Posts Tagged With: camping

Honeymoon Roadtrip Day 6: Hiking in the Backcountry

Friday, June 6: more hiking and exploring in Yellowstone backcountry

Our first night in the backcountry was the coldest night we’d had yet. The tent finally began to warm when the sun came up. We took our time getting up and making breakfast (oatmeal), then cleaning our dishes and stringing everything back up. After a relaxing morning, we were ready to take a day hike to further explore the area.

hanging our food out of bears' reach

hanging our food out of bears’ reach

From our campsite, we could smell sulfur from the nearby spring when the wind picked up. We decided to hike towards Wahb Spring and Death Gulch to check out the thermal activity. The trail took us back up the ridge, where we immediately encountered bison. At this point we were old pros at navigating around them, so we veered off trail at a safe distance until we were clear of them. The trail ran up and down several small hills and over bubbling creeks, then through a wooded area. As we lost our easy sight lines, we started to make more noise by shouting and clapping so we wouldn’t surprise any bears. At one point, our noisiness caused a moose to suddenly leap to his feet and take off down the mountain. Finally, we had proof that our tactics were working.

gone hikin'

gone hikin’

During our hike, we encountered lots of downed, burned trees from the last great fire in the 1980’s. Lots of new growth was springing up as well. After a few miles, we turned back to head to camp. On our way, we got a good view of Mt. Norris.

Back at camp, we had lunch and watched more deer cross the river. Our timing ended up being perfect because as we were putting away our supplies, a heavy rain rolled in. We spent the next few hours chilling out in the tent reading (me with my Kindle, Kurt with our Glacier guidebooks). The weather cleared up in time for dinner, so we sat by the campfire and split a bag of beef stroganoff, my personal favorite dehydrated meal. As dusk settled, deer continued to cross at the river and climb the ridge near our site, giving us a perfect view for wildlife watching.

our teeny tiny tent

our teeny tiny tent

deer at the river

deer at the river

On our second night, we were better prepared for the cold. We zipped our sleeping bags together and piled on the layers. This time, we stayed much warmer and got a better night’s sleep. However, we woke up the next morning to quite a surprise…

our cozy little tent

our cozy little tent

Wildlife sightings: moose, bison, mule deer

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Categories: fun trip, honeymoon, on the road, the great outdoors | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Honeymoon Roadtrip, Day 5: Yellowstone Backcountry

Thursday, June 5: hiking in Lamar River Valley

We packed up our backpacks with the clothes, food, and supplies we would need for the next two days and nights, and then put everything else in the car. It was time for our backcountry excursion, the few days of our trip of which I was the most excited about and also the most nervous. We had picked Lamar River Valley because it was known for being a great spot to see wildlife; luckily, the day before when we picked up our backcountry permit, the ranger had said that they hadn’t had any reports of bear activity in the area recently. Still, I knew that we would have to be extremely careful of wildlife encounters. It turned out that bears weren’t the ones we had to worry about.

ready to begin our hike

ready to begin our hike

We parked our car at the trailhead with our permit number displayed in the windshield, locked it up, put on our heavy packs, and said goodbye to civilization. Our hike up to the campsite wasn’t especially challenging (about 4 miles), but wearing a loaded backpack definitely takes its toll. We kept our water bottles and bear spray in our easy-to-access side pockets. The hike took us through an open meadow then behind a large ridge, where the road disappeared from sight. Almost immediately, we spotted pronghorns and bison grazing in the grass. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny in the high 60’s.

hiking the trail

hiking the trail

When we turned the corner and climbed the trail up through a narrow passage flanked by some trees and creek to the beginning of the ridge, we made a startling discovery: there were bison EVERYWHERE. All over the trail, up the hill, down the valley, and closing in behind us. Though bison appear docile, they are known to be aggressive and will charge and gore humans who come too close. Many of the female bison had young calves at their side, so they were going to be especially protective and wary of intruders on their turf. We knew that we were to keep at least 25 yard away, but there was absolutely nowhere for us to go. This meant that we had to either take a detour around them (which was pretty much impossible as they were as far as the eye could see in all directions), or wait for them to move along off the trail. So we took of our packs, sat, and waited.

bison on the trail

bison on the trail

The herd had noticed us, and an inquisitive bison took a few steps toward us. We looked behind us for an exit, but more bison had moved up the ridge. Two males were engaged in a fight, smashing into each other’s large skulls while brandishing their horns. We were completely surrounded. The narrow entrance we had taken into the meadow was blocked by bison. While some of the animals meandered up or down the hill, you could tell that the herd had no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. Our only choice was to somehow pass through the herd.

bison and nursing calf

bison and nursing calf

My heart was pounding as we very slowly put our packs back on. We moved carefully and quietly, trying not to call any attention to ourselves or appear threatening. We had waited until a moment that the path was clear enough that we could mostly shoot straight through the center of the meadow to meet back up with the trail. When we noticed a bison or calf wander close to our route, we would pause and wait. We kept our eyes lowered, avoiding eye contact, and talked to each other softly in calm voices. The walk through the herd was about 75 yards and felt like it took an infinity. Finally, we reach the edge of the herd and got back onto the trail. A lone bison wandered right behind us, watching and huffing as if to say “and don’t come back now, y’hear?” We heard, loud and clear.

Luckily, the rest of the hike was uneventful. We walked over some gentle rolling hills, but for the most part the trail was pretty level and we had a clear eye line in every direction. The trail reached the end of the ridge, and we descended down into the valley, stepping carefully to maintain balance with our heavy packs on the steep footing. We reached the river and walked alongside it until we found our campsite, designated by a small marker and a fire ring made of large rocks next to a pole for hanging up our food away from bears.

our backcountry campsite

our backcountry campsite

We enjoyed a few minutes of rest without heavy packs, then got to work setting up our campsite. After selecting a good spot to sleep 100 yards away from our cooking area, I set up the tent and laid out the sleeping bags while Kurt gathered fallen twigs and sticks to make a small fire. Our little site was in the middle of heaven, with mountains framing the gorgeous backdrop all around us. As sunset approached, mule deer wandered down the ridge or crossed the river near our site, which appeared to be a popular animal crossing. The bison weren’t done with us yet; a group of four walked up to our site, stopping about 30 yards away and gazing at us curiously. Two of them inspected our tent while one gave us a good lookover. Eventually, they continued on their way. As the sun set, we enjoyed a bota box of wine and scoured the horizon for more animals with our binoculars. When the sky was too dark, we strung up our food and supplies and went back to the tent to enjoy our first night’s sleep out in the true wilderness.

Wildlife sighted: so many bison, elk, pronghorns, mule deer

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Labor Day Kayak/Canoe Trip 2013

tents

sandbar camping

This year marked the fifth Labor Day Kayak/Canoe Trip that we’ve taken (I’ve been on the last 4, since the first outing was guys only). As usual, it was a relaxing, beautiful weekend on the Wisconsin River. We started near Arena at Trader’s Bar & Grill campgrounds, and paddled about 42 miles over 4 days to Boscabel. We lucked out with sunny skies, warm to hot weather, and no rain.

cow island

cow island

Some of the highlights this year included the very-up-close spotting of a hawk eating a fish on a sandbar, a vortex of wind and river water that created a mini-tornado, a sandbar full of cows, and our annual fried chicken and beer run. With temperatures in the high 90’s, we did plenty of swimming.

canoe

 

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Springtime Camping

camping dogs

camping dogs

I decided that for my birthday this year, I wanted to go camping. Late April can definitely be iffy in terms of weather when you are planning an event in advance (the year I turned 30 involved tailgating at a White Sox game and the weather went from 70 and sunny to miserable and rainy within an hour). Just in case the weather turned on us again, I decided to try out a state park closer to home, and one we’ve never camped at before, Bong Recreation Area (yes, that’s really what it’s called).

We drove the hour and a half trip shortly after work on Friday, and stayed through Sunday morning. The weather ended up being perfect–high 60’s and sunny–and some of us even got our first sunburns of the year. We brought along my favorite camping treats (Bloody Marys in the morning and s’mores around the fire), a birthday cake, and a piñata. It was a perfect birthday weekend.

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