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Bechlor River Drainage Yellowstone NP

Following our successful climb of the High Unintas in Utah, we decided to go a bit farther and venture into Yellowstone National Park for our next adventure. We planned to start near the Old Faithful geyser basin and trek through the backcountry to the Lone Star Geyser. Once beyond that we would explore the Shoshone Geyser basin and continue over the continental divide into the Bechlor River drainage and on out to the West almost exiting the park into Idaho.

We would need a shuttle for this 30+ mile one way trip as the drive back was over 3 hours each way! And without a car at the end, that would make for a long end to a long hike. So we enlisted the help of David Hansen’s father and friend who live in Rexburg, Idaho.

We set out from Salt Lake in the morning and drove to Rexburg and stayed the night with David’s father. He made us feel right at home. Amazing how much David and his dad are alike. They both have that deep “radio personality” voice. Fun to hear them talking together. Anyway, for breakfast we got some home made hash browned potatoes…not just potatoes….Idaho potatoes! That got us ready for the 3 hour drive into Yellowstone.

Brad, David and I piled into David’s father’s pick-up truck for the trip up to Yellowstone. David’s father is a geologist so we got a great 3 hour overview of the history of the land we were driving around. One of the more amazing facts is that Yellowstone National Park is sitting on top of one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world. In fact, it is a “Super Volcano“. The last time it blew some 2.1 million years ago, it deposited ash as far away as the Texas gulf coast! With this handy information in hand, we drove towards the caldera!

Around lunch time, after sitting in traffic for countless bear and eagle sitings, we finally arrived at the Old Faithful village parking lot. It was packed with tourists, as expected for August. We bid goodbye to Mr. Hansen and his friend who would be driving a car to the Bechlor River Ranger Station at the end of our hike before returning home to Rexburg.

We started our hike along a nice 4WD jeep trail towards the Lone Star Geyser. As soon as we were 100 yrds from the road the crowds dissappeared. Excellent! The lone star geyser is about 3-4 miles into the backcountry. When we arrived there were about 5-10 people sitting around looking at this mound of steaming rock. We asked if anyone knew what time it would errupt as it only errupted on a 3-4 hour cycle. A few people seemed to think it would erupt soon. So we decided to eat a little snack and see what happened. Sure enough, within 10  mins or so the thing started steaming and sputtering a bit more. We thought it was pretty cool. But then it really started to get going…a nice slow ramp up to the eruption. It was fairly impressive too….shooting water and steam 20-30 feet into the air. And it lasted for a good 15-20 minutes or more! A nice show but it was time to go.

Next up we got lost. Not sure how it happened but we took a wrong turn onto a trail with a lot of burn from the fires of 1988. We kept going util we crossed over a hill and could see the Old Faithful parking lot again!! Ughhh. We turned around and headed back and found the bad turn fairly quickly – maybe a 2 mile RT mistake. By now the afternoon thunderstorms were hitting and we dawned the rain gear. We started on the right trail which took us up a bit to our first campsite. It was a hot sticky climb for Kim. He was wearing a plastic rain tarp trashbag and sweating up a storm inside. It was clear plastic and as I caught up to him I looked at his condition and asked if it was dryer on the inside or out! He opened some flaps, but it just was not going to help much with Kim’s situation. Camp was soon.

It was fairly wet at camp but we got our tents set-up and I think even a small fire started somehow. Not a very fun camp spot and it rained a bunch that night.

The next morning it was still raining but suddenly it let up. We all hurried to get some breakfast and get packed up. No fun eating and packing in the rain. But as luck would have it, the rain subsided for the rest of the day and our hike up to the continental divide was pleasant…well except for a small pain I started to feel in my right knee on the outside.

We crossed over the divide and started down into the Bechlor River drainage. The trail was well maintained and we did see a few people from time to time. My knee was giving me more and more problems. I was not sure what was wrong with it but I continued on.

We got to camp in the afternoon and actually had to cross a small stream (Bechlor?) to get to the camp site which was right next to a natural hot spring. My knee was killing me. What was up with that? Davy Crockett’s knee was also hurting him. At least I had company.

Everyone departed the campsite before dinner to hike up to a hot spring one of the hikers on the trail had told us about. It was about a half mile from the main trail along the Ferris Creek trail (I think). Anyway, the hot spring was actually a small stream of about 100° water flowing down a hill into a pool which you could sit in and have the water hit you on your shoulders for a nice massage effect. And if you were brave enough, you could swim into the ice cold Ferris Creek just below that and wade along from on hot spot to another (hot spots were under the creek). It was a lot of fun.

Back at camp after our spa session, we packed up and started down again. My knee was better with the rest but it soon started hurting again. But I struggled through it. We wandered along the trail next to the Bechlor river and it was a beautiful hike. We saw many falls and hot springs and pools along the way. The trail was covered in wild flowers and very well maintained.

At three different points the trail crossed the river. The first crossing was a fun wade about calf deep. But we knew from the rangers that the river was running high and that down below the crossings would be, shall we say, more interesting. The second crossing was closer to waste deep. Keep in mind the Bechlor River is flowing at around 40° farenheight…that is some cold water.

But the last crossing was the most fun. The water was easily stomach high, cold, and moving. It was hard to stand upright and not get swept downstream. Now keep in mind that we also have to get our packs across…and dry! For the last crossing, Brad, David and I packed our sleeping bags in large plastic bags and put them on top of our packs. We put the packs on but without the waste belt…this would allow us to get them off in a hurry if we started getting dragging downstream. And it also made it easier to balance without a waste belt. We started into the river with our arms locked together in a line to give us a bit more stability. With out comrades already on the other side wishing us well (not!) we slowly walked the river bed of slippery loose rocks. We almost fell many times, but somehow we managed to make it without a major mishap. My body was completely numb from the waste down.

After we dried out a bit and warmed up in the sun, we continued down to the last campsite at the end of the drainage and just at the point where the Bechlor opened up into some large meadows. Brad and David Kenison went fishing while Bruce Craygun and others read and relaxed. We had dinner and I think I recall Davy Crockett having one of the most disgusting freeze dried meals ever…was it asparagus? I slept in a tent with Kim that night and remember him smelling pretty bad at that point. No way we could go outside as the mosquitos were really bad.

Next day we set out for the ranger station. Davy Crockett and I languished way behind. Both of our knees were hurting. I walked the last 4 miles completely straight legged as did he! I think what happened is that I did some bike riding as training for this trip and had my seat too high…this over-extended the tendon on my outer knee and it came back to bite me on the hike. It has never bothered me since, but boy did it hurt on that trip.

We got to the ranger station mid-day and drove out for some pizza before heading back to Salt Lake.

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