Sunday, August 30, 2009
Tortured feet and trout
As I write this, my blisters and toenail have finally started to heal from the hiking trip last weekend. A couple of buddies and I hiked into a drainage north of Yellowstone National Park. Our mission was to scout the area for the possibility of a backcountry elk hunt (during the rut), catch some fish and avoid being mauled by a grizzly. We hit the heavily traveled pack trail just a bit east of Jardine. The trail gained 1000ft and descended 2500ft over 12 miles. We took a nice lunch break on the pass and had the opportunity to watch a grizzly bear frolick through the meadow. It went something like - "Hey stop, whats that?" "I think its an elk butt" "Really?" "Nope, its a griz - shit". A shot of adrenaline hit our veins as we all checked our bear spray. Sixty yards was close enough. Five minutes later we bumped into another bear, this time it was a black bear only 25 yards off the trail, time to keep moving on.
The descent ambled through alpine flats, crossed streams, snaked through dark patches of timber and finally broke out into the open scorched area that had been burned in the fires of 1988. During the lunch break I noticed a few hotspots on my feet and liberally applied some moleskin. It seemed that both my street shoes and my socks had seen better days. I had a hole working in the heel of my sock and a chunk missing out the heel of my shoe. The downhill kept on pounding and the pitch also took a toll on my right big toe I would later find out.
We set up camp in a big meadow near the Hellroaring ranger station. With the creek nearby, dry firewood everywhere and 2 flasks of Crown we had no problem settling in for the night. The bells on the packers horses in a nearby camp clanged away under the starry night.
The next day we made a 8 mile loop further up into the basin to check out the fishing. Half way up there I again stopped to assess the damage to my heel. To my surprise I found a silver dollar sized piece of skin had chosen to part ways with being attached to my body. The next remedy involved what I should have done in the first place, duct tape. We hit the meadow in a high valley and stumbled onto another bear. This guy looked to be easily 300 pounds and was lumbering along next to the creek, as if looking for an easy fish. At first we thought he was a grizzly however after zooming in the photos I took, I think it might actually be a black bear. See what you think and let me know eh? After watching him wander off through the willows, we sat down to have some lunch. One eye on our sandwich and one eye over our backs.
A primetime fishing hole beside us cut the lunch short and we started to sample the goods. I think we pulled 30 fish out of a 75 foot stretch of river. They averaged 8-10" with a dozen or so at 16". All of them cutthroat with great spirited fights. The next quarter of a mile turned up excellent cut banks stacked with hungry cutties. We must have hooked 50 fish a piece with many more strikes and refusals. I had never experienced so may refusals, the fish would often times bump the fly once then hit again only spitting it out a second later. Patience was the key.
We followed the trail back to the trail and found that something larger was also using the same trail. Some bear tracks that measured up to my foot. Unfortunately we never did cross a single elk track or see any elk scat. We fished some great canyon sections back near camp and turned in for the night, dreaming of the 12 tortuous miles ahead.
The next morning I made one of the best decisions yet, I opted to hike out in my Chacos. With a piece of duct tape over the missing pieces of heel, it was money. It definitely proved that those sandals are a worthy tool besides just lounging once you get to camp. As it so often seems to happen, the rain began to fall on the hike out. But it was a perfect cool down to a 32 mile trip into paradise. The beers that put on ice at the trailhead......yeah they tasted okay.