A view of a valley through burnt, dead trees

I know a mouse and he hasn't got a house

Day 119, Pahaska Teepee to Lemon City Campsite

Monday, August 9, 2021

I must not have disturbed Top O' and Hollywood last night when I got sick. They made no mention of my overnight misadventure.

Whatever it was that made me sick wasn't carried over into the morning. I had no lingering symptoms when I woke up.

We all slept in late. There was extra time to kill because we wanted to go to Pahaska Teepee's restaurant for breakfast.

Weather Mostly sunny and breezy with smoke; temperatures from upper-40s to low-60s
Trail Conditions A long climb and descent with many switchbacks at the top
Today's Miles 18.3 miles
Trip Miles 1,720.6 miles

Perhaps it wasn't the wisest decision for me to eat food that presumably came from where I got sick just hours earlier. Honestly, I didn't even think about it that way. I was looking forward to a big breakfast before returning to the trail.

Top O' and I learned since we first met Hollywood that he doesn't usually start hiking as early as we do. Today, we took our time to finish breakfast, and he left first.

After returning to our cabin to grab our packs, Top O' and I finally started hiking at 9:15 a.m.

Walking on a bridge across North Fork Shoshone River

We didn't have far to go to get back on the trail. The trailhead was just three-tenths of a mile down the highway from Pahaska Teepee. The trail started on the other side of North Fork Shoshone River.

A view of Giant Castle Mountain

From there, we followed the river upstream on a long and steady climb. This took us past a 10,179-foot mountain called Giant Castle.

The first six miles of the climb only went up 600 feet in elevation. Within the first mile, we entered North Absaroka Wilderness. All wilderness areas protect valuable and fragile resources, but this one and Washakie Wilderness have an additional purpose. They provide a buffer to Yellowstone National Park from commercial development.

Land made barren by the 1988 wildfire

The terrain on this climb was mostly exposed. There weren't many trees because they were all destroyed in a 1988 wildfire. The Clover Mist fire was one of seven devastating fires that swept through the Yellowstone area that year.

This one burned more than 140,000 acres and caused the death of a firefighter. It started as three separate fires that eventually grew to combine as one. The fire became so large that a sprinkler system was needed to protect Pahaska Teepee from being destroyed. Flames advanced to within 1.5 miles of that resort and Shoshone Lodge.

Eagle Creek Campground, where Top O' and I walked through yesterday, was used as a staging area during the fire. About 300 firefighters and military personnel made the campground their home base. Despite the massive destruction caused by the fire, all of the structures in the area were saved.

Fording North Fork Shoshone River

We had hiked a little more than four miles when the trail entered Sam Berry Meadow and then crossed to the other side of the river. There weren't enough rocks to hop across, but the water was shallow.

Dead trees

When Top O' and I stopped for lunch, we sat on a fallen log. There were plenty of those to be found today.

It seemed remarkable to see trees still standing, even though they were killed in the fire 33 years ago. A few here and there were alive. They sprung up after the fire and were young and relatively small compared to what grew here before.

The firefighter killed in the Clover Mist Fire was struck by a 72-foot tall dead tree that toppled over. He was working on mop-up operations after the fire was mostly contained.

Fireweed next to the trail

Fireweed was also present along the trail, which always seems to be the case in the west where a forest fire has been.

The Clover Mist Fire was started by lightning. Roughly 36 percent of the park was destroyed between June and August of 1988, as were large swaths of timber in neighboring forests.

A quail sits in some small foliage

As destructive as the fires were, we know that nature is persistent. Through the decades since the 1988 fires, plant and animal life has gradually reclaimed the land.

Proof of that ongoing cycle was seen everywhere, including when I passed some quail next to the trail.

A quail walks on a log

The birds didn't appear to be nervous about me, especially the one proudly strutting along a fallen dead tree.

We only encountered one hiker on the trail today. He looked like he might have been a SOBO CDT thru-hiker, but I'm only guessing because he didn’t stop to talk.

A steep climb

The trail turned away from the river after the first six miles and began a much steeper route that followed Red Creek. After just six-tenths of a mile more, the climb was so steep several switchbacks were added to the trail.

About 3.3 miles after the last turn, we made another to follow the West Fork/Red Creek Trail.

A boardwalk on the trail

A boardwalk that appeared in this section seemed out of place. Those are normally used in swamps or where poor drainage keeps the trail continuously wet. That didn't seem to be a problem here, though maybe the ground stays wet after snow melts in the spring.

This trail was also in a wilderness area, where the use of trail structures is usually limited.

At some point on the climb, I reached into my pocket and realized I was carrying the keys to our cabin at Pahaska Teepee. I know hotels and other businesses that provide overnight accommodations are used to customers walking away with keys, but discovering I still had these was irksome.

I didn't intentionally keep them. Now I was stuck carrying them for several more days.

Top O' walks through a wide meadow

The trail crossed a broad meadow at about 12 miles into the day. The wind was gusty in this open space, which was above 9,000 feet and still climbing.

Re-entering Yellowstone National Park

We didn't arrive at the boundary to re-enter the national park until nearly 5:30 p.m. This was at the top of the climb, and the wind was much stronger. Some gusts blew more than 25 mph.

I expected to see a sign posted here when we crossed into the park, but there was none. A lone metal post, probably where a sign had been mounted at one time, was all there was to mark the location.

A view from a bluff overlooking a valley

We continued for another 20 minutes before we found a wooded area with live trees on a bluff overlooking a deep valley. This looked like a scenic spot for dinner, so we decided to stop. The trees helped to block the wind, but the location was a little chilly in the shade.

Our dinner view peered into where Little Lamar River flowed. The most prominent mountain we saw was Castor Peak (10,871 feet). Our view blocked a chance to see a nearby mountain, Pollux Peak (11,063 feet), which is closely associated with Castor Peak. Their names are taken from Greek mythology.

Castor and Pollux were twin half-brother gods who were said to be protectors of travelers. If you're wondering how two twins can be half-brothers, just remember this is mythology we're talking about. Logic and consistencies with the real world don't necessarily apply.

The constellation Gemini is part of the mythology about these two twins. It is where they were allowed to live united forever.

A view through trees

We began to descend after we finished dinner and resumed our hike. The time was getting late, but we couldn't stop anywhere we wished to camp. Our permit said we were scheduled to stay tonight at Lemon City Campsite. It was still more than four miles away.

Descending trail

Despite the lateness of the day, we still had 90 minutes left before sunset. Full darkness wouldn't fall for at least 30 minutes after that.

I wasn't worried about not getting to the campsite before nightfall. Nearly all of the distance to get there was a descent. The trail was sometimes steep, but we again had switchbacks, and the footpath was in good condition.

I made a stop on the way down, however, when I discovered I had two bars of cell service. I knew Kim was about to leave on a trip, so I sent a text message to wish her safe travels.


When sunset arrived, we were in a wide, flat valley and closing in on our campsite. It was located in some trees at the edge of the meadow. We arrived there earlier than I expected we would.

Two tents in Lemon City Campsite

Hanging food in this and other Yellowstone campsites was easy. A log lashed between two trees provided a convenient place to throw a rope.

We were going to hang our food anyway because we were in grizzly country, but soon after I got into my tent, I had another reason to be glad I did that. While organizing my gear and getting settled in, I heard a faint noise coming from the vestibule. A mouse was standing on top of my pack, looking back at me.

"Sorry, pal," I said as I tapped on the tent's netting to shoo it away. "There's no food here for you."

I think the mouse must have already known that because it never returned.

I know a mouse
And he hasn't got a house
I don't know why
I call him Gerald
He's getting rather old
But he's a good mouse

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