We came from various parts of the south.
Angela and Mike Harden, Larry Veasey, Paul Beebe and I met in Yellowstone National Park for a week of paddling the first week of September. Most tourists stick to the roads, gazing at wandering bison and photographing spewing geysers. Most tourists don’t leave the protection of their cars or the security of a boardwalk. But not us. We saw Yellowstone as it really is.
The first day was spent getting our kayaks’ permits and settling into our plan. We paddled the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake from Grant Village, where I was camped, to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It is an odd way to view spewing geysers and hissing mud pots, but we enjoyed paddling right up to the very, very hot water, testing and confirming that the water was indeed hot. The rock formations were evidence that this phenomenon had been going on for thousands of years.
The next day, we drove to the Tetons where we had to get an additional permit for our kayaks before we could launch them into the Snake River. One thing I must add is that the Montana wild fires added a layer of smoke so thick that not even the Grand Teton could poke through. Because of the smoke, we could barely see the outline of one of the grandest mountain ranges on earth. It did not bother our enthusiasm however. The swift current and often gentle rapids made this paddle a lot of fun. We put in at the dam at Jackson Lake and floated 16 miles to our take out called Deadman’s Bar. We witnessed bald eagles catching fish, soaring osprey, diving ducks of all kinds, lots of fish (the water is extremely clear) and an assortment of bird life including tundra swans. It was a very good day.
The third day began our three day paddle into the backcountry of Yellowstone. We loaded our kayaks with warm clothes, tents and camping gear, lots of food, and anything else we could cram into our little boats. We paddled into the unknown, first across beautiful Lewis Lake where we had lunch on one of its beaches. Our lunch spot was evidently in the flow of a hot pool since the water coming into the lake and surrounding rocks were very, very warm. It was a neat lunch experience. After we left Lewis lake we began the upstream paddle into Lewis River. At first the current was kind and the shoreline beautiful. But soon the channel tightened and the current picked up. We struggled against it paddling frantically upstream. That didn’t last very long and we all got out and pulled our boats the rest of the way, upstream, against swift current, and over logs, rocks, boulders and anything else in our way. We were determined. It was extremely hard, but we made it to the headwaters and popped out onto Shoshone Lake. Another 5 miles or so, along the beautiful shoreline of Shoshone, and with swells around 3 feet with a headwind, we finally made it to our home away from home. Our campsite was a beautiful black sand beach. We quickly made camp, hung our food, cooked our dinner, toasted to our success, and went to bed!
The next morning we decided to paddle to the far end of the lake to check out the Shoshone Geyser Basin. The lake was extremely flat and calm, a welcomed paddle compared to the evening before! The shoreline was filled with fall colors, dripping waterfalls, and huge fir and spruce trees. Mike and Angela decided not to continue on, but to enjoy a leisure float back to camp. Larry, Paul and I paddled on to the end of the lake, pitched our boats, and hiked about 2 miles to the geyser basin. Along the way, we trudged through wet meadows, saw one bear track, and enjoyed the fall wildflowers. But the treat of the day was exploring this back country geyser basin. No tourists. No boardwalks. Just spewing and erupting geysers, hot pools and sulfur smells. Our little trail was right next to all of this. I kept hoping the earth’s crust would hold and we wouldn’t fall through! It was a beautiful float back to our campsite and beach that evening even though the wind had picked up. It helped push us back! At camp we cooked and ate and toasted the day. Another perfect day in Yellowstone’s backcountry.
Our paddle out of the backcountry was almost as challenging as our paddle in. The headwinds picked up early and we paddled hard against it back along the shoreline of Shoshone Lake. Paddling with the current on Lewis River was fun and I guess the correct way to paddle a river (downstream)… Lewis Lake was rolling with swells so we stopped to rest and have our last lunch together before we finished our day. Luck had us beached right next to a huge huckleberry patch. I put a handful into a zip lock to save for breakfast. We finally made it across Lewis Lake, to our waiting cars, and to final goodbyes. What a week. Larry, Mike and Angela drove back to Cody while Paul and I drove to our campsite in Grant’s Village. Saying goodbye to our little group was bittersweet. We had experienced so much together in such a short time.
The next morning, Paul and I enjoyed a lovely hike to Riddle Lake before we said goodbye. I left for my cabin in the Beartooth Mountains and Paul spent one more night in Yellowstone before heading out the next morning. One thing we all promised each other was that next year we would plan another epic adventure together. I can’t wait. But I wonder where it will be?!
Click here for some pictures!