Hiking: 10.8 mi / 800 ft. climbing
Home: Roosevelt Lodge Cabin
17 days ago I spotted an opening and was able to book one night at a cabin at Roosevelt Lodge. 16 days ago I booked a second night when I saw another opening pop up, even though it was in a different cabin type that would require a move. 9 days ago we decided to delay our arrival into Yellowstone, so I changed our dates, but was forced back into only a 1-night stay because that was all that was available. 4 days ago I was able to add a second night for the second time, but again in a different cabin type. 2 days ago, using the WiFi in front of the store in Silver Gate, I spotted an opening for the second night in the same cabin type as the first night, so I was able to WiFi-call and switch. I probably reloaded Xanterra’s Yellowstone availability calendar 100 times over that period.
But the upshot is that we don’t need to move to another cabin today! And incredibly, through all those changes we didn’t need to pay any extra fees, though I did need to speak with someone on the telephone twice (ugh!) I also wrote down all those boring details here as a reminder of the unglamorous logistical work that needs to be done to enable the more-exciting details that usually appear in this journal.
The ironic thing is the main reason I wanted to secure two nights here is because I thought animal-loving Rett would want two shots at seeing wolves in the Lamar Valley (or even three shots…I also provisionally booked a night at Sprague Creek campground when I spotted an even-rarer opening there), but that turned out to not be a high priority for her. However, just having two nights in a place after our push over the Beartooths would be nice on its own, and with nearby Tower Campground being closed for the season, we almost needed the two nights here before being able to make our next move within Yellowstone.
But so rather than waking up super-early yet again to ride back out to a wolf-watching point and get there by sunrise, or to get the day’s bike ride going, we were able to “sleep in” until 5:45am. It felt cold under the blankets when the alarm went off, but it had only gotten down to 53 degrees in the unheated cabin, much warmer than the 42-ish we had been waking up to in the tent recently. That’s unexpected evidence of the effectiveness of our sleeping bag and sleeping mat: they apparently make us feel warmer than a real bed does. The cabins all have a wood burning stove, and your rental comes with pressed-wood-product “logs”, but given the warm-afternoon/cold-morning dichotomy of the high-altitude West, there wasn’t an obvious optimal time to use them. It seemed the stove was just as unsure as I was, as my attempt to get log started basically failed anyway. Oh well, at least we don’t have to worry about the cabin getting too hot this afternoon!
We went over to the main lodge to pick up our grab-and-go breakfasts, which were a nice unexpected inclusion with our cabin, and they were kind enough to let us each take two bags this morning, since we would be leaving tomorrow morning before they opened for breakfast.
We decided to fill the rest of the morning with a hike. The Garnet Hill Loop was our choice, mainly because it starts right at Tower Junction. There’s nothing else especially remarkable about it and I doubt its on anyone’s “top hikes in Yellowstone” list, but that actually made it cool for us for two reasons: first, we saw just four other hikers (excluding the group on horseback) in the 11 miles, and solitude on the trail is one of the most important factors for us (and continues our recent experience feeling like we have this park to ourselves). And second, doing an intimate exploration of “boring” Yellowstone shows that this place would be pretty incredible even if it wasn’t filled with geysers and animals and canyons.
Unfortunately we learned a mile or two in that we we couldn’t actually do the loop around Garnet Hill, because the section of trail that follows the Yellowstone River had been washed out by the 2022 flood. So we decided to turn it to an out-and-back to Hellroaring Creek, where we still crossed the Yellowstone where it cut dramatically through a deep gorge. It was cool to re-meet it here, seeing its water churning more than 2000 feet higher than when we had left it at Columbus, MT ten days ago, and with us taking a completely different route to get here than the water does.
It was our first real hike since leaving Glacier National Park almost a month ago, and while the 11 miles was no problem (especially since there was very little elevation), we were definitely out-of-shape from a logistical perspective. We forgot to bring our bear spray. And our first aid kit. And our mosquito repellent. Thankfully we had no need for the first two, but this was the first time in a long time when our mosquito repellent would have actually been useful. They weren’t too bad if we kept moving, and some places were safe to stop, but our first idea to stop for second-breakfast was definitely a no-go. On the plus side, the (relatively) easy hike was a good test of Rett’s new hiking/water shoes, and they performed well both over the distance and the intentional walk through a creek. And although we surprisingly didn’t see any of Yellowstone’s large mammals, I did see a “new” animal: a badger, digging a hole for itself on the side of the trail, that it descended into as we approached, though we could still see it flinging dirt up onto the pile from deep within.
On our arrival “home” we returned once more to the relaxing porch of the Roosevelt Lodge to eat lunch, and then I hopped on my unloaded bike and rode the 2.5 miles to the Tower General Store, to get a few supplies unavailable at the much-smaller Roosevelt store, and to confirm that it wouldn’t be open when we went by it tomorrow morning.
What I didn’t expect was how incredible the scenery along the short ride would be. Almost immediately the Yellowstone canyon begins, and every pull-off had something worth seeing. It was actually a really good opportunity for me to be able to scout all the spots, and see which ones would most be worth using up tomorrow’s precious ride-time to bring Rett to. And since I wasn’t under any of that ride-time pressure, I was able to have more fun with photography than I normally do.
We did a bed-picnic charcuterie dinner, and then it was early to sleep for tomorrow’s super-early rise!