After nearly a third of the length of the trail, I have finally crossed into Wyoming! Montandaho gave us a memorable goodbye with an overnight lightning storm as we camped at 10,000' on top of Targhee Pass. As a reward for sticking it out, we then got an absolutely gorgeous sunrise the next morning, complete with visiting mountain goats.
We took a day off in the overwhelmingly touristy town of West Yellowstone before heading back out to the trail where the forest service had JUST (less than 24 hours earlier) reopened a section that had been closed due to a fatal bear mauling. We sang and clapped and whooped and hollered our way through this area, getting to camp just as it started to rain. Little did we know, this rain would continue for days without a break to dry out our gear or our poor, oversaturated feet.
The sun finally reappeared the day I hit the 1,000 mile marker and entered Yellowstone National Park and it stayed out while I wandered the boardwalks with hundreds of tourists exploring the thermal pools, hot springs and geysers near Old Faithful. After being in the woods for so long, the crush of people, the traffic jammed parking lots and screaming children felt more like Disney world than a national park and I just couldn't take it. I didn't stop in the metropolis of gift shops, restaurants and hotels at all, not even for a snack, and instead continued haphazardly through the tangle of roads to get back to trail. Once I was well away from the chaos, I found a sunny spot and laid out all of my gear to dry. I even unpacked and laid out my food, since apparently my bear canister may be bear proof but is not watertight. I aired out my feet and dried my shoes as best I could, then packed up and hiked with one of my hiking partners to an off-trail geyser not knowing when or if it might erupt. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, we got a major eruption and an incredible show.
We camped near the giant Shoshone Lake, where we awoke to the calls of Sandhill Cranes (look up their call- so cool!) and hiked through a backcountry geyser basin, with just as many thermal features but no boardwalks and no tourists. It was magical and otherworldly. I wanted to explore but it is dangerous (and illegal) to leave the trail in that area, and we had miles to do. We hiked through a wetland where our feet once again became soaked, crossed a knee-deep river and then crossed a thigh-deep lake outlet before breaking for lunch. The sun was shining but we felt raindrops. We packed up just in time for the sky to open on us once again- this time with hail in addition to rain. We hiked quickly as thunder rumbled ominously and the rain and hail pierced through the pines.
We reached a road where my hiking partners quickly got a ride to shelter inside the park and I was picked up by a friend. I got to relax and wait out the next few days of rain while visiting and we even took a side quest down to Grand Teton National Park to explore and hike some bonus miles.
Dried out and well rested with my heart and soul full from my visit, I am about to head into the Wind River range, a section that many thru hikers claim is one of the absolute best of the entire journey. This is a long food carry and I will be trying to catch up to my hiking partners on difficult terrain. I am excited to get back out there and am looking forward to the challenge!