We got an early start to our first day of horse packing, waking up at 5:30 am to meet the wranglers at the trailhead at 7:30. We had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and piled into the van to rumble 45 minutes down a gravel road into the briger teton wilderness. At the end of the road, out wranglers Stephen, Stuart, and Liam awaited us, along with the owner of the ranch, Robert.
The wranglers packed our bags onto mules while everybody waited to meet their horse!
Once everybody was paired up with a steed, we begun the long haul to our first campsite. The ride totaled about seven hours, and everyone was feeling pretty sore by the end!
After traveling from one stunning vista to the next, we finally arrived in camp, tired and hungry. Luckily Sheva, Lauren W., James and Sarah made hobo packages: A hearty meal involving meat, potatoes, veggies, and cheese in individual packages of foil and letting them cook in the campfire. A welcome meal after a long day!
The group gathered around the fire to roast some celebratory s’mores before retiring for the evening.
The next morning we slept in a bit, but managed to roll out of our sleeping bags for a day ride up to a ridge where we could see the other side of the Bridger Teton Wilderness, Yellowstone lake and behind us, the Grand Tetons.
Lunch and an afternoon nap prepared us for the excitement of our descent, where we saw a mother grizzly bear and her cub frolicking on the ridge line opposite us! It was a fun scene to observe from a safe distance, and everybody was excited to finally see a bear. A few minutes later, two elk crossed our path and we stopped to observe them, too. All in all, it was a successful day on the wildlife front. Once our horses picked their way down the steep mountainside, we gave them a rest while dinner was prepared. That night we played a game called “two truths and a lie”, in which each participant comes up with three “facts” about him or herself, one of which is fake. Ryann attempted to convince the group that she had never been on a boat before, and Tassi told us all that she has 3 cats.
Finally we decided that it would be a good idea to go to sleep, since we would have a long day ride the next day.
That morning we had pancakes and set off on a ride to see the headwaters of the Snake River. The creeks that form the headwaters flow directly out of the mountain side to eventually form the mighty river. The creeks themselves are not particularly spectacular- what is spectacular however is the visible split of the continental divide. The Snake clearly flows to the west, eventually to the Pacific Ocean. While, just on the other side of the divide the Yellowstone River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
We ate lunch in the meadow where the Snake River originates, and reflected again for a few minutes, allowing our horses to rest.
Finally we decided to make our way back to camp, where we had burgers for dinner and then Jacques and Sheva decided to narrate a game of “mafia”(or two, or four). We couldn’t play too long, however, because we had a long day ahead of us- campsite moving day!
Saturday began bright and early at 5:30 AM. We sleepily packed up our tents and hit the trail, anticipating a 5 hour ride. It was chilly and drizzled for a bit, but the weather slowly warmed throughout the day. The landscape became steeper and rockier, until we were surrounded by cliff bands and stunning vistas. Around 1:00 we dropped down into Yellowstone Meadows, just south of the Thoroughfare. Where our campsite awaited us- just on the other side of one minor obstacle- a Yellowstone River ford. Andrew, being on Gracie, one of the smaller horses, had to lift his feet nearly to the top of the saddle just to keep them dry.
The campsite was more beautiful than we could have imagined, surrounded by a 360 degree view of mountains and meadows. Our campsite was an oasis of trees right next to the Yellowstone River.
That night we had a delectable Goulash dinner, which arrived in our resupply. After s’mores and a few rounds of mafia, we decided to go to bed. Lauren S. and Vika noticed that we had a nighttime visitor- a mule deer, poking around the campsite for some blades of grass.
On Sunday, we slept in a few hours and made a slow start to what would be a relaxing afternoon by a lake. The only day we didn’t ride horses, we decided to swim and read, taking in the scenery.
Monday we took a short ride, musing over our last few days of exploration as we munched sandwiches for lunch, taking in the 360 view of mountains.
The next day was moving day to our last campsite! Almost everybody agreed that this campsite was their favorite. Up against a hillside, it offered a close up view of the cliff line on the opposite side of the river that cut through the valley. Complete with a meadow and fresh spring water bubbling out of the ground, we still managed to be shocked in awe when the sun set, casting an orange glow across all of the mountains on the Eastern side of the valley. Paradise? We think so!
The third and final campsite brought us some exciting thunder storms, an inquisitive doe, some cute little gray birds, and perhaps best of all, a waterfall! Travis’s favorite part of the trip thus far has been the waterfall experience. He enjoyed jumping into the icy waters near the waterfall.
We spent two afternoons swimming at the swimming hole in front of the waterfall taking in the undeniably splendid scenery.
He last night in be backcountry we had a special ” ceremony” imvolvimg a quote about living on an expedition, being each others safety nets, and bracelets made out of paracord.
It was a fitting end to a successful and stunning backcountry section, and though everyone was tired from waking up at 5:30 am and riding 4 1/2 hours, we are all in great spirits and excited to explore Yellowstone and sea kayak!