to the right of this snowfield . . .

. . . above a herd of resting elk. 

I didn't think they'd spook because I was already high above them, but that one in the foreground looked awfully skittish.

Then one of them gave the alarm and they were all up . . .

. . . and then gone.

Then they realized I was still climbing instead of chasing them.

View from the summit of Parker Peak, with visibility limited by smoke.

Artifact or litter?

Looking over the headwaters of the Lamar River from the summit of Parker Peak.

Back down in the saddle of Parker Peak. A brief rain shower dimpled the surface of this small pond.

Obligatory shot of a peak reflected in water, rather muddy water in this case.

 Distant smoke seen through old, burned forest. There's a poem in there somewhere.

Faint trail, headed down.

More weather over the still-distant Miller Creek valley.

 The Miller Creek valley comes into view.

The rain held off until I got down from the mountain. Here's a look at Miller Creek, muddied by runoff from the recent rains. When I needed water, I was fortunate enough to find a side creek running clear.

 Campsite 3M2. The actual camping area was across the open expanse and then another couple of hundred yards into the forest.

View from the cooking area of 3M2. It was a beautiful site, but . . .

. . . it was full of large, standing dead trees, at least one of which was leaning ominously over any good tentsite available. And more rough weather was on the way. I guessed there was something like a 99.99% chance none of the trees would fall overnight, but I knew there was 100% chance I wouldn't get any sleep if I camped there.

So I walked back out to the open area and made a rough camp in the tall grass. The campsite was within view of the trail, but it was a lightly-traveled trail. Better conspicuous than crushed.
  A lot of rain fell overnight, but no trees did. And I slept very well with the heavy patter of raindrops on the tent. 

Last dayheaded out along the Lamar River.

Approaching Cache Creek from the south on a section of trail widened by bison.

Lone bull bison on the trail headed my way.

I gave him a wide berth, and he went where he wanted to go, in the direction I'd just come from.

North of Cache Creek, a large herd of bison strung out across the trail, not moving. I also gave them a wide berth, skirting in a broad arc through the sagebrush down to the left.

Headed across the Lamar Valley toward the trailhead and home.

Backpacking Yellowstone—Northeast: Lamar River; Miller Creek; Hoodoo Basin (Part 2 of 3)

Day 2. Hiking up Miller Creek

Remnants of an old, burned tree.

Petrified tree stump above the trail.

This looked like a petrified tree branch encased in rock, but I'm no paleontologist.

 Chipmunk nibbling seed heads. 

Balance and determination.

 Starting the 2,000 foot climb toward the Hoodoo Basin.

Things I didn't expect to see so high up the ridge: 


Wild strawberries.


A thousand feet higher. The trail continued to climb parallel to the ridge crest, alternating between partially or wholly burned forest and grassy expanses. 

 Faint trail, dark sky.

Whipping winds and rain at this point, but at least there was no lightning. The wind soon died down, and the rain slacked off to a chilly drizzle.

Petrified wood chips. My scientific method for identifying petrified wood is tapping prospective bits with my walking stick. If they go thud, they are just plain old wood. If they go clack, they are petrified. These were all clackers. I picked up a few pieces for closer examination, and then put them all back where I'd found them.

Approaching Parker Peak.

Parker Peak, from the high saddle on its shoulder.

Looking from the shoulder of Parker Peak into the upper Hoodoo Basin. The famous hoodoos are still about a mile beyond this point.

Campsite 3M6.


First view of the hoodoos, in uncooperative, mid-day lighting.

One of the more photographed formations.

Same formation, from the base.

Some of the other formations.

Snow and wildflowers near the base of the hoodoos.

Looking the other direction.

Part 3 is here.