Kyle was picking up a petrified stump of wood as I made my second crossing of the stream. My bags were still weighed down with heavy food such as pickles, so I didn’t want to risk crossing the stream with all of my bags at once. The water was cool around my ankles, and the weather was fair.
As I got out of the stream, I also began noticing the petrified wood. It was everywhere. I went from seeing almost no petrified wood in my lifetime, to seeing more of it than I knew existed. Such rare things are almost never found in areas with a lot of backpacker traffic, and I realized that we were in the middle of nowhere. And I was happy about it.
The rock features were similarly intense. Kyle, being an up and coming geologist, was getting excited. “Those bubbles in the rock are from the rapid cooling in volcanoes.” He was pointing towards the scraggly cliff that we were eating pickles next to.
“Yeah I guess we are really just on top of a volcano.” I said.
I had totally forgotten that we were walking on top of a volcano. Yellowstone is one of the larges super volcanoes in the world. Top that with the fact that Yellowstone is something like 40 years over its deadline for exploding, and the woods get a little more exciting. But the cliff looked nice.
After finishing my pickle I took a swig of pickle juice. Sounds gross right? But I find it is an athletic necessity. Pickle juice is one of the most hydrating liquids there are, because of all sodium. I know this because my friend’s dad is a tennis pro, and buys them by the case. I used to think that was weird. After drinking a few gulps of pickle juice in the shadow of that volcanic cliff, I can personally its hydrating powers.
It wasn’t much longer after our pickle session that we found Tanner and Kirk. They were setting camp where we would eventually spend our final night. We stopped by for a little chat. This is apparently when the plan went wrong.
I had heard that we were going to meet back at the campsite we were leaving them at unless something went horribly wrong, and they thought that we were going to pretty much meet at the car. After exchanging a little whiskey between ourselves, and letting Tanner look at the map (they had none of their own) we said goodbye and parted ways.
After seeing them we realized how far behind we were. The sun was halfway down the western part of the sky, and we still had over eleven miles to go. It was time to end the pickle breaks, and really get a move on.
Hiking has a sort of meditative finality to it, where a person knows where they need to be, but also cant get there fast. This can be frustrating though when sixteen miles separate a tired traveler and their campsite.
Our meditation would begin here. My pack was cutting into my shoulders, but I knew we had to keep moving. The sun sank lower. We took another break.
“I hear that there are a bunch of moose out here.” Said Kyle. We were now in the Miller Creek valley, and still five miles from our site. I wanted to see a moose.
“Maybe there will be one by our campsite.” I said, and we continued moving.
We marched slower. It was beginning to become clear that we wouldn’t be able to make our campsite before dark. The words of our ranger were playing in my head, “Yeah if there is anywhere you might run into a bear on a trail, its going to be out here.” And then later in the conversation, “They are more active at night. Try and make it off the trail by late afternoon.”
It was past that time now, and we were looking to get off of our trail.
Our backcountry permit guide told us the M2 campsite in our area had been closed because of fallen trees. It was an ideal place to hide out when we were doing something wrong. We could sleep here without worrying about rangers handing out tickets, so we went further in to explore.
It was perfect. There were dead trees everywhere, which was the reason they closed the site in the first place, and the reason why it was such a good one. Firewood was everywhere, the bear bag was close by, and we were horseshoed in by Miller Creek. It was a great place to drink and fall asleep.