CDT 2021: Day 115, Soda Fork Meadows to Atlantic Creek

And the parting on the left is now parting on the right

Top O' walking

Mixing up the dates for our camping reservations in Yellowstone National Park wasn't the worst thing that could happen on our hike. In fact, I'm beginning to think it wasn't a bad thing at all.

Top O' and I saw one benefit of the mistake this morning. We got a little extra sleep. My alarm went off at the time I usually set it. When I didn't hear Top O' stirring around in his tent, I decided to snooze a little longer.

DateThursday, August 5, 2021
WeatherVariable cloudiness and smoke with temperatures from low-40s to low-70s; late evening thunderstorm
Trail ConditionsMuddy footpath at times; mostly flat with short ups and downs
Today's Miles15.8
Trip Miles1661.5

Our first reserved site in Yellowstone is 24 miles away. We aren't scheduled to be there until tomorrow. At that distance, we could get there today if we wanted or needed to.

There may not be any urgency for an early start, but I had a moment of panic this morning. I couldn't find a vital piece of equipment: my spoon. I found it after only a few minutes, but they were tense minutes.

Sunrise at Soda Fork Meadows

Feeling no pressure to start walking right away, I spent time enjoying the view from our campsite. The sun was coming up over the surrounding mountains, casting oranges and purples onto the land and clouds.

The colors were enhanced by the ever-present smoke from forest fires. Seeing the smoke erased any thoughts about trying to follow the official CDT route. Today was the day we made a turn to follow the Big Sky/Super Butte Alternate, which would take us around the source of that smoke.

We will enter Yellowstone tomorrow on the east side and loop around to the west side. This is a longer path through the park than the official route. Six of the next eight nights after tonight will be in the park. The other two will be where our alternate leaves the park before reentering it.

Horseshoe embedded in tree

While I was wandering around, I found an old, fallen tree that had a horseshoe deeply embedded in the trunk. The tree grew around the horseshoe before falling. I wish I knew how that got there and how long ago it happened.

Soda Fork Meadows

We didn't leave camp until 8 a.m. We followed the trail on the north side of Soda Fork River where it stayed on the edge of Soda Fork Meadows.

North Buffalo Fork River

We crossed North Buffalo Fork within the first mile of our hike. The river was shallow, but with only a few exposed rocks, there was no way to get across without wading.

We met Hollywood again soon after the crossing. It felt unusual to see him in the morning and not at dinner time.

Burnt forest

After leaving the river, the trail turned north and made a climb over a ridge in the next mile. This section was neither steep nor long, and that was true of all the climbs today.

The ridge was exposed because it had been burnt in a forest fire several years ago, but the morning temperature was still cool enough to not be a sweaty climb.

Parallel ruts

The descent from the ridge was the start of a three-mile-long meadow called North Fork Meadow. North Buffalo Fork meandered through the middle and the trail followed the stream upstream along the west edge of the meadow.

The trail widened into several paths here. The rows looked like furrows plowed by a farmer with a tractor. Horse riders made the ruts by walking spread out instead of single-file.

River valley and meadow

The trail, the river, and the meadow stayed together for three miles. We met several SOBO hikers in this section. Some stopped to share information about the trail ahead. All told us they had followed the same alternate we planned to hike.

Some also mentioned they met Doggone just a couple of hours earlier. Top O' and I were delighted to hear that because we had not seen him since we ran into him south of James Peak on Day 77.

Later, we had lunch with another SOBO thru-hiker.

Two Ocean Pass

Top O' and I were still hiking together when we reached Two Ocean Pass at 2:30 p.m. This junction was where we turned to leave the CDT and follow the Big Sky/Super Butte Alternate.

For a moment, I regretted we were turning here. If we continued another eight-tenths of a mile on the CDT, we would come to one of the most unusual spots on the trail, if not the world. Two Ocean Creek flows down from a ridge until it reaches that point and forks in two directions.

If you were to turn left from there to follow the creek's flow downstream, you would eventually reach the Yellowstone River, which flows into the Missouri River. That river would eventually take you to the Mississippi River. After traveling more than 5,800 miles, you would reach the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean.

If you chose to turn right at the fork instead, you'd eventually get to the Snake River. Following that would take you to the Columbia River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean.

The spot just ahead on the CDT is called the Parting of the Waters and is recognized as a National Natural Landmark. It's not a unique land feature, however. A creek in Canada has a similar split, with one side flowing to Hudson Bay and the Atlantic and the other flowing to the Pacific.

A view of Hawks Rest Mountain

After our turn at Two Ocean Pass, we followed a trail that led us to the Atlantic Pacific Creek Trail. Although we were going in the same direction as Atlantic Creek, we rarely saw the stream. It was often hidden by shrubs and other vegetation.

We occasionally saw Hawks Rest standing in the distance. This 9,777-foot tall mountain has an exposed bluff of more than 900 feet. The trail will take us past the foot of the bluff tomorrow.

A NOBO hiker named Stinger said hello when he passed me. I didn't recognize him until he reminded me we met once before, though only briefly. He stopped for just a few seconds when I was talking to a SOBO section hiker named Kermit on Day 110.

Atlantic Creek

The trail crossed a few small streams that fed into Atlantic Creek. The only tricky crossing we had to make was where the trail went to the other side of Atlantic Creek. A log and several rocks made it possible to get across without getting my feet wet but required some balance and patience.

After crossing the creek at 6:30 p.m., we decided to stop nearby to eat dinner.

The trail crossed Atlantic Creek again after we finished dinner and started looking for a place to camp. This crossing wasn't difficult.

A view from a campsite on Atlantic Creek

We found a large flat area protected by large shrubs about two miles farther up the trail and decided that would be a suitable spot to stop for the night. The decision to camp surrounded by shrubs turned out to be a wise one.

A big thunderstorm hit us later that night with winds of up to 40 mph. My tent shook and fluttered but held together without a problem. I stayed dry, and I'm sure the shrubs helped to block some of the wind.

We're now less than eight miles from the campsite we reserved for tomorrow. I'm not sure what we will do when we get there, but the prospects of sitting around camp for half the day don't appeal to me.

Today was better than yesterday, and maybe tomorrow will be better than today. As Dan Quayle famously said, "The future will be better tomorrow."

There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are effaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again, no, no


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.