Traversing 40 miles across the top of the Gallatin Mountain Range from Yellowstone National Park to Hyalite Canyon.
Not 5 minutes into our planned 4 day trip of the Gallatin Crest Trail we ran into a bear smack dab in the middle of the trail. Our hoots and hollers did little to startle the bear. Showing little acknowledgement that we were there the bear continued to graze on the trail side vegetation. Finally after a 15 minute stand off our bruin friend got far enough away that we were comfortable making a long detour around on the opposite side of the canyon. As we skirted the area our “Hey Bear” yells had the delicate vibrato that comes from just having an encounter. “HeEeEeeeeYyyy BeeEEaaaRRrrrr”.
There are several options for getting up and onto the Gallatin Crest. We chose to start at Tom Miner basin, just north of Yellowstone National Park. That meant that our trip would start with us huffing our full packs up and over the 10,200′ Ramshorn peak. After a sweaty climb up and over Ramshorn we set up camp in the trees not far off the ridge.
Thunderstorms on the second day motivated us to hurry along the ridge to the lower, somewhat protected Windy Pass. Approaching Eaglehead we experienced several lightning strikes that were uncomfortably close to the ridge. As we approached Windy Pass the storm moved east, and we were comforted with clear skies and rainbows.
From Windy Pass we climbed back up onto the ridge along the Devil’s Backbone. We ran into more snow along this stretch then we’d seen on the first two days of the trip. Mountain goats grazed on the protected western slopes as we neared 10,000′. From up above the goats we had a great vantage point for watching the kids frolicking though the herd. Even the kids made traversing the steep loose meadows look effortless. Meanwhile with little grace we shuffled and slipped our way north.
On our third night we had a quiet evening camped next to Crater lake. Thinking back all of our nights were quiet, in the four days we were on the trail we only saw 2 other backpackers. We woke early on the final day and made our way back up to the ridge. The stretch between Crater Lake and Hyalite Peak held even more snow then we’d seen, but for the most part it was only on one side of the ridge. We easily navigated around the patches of snow, with our longest stretch completely on snow probably being only 1/4 mile. When we hit the saddle between Hyalite and Divide peaks, we dropped our packs and headed for the summit of Hyalite. From the top we were able to see 40 miles all the way back to Ramshorn, were our journey had began.
Motivated by burgers and beer we made quick work of the 7 miles between Hyalite peak and the car. That stretch of trail was familiar, but still amazing. Waterfalls around every corner, and a well maintained trail. Our celebration was delayed by the three hour shuttle that we still had, in order to pick up the other car. The drive turned out to be awesome, we had a great time drinking cold sodas, and listening to music in the comfort of the climate controlled vehicle. Not a bad way to spend 4th of July weekend!