Welcome to my (Claire Stout) blog about my summer internship in Yellowstone National Park. I am brought here by the Student Conservation Association and given a scholarship by Americorps for my college tuition. I am interning under the head ranger at the Tower Ranger Station. This blog contains stories of my adventures and what it is like to live here in the park. There are also photos that contain me, the people I work with, and interesting things I encounter. Feel free to leave a comment and enjoy!

Yellowstone Album 3

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Backcountry Trip with Ranger Dooley

I think I finally have enough pictures to make a second album, and I will get going on that pretty soon. Look forward to it!

So as I mentioned before, Ranger Dooley, the head backcountry ranger who used to be an SCA, took me out to the back country to clear some trail. We brought in with us a cross cut saw and an ax. Here's a pic of the Cross cut saw up above. I got to carry the ax.
We arrived at the Hellroaring trailhead. The Hellroaring trail area is named after the mountain, (Hellroaring), which in turn gets it's name because there are some areas of the Hellroaring creek and Yellowstone River around it that get so loud due to rapids and fast flowing water that it sounds like "Hell's a roarin'". The first 0.7 miles in is all downhill, so from the beginning it was an easy hike down. One cool thing about the Hellroaring trail is the suspension bridge over the Yellowstone river, which is not fordable, thus the bridge. It is one of the two historical suspension bridges in the park and moves when you walk on it. According to Ranger Dooley, when stock cross it it really swings back and forth.
After the bridge, you hike across a meadow for about a half mile. I've been wanting to do this for a while ever since I first saw some of the rolling hills here in tower. The view was gorgeous. There was a small breeze and the sky was clear as the tall rye grass bent over in the wind.
I learned 7 new flower names and how to identify them from Ranger Dooley: Yarrow, Tall Buttercup, Parsnip, Lupin, Aster, Dalmatian Toad Flax (a non-native weed) and Rye Grass(which isn't a flower). The Sticky Geranium combined with the tall Buttercup and the other flowers brightened up the fields.
We reached the Stock(horse) bridge over Hellroaring creek and started heading up the creek towards the Boundary of the Gallatin National forest and Yellowstone. About halfway there we reached our first tree that had fallen in the length of the path. It took two cuts with the cross cut to make it into movable pieces that could moved. Dooley swung the ax a few times to lob off some of the branches. We met a few more trees which were small cuts until we reach a giant monstrosity of a tree lying over the path in the middle of a fairly large creek. We had to cut the tree in four places, most of the time cutting in the middle of the cold creek. The logs couldn't be left there to dam up the creek either so they had to be moved. My new Keenes really came in handy. The traction on them was great and I was able to get a study stance for sawing. After that tree the others were not as bad. There were about 6 or 7 more we had to cut after the one in the creek, and we made it to the boundary at 18:30.
It was another hour and a half hike back to the Patrol cabin which we stayed in. I had brought two frozen chicken breasts and soybeans in which were nicely thawed and ready for cooking. Combining those with thai noodle packets they made a good stir fry. Dooley and I also invented a new recipe. Take one can of refried beans, one can of ham, and one can of chopped chillies, add a little water, and Voila! Instant Delicious!
Exhausted, we went to bed. The next morning, Ranger Dooley said he was awakened a few times in the night by his own snoring. I don't think I heard it because I slept like a log. After a breakfast of oatmeal, we headed out towards backcountry campsite 2H1 passing sites 2H3 and 2H5 on the way to check them. Connor was coming in for the day to join us and as we were leaving the cabin we saw him across the river and radioed him to catch up around a campsite. 2H5 had cigarette butts all around the food pole. It's really disappointing to see people litter like that. Right before we reached 2H3, Dooley spotted a black bear making his way across the field headed our way. He said this was the perfect opportunity to observe a bear in the wild and see how he reacts to humans. I just reached for my bear spray. The bear was about 50 yrds away from us and coming nearer. When it was about 40ft away, I took of the safety of my bear spray. It didn't seem to care much about us and just went around us up the hill.
A little while after, Connor joined us. 2H3 campsite was clear and so was 2H1. We backtracked and then went up towards 2H8 which had a supposed 2 illegal fire pits, (Fire pits are not allowed in the Hellroaring sites) which we destroyed. Finally we started to head back to the trail head. On the way back we past by a mother bear who was lying under a tree and we didn't see her until we were 10 feet from her. Luckily she didn't do anything and was just alert after she had sent her cub up the tree.
Remember how I said the hike in was all downhill? Well that meant the hike back out was all uphill. And what a treacherous uphill it was. Let me tell you now, if you ever have the option of not carrying an ax into the backcountry, take it. Those things are heavy. Connor and Dooley of course offered to take it for me, (they are not rude people), but If I brought it in I should be responsible for taking it out. We finally got back to the trailhead and Dooley's truck and headed back to Tower.
Thus ending my most awesome trip into the back country.

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