July 22, Day 30 – The Sky Rim Trail

I found Approach sitting next to the Yellowstone National Park boundary sign a mile into my day and we spent the rest of the morning hiking together. It was pretty slow going. The first 7.1 miles of our day consisted of constant ups and down without any regard for the steepness of the grade. We went straight up one side of the mountain and straight down the other, several times. However, this afforded us some amazing views! We had heard good things about The Sky Rim Trail at the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park and they were all true. 7 miles of ridge walking is quite breathtaking, both due to the views and the climbing. We then climbed down off the ridge and took a nice lunch break at Shelf Lake. Rob caught up to us right around this time and we all went for a swim. Rob continued on to a campsite on the east side of the park while Approach and I headed west down Specimen Creek Trail. We arrived at the highway around 3pm and only had 3 more miles planned for the day. We figured we would continue testing the quick and easy hitching of the Big Sky area and were quickly rewarded with a ride into the town of West Yellowstone. We got some hot food and cold drinks at the gas station then hung out in a park for a while. Right as we were about to hitch back to trail to hike the last few miles for the day, a young woman from Australia asks Approach if we would share a room with her for the night since the hotels were expensive and she was on a budget. We accepted and left the 3 miles for the next day. It felt a little odd staying in town after just getting back on trail but it felt good to help out a stranger in need. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and eating more food. We also got huckleberry shakes! A favorite of ours from our time in Washington on the PCT.

Miles: 20 Total Miles: 452.4

Elevation of Camp: 7,240’

Approach on the Sky Rim Trail
Shelf Lake, Yellowstone National Park

July 21, Day 29 – Reunited and it feels so good

It was pretty nice waking up on a strangers porch, especially since they had a cute dog who was very excited to see me. Waking up to a dog wagging its tail and trying to lick me put a smile on my face. I hung around for a few hours after waking up until Approach got to town around 8. We then got some breakfast, she charged her batteries and then we started hitching around noon. It took us 2 hitches to get to trail but only a cumulative 10 minutes of standing on the side of the road. I think Big Sky earned the award for “Fastest and Easiest Hitches Ever!” It felt good to be hiking again after a week off but it always takes a day or two to really feel back at home. About 10 miles into our day, we came across Ramshorn Lake. It was a great spot for a swim except that there were leeches, which I didn’t find out about until I found one attached to my stomach after sitting in the lake for 10 minutes. I plucked it off quickly and easily and was still very glad I went swimming. Approach was out in front when we started hiking again and ended up hiking a mile more than me. We had a slight miscommunication about which trail junction we planned to camp at. We both had amazing sunset views though!

Miles: 12.43 Total Miles: 432.340

Elevation of Camp: 8,740’

Ramshorn Lake

July 20, Day 28 – Back where I belong

I woke up, packed up, ate a bunch of leftovers and was at the airport by 10:30. 4 hours later I was walking down the road from the Bozeman airport with my thumb out. Luckily, it only took me about 3 minutes to get a hitch all the way to Big Sky. He dropped me off right at the outskirts of town where there is a thrift store and a gear store. I checked both for a new shirt and was in luck. I’m now sporting a fresh new Hawaiian shirt! After buying this, I walked around the corner to get on the main road into town. I had my thumb out for about 30 seconds when two guys on the side of the road informed me that the bus was about to be there. But I didn’t have to wait for a bus. Right as they were telling me this, a hitch pulled up. She asked me where I was going and I told her the post office. “Same here!” she exclaimed. We ran some errands together and then she dropped me off at the restaurant she works at. Over the next several hours, I ate a panini, a burger, drank 3 ciders and ate a pint of ice cream. Everyone at the restaurant was very welcoming and curious about the hike. The woman who gave me a ride, Renee, and I chatted a bit about the PCT and John Muir Trail as she is taking a sabbatical starting next week to hike the John Muir Trail, part of the PCT, the Torres del Paine circuit in Chile and many other adventures. After I had my fill of food and drink, she told me I could sleep in her yard that was 20 feet from the restaurant doors! Lucky me!

Miles: 0 Total Miles: 419.97

Elevation of Camp: 6,350’

July 13, Day 21 – Canada!

It feels weird writing “Canada!” on Day 21 and not on Day 1 but it sure does feel good. We only had 1 pass to climb today and it was a fairly easy one except for the first mile in which we climbed straight up the side of the mountain for 1,000’. Red Gap Pass proved to be as equally beautiful as the other pass we had seen the last few days and we could almost see Canada from the top. It was a nice easy jaunt 8 miles downhill to a Ranger Cabin where we all took a nice break together. Whoever works at this cabin has without a doubt the most beautiful office view I’ve ever seen. I’m a little jealous. I wonder if they’re hiring? After a nice break at the cabin, we had 6 miles to the border. It went by really fast. Once at the border, the four of us took pictures and then hopped in Matt’s van for the 5 hour drive to Butte.

Matt pulled into the parking lot and handed me an ice cold Dr. Pepper. Sodas are special treats out here. I drank a good portion of it then set it down on the road to go take more pictures. While we were at the border taking more pictures, a beautiful red fox walked out of the woods. We watched as it sniffed and trotted around, slowly working it’s way towards the parking lot. The four of us start walking back to the van and watch as the fox walks up to my Dr. Pepper, smells it, and poops a single turd right next to it. I think it was aiming in the soda but Rob scared it slightly. This was hands down the most bizarre animal interaction I’ve ever had, at least that I can remember. I decided not to finish that soda, which made me kind of sad. I was really enjoying it.

Miles: 26.9 Total Miles: 419.97

Elevation of Camp: 3,875’

Belly River Ranger Station
Trashalope, myself, Approach and Rob at the border
This fox and I will meet again someday