Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Home Stretch

Last week of the Yellowstone Project. We've met our hike quotas for day and weekend and just filling out the burly scale by re-attempting Electric Peak. Wish us luck!

Today we bagged Observation Peak. Wooha!

Rolling hills.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Crossing Leading Lines


One guidebook says a bison will never move for a human. True. Very true.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008


Good news: Shot some great video today at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Bad news: I dropped my camera.

Down a cliff.

And into the Yellowstone River.


And back to good news: Not only did I find myself on newstands here in the park, according to my friend Greg BACKPACKER has sent an e-mail with a mug of me in it. Pretty snaz.

"Check your newstands and inboxes today for map correspondent Jeff 'BP' Chow!"
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Tonight's sunset across Yellowstone Lake

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MSR Reactor stove in its worst conditions yet.

Back to the hotel after being turned back. Refuel and recoop.

*FASTLAYNE self-portrait

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Snow in the Mountains

Our attempt at a traverse of the Gallatins and summit bid of Electric Peak has been turned around. Having elk, bear, wolves in our sights and in our lenses kept us from seeing the snow in the mountains. The topography in Yellowstone is so diverse that what is dry and sunny hiking in the plains is 2 feet of gridgingly slow slogging in snow at 8000 feet.

The sun is now barely rising above 45 degrees causing any North facing slope to hold onto every flake and every inch of snow. Beautiful but not efficient mapping.

Back to the plains and the animals!
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Uh. Dentist anyone?

This is also the expression he made when we walked up on a grizzly 30 feet away...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Summer days are drifting away..

Summer days come and go. One day sun, another snow.

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We had another dusting of snow today. Sleeping out in our sleeping bags and no tent as we have been leads to drizzle hitting face and then movement into cars. While today only hit a high in the 30's, the rest of the week is looking like sun and temps up to the 50's. Perfect for a summit bid of 10,900+ foot Electric Peak. Boogie-woogie-woogie.


Hiking down to Agate Creek in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone we chased a bull and his very, very large harem for miles. Each time they would run then stop and stare.

Back to blogging while in town before heading off for our 4-nighter! No AT&T service in the north side of the park, so be sure to watch the spot and zoom in for a good view of the day's highlight in satellite view!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods..

From YellowstoneLive grandma's house we go. Except this grandma was more the Little Red Riding hood type. Off on the Clear Lake - Ribbon Lake Trail we spotted wold tracks larger than my palm. For miles we walked the same path as the endangered animal. The gait measuring over 2 feet from the one paw plant to its next. He walking the trail just as we do to avoid the billions of dead fall from the 1988 fires. We finally reach the end of the long banana-shaped loop. As we make the turn the snow starts falling. Our eyes on the ground in front of us like the nose of a hound dog following the wolfs every movement. Stopping to point out the change in gait or pause in their travels.

Suddenly the tracks turn off trail into a meadow along a stream. The snow begins to blanket us filling the dark tracks with white fluff. After a moments discussion and a check of our watch, off we go over the river and through the woods to grandma's house we go. We see his (or her) ability to jump over 5 feet onto snow-covered logs, balancing securely on the slippery surfaces. We see him duck and weave through the lodgepole pine saplings following contours and hillsides. Our fingers get colder as our jackets get darker from their soaked fibers. We continue in the 4 inches of snow ducking and weaving just as one of the ultimate stalkers and ultimate family man animals did. We wonder is this the popular trail name Lone Wolf or simply one of the pack searching for prey. Is it an alpha male, and how fast was he moving? Will we catch him? Is he running from us? Is he leading us to Grandma's house dressed in a mumu with a roaring fire and gaping mouth waiting for us? We tromp on.

Rising up a hill we see a clearing ahead. A glance at the map and the GPS shows this as an unmarked or unmapped pond. We pull out our longest lenses and sharpest eyes searching for the steely eyes of the great predator. Grey or white fur and piercing eyes patiently watching us in complete stillness.

No luck. Wet and cold, fingers numb and stiff with thumbs thought strong yet not able to push a simple button, like the arm you sleep on thought movable but alarmingly dead, we turn back. Now we follow, eyes to the ground, the three tracks. Two human, one wolf. Unsuccessful, but excited. We return to the trail and continue on the trail. Warming ourselves with fast hiking laying first tracks for a moment.

We walk and walk and then.. pick up more tracks. It's another wolf, even bigger prints. The sun is setting so we hurry on keeping our nose to the snow (or feet to the trail, if you will) trying to make it back to the car by nightfall. Feet moving swiftly we enter a field and spot bison (buffaloni's as we like to call them) grazing further on in our path. Panning left into the open meadows we spot three other dots. Zooming in for the shot and then in review we see the hump of grizzlies. A sow a cub and a large male.

Suddenly making it back by dark stops with the snow.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

That Womanly Waistline

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Mt. Sheridan Summit Photo

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And the Weather Outside is Frightful

And the fire (in Old Faithful Inn) so delightful. When there's no place to go, (go camping) and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

The weather forecast over the next two days is calling for 90 percent chance of snow at minimum 9". And unfortunately we are staying at the wonderful timber-frame and log construction Old Faithfull Inn on it's last night of the season. Which means out into the snow for sub-zero F camping! Woobrrrrrrrrrr.....
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The Elk are Bugling

Do you remember those brightly colored plastic tubes that when swung around make a harmonic? And if you spun it around twice as fast, you'd hear an octave higher. And then if you were a precocious child, try to swing it even faster for the third octave?

That's what a bull elk sounds like. Most often bugling (like trumpeting, beu-g-ling) octaves 1....... 2....... 3....... 2.. 1..

For most of the night I've been hearing them from my frosty tent on the shore of Heart Lake. There's a thermal feature nearby and perhaps they are staying near it to keep warm on this 30 degree night. - I have a feeling FASTLAYNE and I will have to do the same in the coming weeks.

The bulls we've seen have had huge racks of antlers. At the Mt. Sheridan trail junction we saw the skull and rack of a dead bull. Tip to tip they were 4 feet wide and weighed over 30 lbs. Can't imagine carrying that on my head all day!
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mt. Sheridan

Yesterday we climbed Mt. Sheridan at 10,300'.

Starting at Heart Lake (elev. 7455') we hike through the sand-colored meadows among the dead grey trunks of trees burned in the fires that swept Yellowstone in 1988.

The trail begins to climb among scrubby yellow aspens and sea-foam green sagebrush. As we take long switchbacks across the bulbous hillside among the stoic grey sentinels and red-leaved shrubs, our bodies begin to warm. We look up to the grey and frosty summit peaking through the milk white clouds and wonder whether it will be too cold up there where there's snow. - I try to get video of the clouds blowing by the little hut on the summit but only capture never-ending, homogeneous, white sludge shifting from white to off-white.

We continue up into a section of old growth, trees somehow spared from the inferno. It's shady and moist with the sweet smell of firs. The soft needles underfoot give a surprising contrast to the dry, twice-baked rocks and grass just below. I see the first patch of snow. A little thing, only 2 feet long. But it's a sign that we're getting higher and to potentially harsher climates.

Soon we're pressing our footprints into thin layers of virgin snow, leaving proof of our existence alongside that of a turkey and rabbit. The path alternates between pure white and spongy, oozing brown. White, where it was open to the sky and gooey brown everywhere else.

Patches of blue can be seen through the deep green trees. I try again to get a shot of clouds rolling over the summit. This time I capture mostly white but hints of blue - sky blue - shading the scene like one color step up on a paint sample card.

The trees suddenly give way to yellow meadows again as we enter a shallow col. A field of snow-covered rocks cover the hill to our left. The trail turns into a sticky carmel matching the lighter tones of the dry grass - The summit blocked from view by its false as we arc around the shallow dome in a whistling wind.

We reach the ridge and see the West side for the first time. Endless mountains rolling away from us. I point at the dynamic green-blue lake sitting high just a couple miles away. A gem inlaid among its brown setting.
Burned trees surround us again as we traverse the hill. Dense and scraggly at this altitude conjuring images of witches fingers scraping at the sky.

Flecks of white blow by our faces. I turn towards the sky to see the source, but instead find a Christmas tree decorated in white powder. Like the fake stuff from a can, only better. Each needle meticulously topped with white.

Another ridge. But instead of vague notions of our destination, this time we see the thin, womanly waistline arcing straight to the summit. I click the camera and finally get the shot - blue and white speeding by the shack giving the monumental mountain a sense of airy grace.

Excited, we scurry along the thin edge, peering down the steep 1000 foot drop to our left. Christmas trees seemingly nudging us closer to the precipice.

Coming round the mountain we charge up to the top. Our path an ever tightening spiral centered on the summit. We fly through a 30 foot jumble of rocks like the last question on a test we've prepared all week for and lean in as if on rails on a rollercoaster speeding to the top.

I begin to see the world rising up over the crest as if the veiled curtain of the ground on which I stand were suddenly falling away. First the puffy, white clouds, then a couple snow-capped peaks. A few more steps... Then Bam!

I'm hit!

Vast lakes, and a sense of height that hits you like the sudden realization that you've fallen in love (that or finding a lost piece of green Mike-n-Ike under the map, under the backpack in the passenger seat of your car). Either way, a scene where you gasp at the beauty.

The mountain on which you stand appears to be in complete sharpness in contrast to the smooth bokeh from the distant view behind it. This is cover shot beauty.

The sun is out in force warming our bodies against the chilly breeze. I pull out Mojo bars, Butterfingers and a stick of butter then proceed to chomp on all. We lay out on the rocky South side like wet rain-fly's drying in the sun. I get up to pee off the mountain (one of backcountry's great pleasures). FASTLAYNE falls asleep.

Later, looking through the lens of the camera I see Heart Lake, a vaguely heart-shaped lake that, upon discussion, more resembles a moose or whale. Next, I peer down to where we camped and spy the steaming pool nearby hoping to find bikini clad women lounging in the crystal blue waters, but only discover orange, heat-loving, extremophile microbes lining the edge.

We take a summit photo and begin to head back down. On rails, through the witches fingers, past turkey tracks and meadows. Down, down, down and a whole bunch of turns.

We hurry because who knows, perhaps a heat-loving extremophile is my kind of woman.

*If you can think of a better final line, please post it in the comments! That was the best I could come up with.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Photo credits

Missed a couple in recent posts. The photo in "I am Les Stroud" and "Bull!" was taken by Joe "FASTLAYNE" Stylos. Also the moss photo shown in the slideshow to the right is also taken by FASTLAYNE.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

FASTLAYNE, Aspens and the Tetons

It took us a little while to get to Yellowstone because we had to first drive through the majestic Tetons. In my opinion the most audacious peaks in the US. Aspens in full color, how could we not stop?
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We've been hearing the bulls bugle since we've arrived. Finally we found one just off the road. Look forward to video of him scraping and marking the ground.
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I am Les Stroud

Aka Survivorman on the Discovery Channel. Just minus the surviving part. But he has been on my mind a lot as I attempt to film myself and scenes from a wide variety of angles. Film, photograph, GPS, and annotate. I say that's comparable to surviving anytime. The live of a map correspondent is tough..
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Bubble bubble toil and trouble..

We made it! Steam is coming out everywhere like mother nature's rice cooker.
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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bubble bubble toil and trouble..

We made it! Steam is coming out everywhere like mother nature's rice cooker.
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Wyoming Beauty

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fill her up!

As the rental dipped past E we landed in Lander, WY. Thank goodness. And thank goodness we didn't spend as much on gas as the person before us. A whopping $300!
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Gear everywhere

Gear to car and we're outta here!
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