Thursday, July 31, 2014
Day 52: Brooks Lake Campground to Rocky Meadow (Mile 1942)
We started our day with a delicious breakfast at Mom's, a popular Dubois breakfast cafe, hands down the best breakfast on the trail thus far. Having just learned that we would need a permit and campsite reservations to hike through Yellowstone, I called the permit office and was relieved to be able to reserve workable sites, sharing with other CDT hikers one night due to limited availability of sites as we near Old Faithful. Permit number in hand, we returned to the trailhead at Brooks Lake.
The sun lit the massive cliffs above the lake. We followed the trail through flower-filled meadows on the west side of the lake, then climbed gently to Upper Brooks Lake. A bald eagle soared over Upper Brooks Lake, then disappeared into the trees beneath the cliffs.
Towering thunderheads began piling up by lunch, and shortly after we left Cub Creek the skies opened and began to pour. Rain turned to hail as we sheltered in a small grove of pines to cover our packs and put on rain gear.
Ahead up the trail, Blue Suit, a southbound CDT hiker in a distinctive blue jumpsuit, sheltered underneath another grove of trees. We stopped to talk for awhile. Blue Suit warned us about an upcoming river crossing, the South Buffalo Fork of the Snake River.
Although an early season CDT hiker, Morrisey, had described the river as unfordable, we had heard that the water had subsided in the intervening days and knew that several other hikers had gotten through. Now Blue Suit eyed Sierra warily while he described cold, deep, fast moving water.
Several wet, rainy miles later, we reached the river. I started across first, my legs quickly becoming numb in the frigid, thigh-deep water. Leaning into the current, I slowly worked my way across the fast moving water, taking Blue Suit's advice to work my way slightly downstream as I moved across to stay out of the deepest water. Once across, I dropped my pack and went back in the river to shadow Sierra, who was already working her way across. She didn't need my help, and we were soon both safely across.
We had heard that South Fork Falls is a fantastic side trip, just under a mile and a half round trip. We were not disappointed. Upstream from our crossing the South Fork drops down a steep waterfall, then winds its way through a narrow, deep chasm or carved over time by the torrents of water raging down the river. In places the slot canyon is so narrow hikers have actually jumped across, although missing the bank on the other side of the steep cliff would mean falling over a hundred feet to certain death. Predictably, Sierra wanted to jump to the other side to explore a tiny crack on the other side that appeared to lead down to the floor of the canyon.
Instead we headed back to the trail and hiked on. Sierra discovered a seemingly abandoned baby pheasant in the grass next to the trail. Thankfully the mother pheasant was nearby. The baby pushed its way through a forest of grass and reunited with her.
We passed through a large burn area, fireweed and other wildflowers brightening the otherwise dismal landscape. Finally we found a damp camp in a small meadow next to a cluster of living trees. We found a high branch and hung our food safely out of the reach of the black bears and grizzlies that populate this area.
Posted by Heather and Sierra at 8:30 PM