2016 Day 8 (08/04/16)

On Day 8 we did a day hike to the top of Mt. Sheridan. We woke up about 6:30 AM to more freezing temperatures. It got down to about 31 F. during the night. We were at a lower altitude than Day 5 when it got below freezing so the frost wasn’t nearly as bad. We were on the Mt. Sheridan summit trail at 8:00 AM. The round trip was about 7.8 miles. We would climb about 3,000 feet in just under four miles.
Here we are all bundled up. It wouldn’t take long before it started warming up and we took the rain jackets off.

On the way up we saw several grouse right along the trail. They didn’t seem to be too bothered by us.

On our way up we could see the plumes of steam from some of the thermal features in the Heart Lake area.

Here is a view of the Southeast end of Heart Lake.

The trail to the top was very windy. There were some straight shots at the beginning and near the end. It was mostly switch backs the rest of the way.

On the way up there was some snow about 50 yards off the trail. Zach walked over for a pose. I was too tired to add 50 yards to my hike.

Once on top of Mt. Sheridan we saw a small herd of female elk on a snow patch not far from where Zach had gone.

We reached the summit of Mt. Sheridan (10,324 ft. elevation) at about 10:30 AM. We hadn’t met anyone along the trail going up and there wasn’t anyone at the top either. There is a ranger fire watch tower at the top, but the ranger wasn’t home. We spent an hour and a half at the top. After eight days of no cell service we now had service on top of Mt. Sheridan. We made a phone call to my parents and then a FaceTime call to my wife and three other kids. The views were spectacular.

At the top of Mt. Sheridan you can really see why they call it Heart Lake.

 

Our campsite is in the long row of trees along the shore. We left most of our equipment in camp so that we could lighten our load for the climb up Mt. Sheridan. If I zoom in on this picture I can see a bit of orange from our tents.

We could see the Heart Lake Ranger Cabin.

From the top of Mt. Sheridan we could see almost our entire route from the previous seven days. Here are a few views of Yellowstone Lake. These shots are from the North to the South. We walked South along the shore on the far side for two days to get into the Thorofare.

We could also see some thermal features near Heart Lake.

When we looked to the Southwest we got an amazing view of the Grand Tetons. We were so lucky to have perfectly clear skies. The Grand Tetons are 40 miles away (as the bird flies) from Mt. Sheridan.

After getting a view of the Grand Tetons I got the idea that we might be able to hike out a day early (today) which would buy us an extra day to go to Jackson Hole, WY and the Grand Tetons. We had about 8.32 miles to hike out from our campsite. However, we had to hike about four miles and 3,000 feet down before we could even start that hike. Zach and I agreed that if we could get back to camp by 2:00 PM then we would quickly pack up and hit the trail to get out. It took us two and a half hours to get up. It was about 12:00 PM when we started down. Our goal was certainly within reach. We raced down the mountain. We passed a group of about six hikers on the way down. By the sound of their accents when we greeted them I’d guess that they were from Europe.

We got back to camp at about 1:50 PM. We had made our goal. We packed up and processed some water. I took care of my feet and we were on the trail at 3:00 PM. We didn’t capture many pictures on the way out. We thought we had about four hours of hiking to do, but we weren’t sure what the terrain was like so we just put our heads down and pushed hard to make good time.

We passed quite a few day hikers on the way out. The first few we asked about the trail out to make sure that we didn’t bite off more than we could chew. They all said that getting out before dark wouldn’t be a problem. It was a pretty good trail.

However, it was still a pretty rough hike out. In order to get out of the Heart Lake valley the trail climbs about 600 feet in elevation in about a mile and a half. The trail went through some thermal areas. That was brutal in the heat of the day. It got up to about 76 F. on our way out.

Zach was lagging behind a bit so I started giving him shit about how I could show him what Army Tough was. I served four years when I was not too much older than he is now. As a result, we started a bit of a speed hiking competition on the way out. He caught up, I hung for a while, then he pulled ahead. His 16 year old body simply out lasted his old man’s wore down bones. I thought he was going to leave me behind, but in the end with about half a mile to go he stopped and waited for me so we could finish together. I was pretty proud of him. Sixteen years old and he just completed an 8-day, 90+ mile hike through some of the most remote wilderness in the lower 48 states.

We hit the trail-head at 6:55 PM. It was a great adventure, but we were pretty beat and happy that we were heading for real beds and a huge dinner.

We drove to Jackson Hole, WY and found a hotel room. We got showers and then went out for a huge dinner. I had steak and Zach had ribs.

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