2016 Day 4 (07/31/16)

Day four started with a beautiful sunrise over the Absaroka Mountain Range. We woke up about 6:00 AM and ate a warm oatmeal breakfast. It got down to about 44 F. during the evening. I took care of my feet and then we packed up and were back on the trail by about 9:15 AM. We were headed for the Thorofare Ranger Station and then for campsite 6Y4 (7,935 ft. elevation) along the confluence of the Yellowstone River and Thorofare Creek. We had about 9.5 miles to go.

Unfortunately, I started with a few blisters on Day 1 so every few days I had to bandage them. As long as I kept them protected, they didn’t really hurt or impact our hiking. This also kept them from getting any worse. I bandaged them in three steps. First layer was a GlacierGel patch. These are wonderful. The center contains a water based gel that keeps the blister moist and pads it at the same time. The second layer is mole skin to create a tough layer over the GlacierGel and surrounding areas. The third layer is athletic tape to hold it all in place and seal it up. This worked wonderfully.

We didn’t see any people on Day 4. However, it was one of our best days for wildlife. We decided to put the bear bells away so we weren’t announcing ourselves for miles away. While this increases the chance of seeing wildlife, it also increases the chance of surprising a bear. More on that on Day 5.

Below are some geese that were near the trail. As we got close to them they flew and started doing circles over us and squawking. We could hear their squawks echoing throughout the entire Thorofare. We joked that they were the Thorofare’s early warning system. Not really a joke though. They had just announced us to the entire Thorofare.

We saw a lot of falcons or hawks of some sort. These were often circling over head just gliding on the winds.

We snapped a picture of a duck landing in a pond and the skull of something.

Zach was able to get quite a few shots of a mule deer. The one below is probably the best. It was jumping across a creek and up onto the bank on the other side.

Our campsite was deep in a patch of thick woods so it got dark a bit early. We were just chilling around a campfire when we heard a large bird come blasting through the woods near our campsite. It made two or three passes by us. We could hear the power of its wings as it zigged and zagged through the trees. We thought it was a falcon until it landed about five yards behind me on a tree branch. It was an owl. It hooted at us so Zach hooted back. To my surprise it hooted back. It sat on the branch for a minute or two and then took off. We didn’t see it again. I’m sure it was just curious what new creatures were in it’s woods. The picture isn’t very good because of how dark it was. This was another one of those special moments in the wild.

Throughout the day we continued to see various other signs of animals. Obviously, the most interesting were always the signs of bears. The Black Bear track below was nearly 10 inches long. Bear tracks were very common. So much so that they sort of stopped being interesting. That was until we ran across some VERY fresh bear scat. As you can see, the ground was still moist. This made us walk a little slower and have our heads on a swivel. We also saw a lot of other “canine” tracks. It is hard for me to say whether they were wolf, coyote, or fox though. We saw a lot of different canine tracks so we probably ran across some of each.

There were all sorts of flowers along the way. I’ll try to look them up some time and update this page with their names.

The views were spectacular. The weather was awesome. It got up to about 79 F.

This is me with my solar panel hanging off my pack.

We arrived at the Thorofare Ranger Station at about 3:00 PM. The ranger wasn’t home. We stayed for about an hour. We wrote in the log book and read some of the previous entries. Only 11 groups (usually of two to four people) had written in the log in 2016. The log book wasn’t very big and went back to 2011. Not many people come out here.

We used the out house which was stocked with toilet paper, was very clean and had a normal toilet seat. Oh the luxuries of the backcountry.

We explored around the cabin and stable areas. We had achieved half of our objective. The other half was to hike another four days and get back out safely.

Below is a panoramic of the Thorofare as we were crossing it to get to our campsite for the evening.

Each night we filled up our 10 liter shower bag and hung it from a tree above head height. It has a shower nozzle on it that twists open and closed. We took showers in cold water each evening. Although the water was cold, it felt good to get “clean” after a sweaty day of hiking.

We sat around a fire for a while this evening. We were in our tents at about 10:30 PM. Just after we got into our tents Zach heard something outside his tent peeing. That was probably the most freaky thing to happen to us while in our tents.

We had to get up at about 4:00 AM the next morning to get an early start. We would have to hike over the Continental Divide tomorrow. We had a long day ahead of us.

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