The Posh Pine

by Bradie Jill

The Yellowstone Thorofare Trail: 80 Miles in 8 Days

The Yellowstone Thorofare Trail: An 80 mile plunge into our Nation’s most remote section of wild backcountry.

I have emerged from the greatest depths of the Yellowstone Wilderness as a fierce mountain woman and praiser of Jesus Christ. I cultivated and earned those titles along the long and rigorous Yellowstone Thorofare trail. Myself and a group of guys I worked with at Camp Loll (A boy scout camp nestled high in the Tetons) set off 1 week ago to conquer this daunting trail. We left the Wasatch Front early in the morning and made our way to the Bechler Ranger Station just outside of Ashton, ID for our required backcountry permit pickup. At the station, the on duty Ranger briefed us on backcountry procedures as well as trail conditions. The only trail condition that was really noteworthy was a carcass with multiple bears feeding on it near our campsite the 3rd night… No. Big. Deal.

From the Bechler Ranger Station, we traveled to Camp Loll where we ate Friday night spaghetti dinner (a weekly tradition) and delicious huckleberry cheesecake (a yearly, long awaited, so freaking good tradition). Dinner was followed by flag ceremony and Firebowl (you can read more about Camp Loll and it’s traditions here). I know I’ve said this before, but I’m so grateful for this beautiful place I called home for a time. After firebowl, I pitched my new cute little solo backpacking tent. You’ll see it later on in the post. That night I forgot to say my evening prayers–it would be the last night I forgot to say my prayers for the rest of the week.

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Morning came and we headed to 9-mile Trailhead near Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone. I remember standing at the trailhead and being unusually quiet. Inside, my mind swirled. I stood there doubting my physical, mental, and enduring strength, questioning whether I had made the right decision to come on this trip but knowing that it was too late to turn back. I knew I was among good friends who would watch out for me but I was scared of the unknown that lay ahead.

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As we left the trailhead, we were bid adieu by the comforts of life in civilization by cold, pounding, sideways rain. I was soaked and shivering within the 1st mile with 79 ahead of me.DSC_0022DSC_0023 DSC_0044 DSC_0042 DSC_0041 DSC_0037 DSC_0033

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Our first night was spent along the shores of Yellowstone Lake. That evening we huddled under tree cover to quickly put our dinners together in the pouring rain. We hung our food and ran to our tents for shelter. As I laid in my little 6′ by 2′ tent in shattering rain, my mind began to wander. Let’s just put it this way: I made myself terrified. Needless to say, it was a long, sleepless night. Every rustle of the bushes and lap of water on the shore sounded like a bear. Finally, the sun rose to reveal a foggy and beautiful morning on Yellowstone Lake. DSC_0050 DSC_0048
The following 8 days on the trail were a blend of breathtaking beauty and seemly insurmountable moments of physical strength. Originally, when I set out on the hike, I had planned to do a blog post a day, but I quickly realized that was simply not realistic. So here are some highlights: DSC_0051

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On the far shore, if you zoom in really tight, you’ll see a sow grizzly and 3 cubs.

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In the heart of the Yellowstone Thorofare. The Crow Indians (for whom the Absaroka mountains to my right are named) used this route to travel from the Jackson Hole area to Northern Yellowstone and Southern Montana.

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The people we saw on the trail who had stayed at this site the night before warned us about the wolves circling the camp ground at night. We never saw any but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t hear them!

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At some point, I just stopped being shocked by all the bear signs. I’m talking about bear poop, bear prints, and gnawed up trees. Literally every step I took I could look down and spot a bear track. During the day, I LOVED it! Night time… When you set your tent up on prints like these, it’s a different story.

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Myself and Monster (my pack) heading into the deepest corner of the continuous 48 States.

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Just a casual bear bone on the side of the trail–nobody panic.

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One of our more noteworthy destinations along the trail was the Yellowstone Thorofare Ranger Cabin. It is the most remote building in the most remote place in the continuous 48 states. Can you imagine living here? I think it would be a dream.

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Every time I wander about in Yellowstone, nature convinces me that I don’t really want to be a news reporter–that I’d much rather be a park ranger.

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In the log book, there were only 55 entries since 2011.

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Some hungry bear wanted in!

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I loved reading the reflective words of the numbered souls who have journeyed here.

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My entry in the logbook at the Yellowstone Thorofare Cabin.

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Later that evening, we hiked out of and back into Yellowstone National Park to see Bridger Lake. It’s just a mile or two into Grand Teton National Forest. DSC_0190 DSC_0203 DSC_0199 DSC_0192

Mmmm mmm oh yeah! Big ole bear poo! That’s what I love waking up to!

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The Thorofare Trail took us over Two-Ocean Plateau and the Continental Divide (a 1,500 ft gain in one day over 4 miles). We reached the top of the mountain where the waters part ways–one side going to the Pacific and other other to the Atlantic.

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Miserable and euphoric–two emotions only felt simultaneously when you’re in the mountains.

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Spitting at the Continental Divide because half of it will go to one ocean and the other half will go to the other, right?

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Mariposa Lake. AKA my first bath in 6 days.

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If you squint you can almost see Heart Lake where we would spend our final 2 nights.

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Finishing the hike…

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Remember how cute I looked at the beginning? I went from curly hair and clean clothes to crawling all in 8 days.

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We finished the hike at the Heart Lake Trailhead near Lewis Lake. The joy I felt when I saw my mom and Aunt waiting for me at the trailhead is indescribable.

I had done it–80 miles in 8 days.

I had conquered the task that just a week ago I had doubted I could. I had also uncovered a new corner of my favorite place in the world- The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

God is so great. He is mindful of each of us and our trails and the trials we face along them. He is the ultimate compass. The only survival skill we need in this life is his companionship. He saw me through what I thought was going to be one of the hardest summers of my life and helped me make it one of the best. If it wasn’t for Him and my parents, I do not doubt that I would still be out in the wilderness being snacked on as bear chow. The Yellowstone Thorofare Trail helped to mold me into more of the woman I want to be.

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