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Hiking the CDT: Old Faithful and goodbye Montana

Henry Strawbridge fishing along the CDT.
Georgie Strawbridge

Editor’s Note: The Strawbridge family from Lakeland, Fla., is hiking the length of the Continental Divide Trail – all 3,100 miles of it – from Canada to Mexico. Henry Strawbridge, 14, will be providing updates of their journey to Trout Unlimited as they pass through the historic range of seven native trout species. You can track the family and see reports submitted by Henry on this map.

By Henry Strawbridge

In West Yellowstone, we met up with our friends the Brickhouses who came to walk with us for a couple of days. Since my cousin and his mom were still here, we made quite a crowd. But, our group was nothing compared to the tourists inside the park. With all the theme parks shutting down due to COVID-19, apparently everyone decided to head for national parks.       

Unfortunately for the Brickhouses, nearly all of the 40 miles they walked with us was not the CDT’s best. 

That is, until we walked into one of the weirdest places on earth. Yellowstone National Park is like another planet. The earth underneath is so hot that springs and geysers boil up and shoot scalding water skyward. And it seems to go on and on like that forever.

Shed antlers found discarded in Yellowstone National Park. Georgie Strawbridge photo.

 One interesting thing that struck me though, was the smell. The Nez Perce Indians actually called the area “The Land of the Stinking Waters.” Early trappers like Joe Meek called another area “Colter’s Hell.” John Colter stumbled across the area during a race for his life with a group of the Blackfeet Indians. It is rumored that he only escaped by hiding under a beaver dam for an entire day. He then supposedly traveled 300 miles with nothing but a blanket for clothing, and used the warmth of the springs to save him from the cold winter nights.

Probably my favorite thing in the park was Old Faithful. We got to the geyser five minutes after it had gone off. Having just missed it, we sat and waited for the predictable jet of water. When the time came for it to blow, it started to boil and smoke. Then “Boosh!” It shot up over 180 feet and maintained this spectacular performance for more than a minute. Every time it blows, it shoots anywhere between 4,000 and 8,000 gallons of water from the bowels of the earth.

Just like that it was time to say goodbye to our friends. We had finished Montana and entered Wyoming and completed 991 miles of the trail. 

The next day we did the biggest day on the CDT so far, 29 miles through the most flat terrain yet. Yellowstone requires you to camp in designated campsites. We could have either done 22 or 29. We went big. 

We started the morning off in the beautiful Shoshone Geyser Valley. It was eerie walking through a geyser basin early in the morning. The cold air exaggerated the amount of the steam as we passed through the mist. We actually got to see one of the geysers go off right in front of us. Dad, true to form, got it on video. Then we proceeded to cross the headwaters of Shoshone Lake (a bog) and beheld the lake in the morning sunrise. About two miles later we crossed the outlet of the same massive lake.

Henry Strawbridge snaps a picture of a family stream crossing. Georgie Strawbridge photo.

The next few days the terrain began to change. We were entering the Wind River Range. It was not gradual. One moment we were standing in a lush green valley, but within two miles the mountains jutted dramatically upward. We were no longer in the high desert. The rocky, barren, mountainous peaks were beginning. 

The next morning, down at the bottom of a hill the trail turned down to the right to avoid a river gorge. We thought, why walk around? We can just cut across on an alternate trail. We soon found out that this trail crosses a slot canyon that drops 60 feet straight down rock cliffs. 

Hiking in Yellowstone National Park. Georgie Strawbridge photo.

The trail, the alternate one we were on anyway, crossed the chasm on a fallen log. One slip would mean certain death. Since it only added an extra .6 miles, we walked back to the trail, thinking we’d prefer to live another day.

There are a lot of fish in these flat river basins. My dad and I stopped several times to fish for just a half hour at a time. We would catch trout in every pool we tried, wrap up as quickly as we could and hurry off to catch the others. No sooner had we caught them, than we would see another spot too good to pass up and start the whole cycle over again. 

We arrived at Brooks Lake Lodge in the afternoon, picked up our boxes, charged our phones and battery packs, and started off toward Pinedale.

Until next time,

Henry

COVID-19 note: The Strawbridge family anxiously watched as the coronavirus issue threatened their plans to do the CDT this year. After careful consideration the family made the decision to drive to Montana to start the trip to avoid any possible exposure on airplanes. None of the family members are exhibiting symptoms. They will continue with limited contact with the outside world throughout the duration of the trip.