Trip Report: Yellowstone Thorofare Backpack
Yellowstone Thorofare Backpack
By Michael* Budig
| I have been organizing fall backpacks in the Yellowstone backcountry for the Mountain Club for about 40 year. Each year, I like to visit a new area or at least see some new country. This year, I decided to go to the most remote area of Yellowstone, the Thorofare in the southeast corner. I usually like to go in September, but would have to start this trip earlier as much of the hike would be outside of the Park and we would want to finish before the hunting season started there.
I told everyone that I thought we were likely to see a grizzly bear, but little other wildlife. Since the wolves were introduced in the mid-90's, it seems like the wildlife concentrates by the roads in the park, where they feel safer from the wolves.
We started on Monday, August 29 after meeting and camping at the Lewis Lake Campground on the previous night. Dianne Budig, Zig Sondelski, Li An, and Julie Melini started hiking at the Nine-mile Trailhead (on the east side of Yellowstone Lake) while Gregg Clark, Louis Melini, Chris Baes and Michael Budig drove the 200+ mile shuttle. We shuttle drivers started hiking around 3:00PM and met the others at the Park Point Campsite by 6:00. This is a beautiful campsite with a gorgeous view over Yellowstone Lake. It is one of my favorites.
The following morning, we continued to hike along the Lake for another 8 miles, until we reached the Brimstone Point Campsite, which again overlooked Yellowstone Lake. From there, we headed south past the Park boundary and then headed east along the Thorofare Tail and then the Pass Creek Trail up to Ishawooa Pass. We walked passed the Thorofare Ranger Station which, according to one map, is "the furthest dwelling from a road in the Continental United States".
Indeed, the Thorofare has a rich history of usage dating back to the days of the Mountain Men and American Indians. The name comes from the numerous routes going through area, connecting routes to and from the Wind Rivers, the Tetons, the Absarokas, Yellowstone and the Shoshone River. We expected to see few people once we left Yellowstone Lake and that was the case. We ran into a trail crew stationed at the Thorofare Ranger Station and a few outfitters on horses, but no hikers outside of the park.
The scenery was quite spectacular in the Thorofare area and outside the Park over the Ishawooa Pass. We averaged about 8 miles of hiking per day over fairly easy terrain, but were weighed down by the need to carry about 8 days worth of food and high temperatures which hit 90F on most days (at least 20F higher than normal). Both Dianne and Julie had some issues with knee and foot problems. However, they managed to keep up and we kept a good steady pace and camped near water and great scenery each night.
We did hear a single elk bugle a few times one night and saw elk tracks and some bear scat, but no other wildlife. That was disappointing, but not too surprising. We finished the backpack by noon on the ninth day and headed home, after a great adventure in some of America's best and wildest country.
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