New Heights

One of the most amazing things about the Greater Yellowstone region is how greatly different areas of the park contrast with other areas. One day you could be trekking past cacti and rattlesnakes and the next passing by 20 foot tall snowdrifts in the mountains. The fairly unpredictable weather made packing for day hikes a challenge. Before we left for our trip our professors warned us that we could be hiking in 90 degree weather one minute and getting hailed on the next. They weren’t kidding. On the trails we experienced sideways rain, quarter sized hail, snow, and sweltering heat. You really had to be prepared for anything nature threw your way.

One of our most difficult hikes took us up Mount Washburn in the northern region of the park. Although the trail wasn’t the longest we had done at 6.4 miles round trip, it was a constant uphill hikes the entire way up. The air was so incredibly thin up there that no matter how much air you could take in it seemed like you couldn’t get enough oxygen. On our way up we had beautiful vistas of the surrounding snow covered mountain tops. Were there were breaks in the snow drifts wildflowers blanketed the mountain sides. It took us nearly 3 hours to make it to the top. We were not alone however, on our journey up the mountain. About two miles, we were forced to make a detour off the trail thanks to a lone male bison laying directly in our path. We bunched together and quickly side stepped off the trail over fallen logs so we wouldn’t startled the creature. Luckily the big guy decided we weren’t a threat and let us continue with our hike. We also ran into a not so threatening group of hikers who turned out to be from Pittsburgh too! This proved my point even further that you can really find Steelers fans anywhere. Once we made it to the top we took shelter from the wind in a ranger station and ate our lunches staring at the unbelievable view. Reaching the top came with a great sense of accomplishment and I quickly forgot just how out of breath and exhausted I felt ten minutes before.