Day 108: Bubbling Hot Springs
Saturday, August 20, 2022 9:52 pm
Location: Moose Creek Meadow Campground (1606.0 miles)

My second day in Yellowstone came with hot springs, the first sign of the active volcanism in the park.

I left Surprise Creek relatively early (for me). Fuck-It was already gone, and Velveeta wasn’t far behind me. My tent and sleeping bag were quite damp — not surprising given the grassy surface. The campsite, though, was surprisingly drier than I expected.

Returning to the Heart River Trail, I followed a nice trail through a pine forest. With the sun still low in the sky, the trail was fairly shaded, and some thin clouds added color to the sky.

After a couple of miles, the trail exited the forest and ran along the shore of a sandy beach on Heart Lake. The sand was rather difficult to walk on, so I moved closer to the lake, walking along the more packed sand kept damp by its proximity to the water. Across the lake, smoke rose from near a campground, in what initially looked to be two separate (but rather large) campfires.

Mount Sheridan and Heart Lake
Mount Sheridan and Heart LakeMount Sheridan stands behind Heart Lake. Steam from a hot spring can be seen.

Turning away from the lake, I joined the Hart Lake Trail, snaking along a meadow, and then into some forest.

10 am Selfie Day 108
10 am Selfie Day 108

Shortly after leaving the forest, the trail passed by a hot spring. Quite hot steaming water, bubbling out of the ground, filled a small pool with a light blue tint, with greens, yellows, and reds further from the deepest part of the pool. It was the first clear indication that I was someplace special. The water was clearly very hot; I didn’t try to actually figure out how hot it was.

Hot Spring
Hot Spring

Velveeta passed me while I was checking out the hot spring, and then disappeared into the distance when I briefly detoured from the trail to check out a hot spring a little below the trail. Its bubbling, steaming pool also emitted a strong smell of sulfur.

I passed a couple more hot springs, and then climbed up out of a valley. From the higher vantage point, I could see the several hot springs I’d passed were all in a straight line with each other, and with the “smoke” I saw rising from the campground earlier. It wasn’t a campfire: it was another hot spring (that really did happen to be located relatively near a campground).

A bit further on, I passed another hot spring, a hundred feet or so from the trail, that was bubbling so strongly as to emit a loud hissing sound as well.

Having climbed away from the valley, and the hot springs, the trail fell into a forest, and I passed a couple of small groups of hikers heading the other direction. Two of them suggested I take a detour to Lone Star Geyser, located a few miles south of Old Faithful. It apparently erupts every three hours or so, with a logbook that visitors use to indicate when it last erupted. It is apparently as tall as Old Faithful, but the viewing area is much closer. Since I won’t get there until tomorrow, I’ll wait until then to decide whether to take the detour or not.

The Heart Lake Trail ended at a parking area with a trash can and pit toilet. Fuck-It and Velveeta were already there taking a break; I’d have joined them if I had already taken a break not too much earlier.

A brief roadwalk took me to the Dogshead Trail, which was incredibly well groomed, so well that my initial thought was that it could easily be a bike path (even though there were signs disallowing bikes). Later, I suspected that it used to be an asphalt-paved trail, and the top surface of the asphalt had been stripped away at some point, leaving the road bed and smaller bits of asphalt that didn’t get cleared away. Initially a straight line through a forest with a dense stand of trees immediately to both sides of the trail, which provided neither shade nor views, the trail eventually started to meander a little, and the forest eventually released its constricting hold on the trail.

Dogshead Trail
Dogshead TrailThe trail goes through a grassy pine forest.

With some highly aggressive mosquitoes, I pushed on as quickly as I could, reaching the shore of Shoshone Lake, and followed a couple of trails to the lake’s outlet, the Lewis River. Fording the river was a little tricky. The water was exceptionally clear, which made it hard to estimate its depth, but I found a knee-deep crossing.

I stopped for a break on the beach on the far side; a conveniently placed fallen tree worked well as a bench. Two groups of ducks passed on the river, as well as a few groups of kayakers.

After I’d been there for about half an hour, Fuck-It arrived. I mentioned that there was a knee-deep crossing, and pointed vaguely at where I remembered it being. “Just come straight across,” I said. I must have misremembered where that crossing was, because Fuck-It very quickly found himself more than waist-deep, holding his shoes high over his head. At least we both got a good laugh out of the absurdity of the situation. Velveeta arrived a few minutes later, and made out a little better than Fuck-It, but still wound up waist-deep.

Fuck-It and I continued up the hill from the lake, now being chased by vicious mosquitoes. They got even worse as we raced through the hills above the wetlands south of the lake. Trying to get away from the mosquitoes, I pulled ahead of Fuck-It.

Wetlands south of Shoshone Lake
Wetlands south of Shoshone Lake

He caught up briefly after I forded Moose Creek, and stopped to spray myself with mosquito repellant, which I’d so far been refusing to use while in Grizzly country. While I don’t know that lemon-eucalyptus mosquito repellant is a grizzly attractor, it seems safer not to add unnecessary scents. Now, though, the mosquitoes were finally bad enough that I was willing to risk it.

A mostly mosquito-free hour later I arrived at the Moose Creek Meadow campground, and set up my tent. In comparison to last night’s campsite, this one was much better. Being older and more established, there were plenty of flat grass-free areas to set up. It’s also a little higher up and further away from the creek. And, there’s an open-view pit toilet.

I had a relatively good day today. Granted, that was assisted by the trail being relatively flat, but I’ll take what I can get.

Fuck-It and Velveeta arrived at the campsite about ten minutes after I did, all of us relatively quickly getting our tents up and started cooking dinner. We also discussed the Big Sky alternates; Fuck-It put together a route that, at a glance, seems like it’ll be the shortest possible route, though it’ll skip going through the town of Big Sky (which is fine, since it’s reportedly very expensive), and also the roadwalk through West Yellowstone, MT, that I’d planned for.

Thunder rolled in shortly before 8, and about half an hour later, rain and hail started. The hail didn’t last for long, but light rain continued for a few hours. My tent dripped on me a bit, but I think it’s condensation dripping off the ceiling, rather than a leak.

Tomorrow: Probably going to detour to Lone Star Geyser, though with 24 miles to go to tomorrow’s campsite, timing will be pretty tough.