Great Western Loop: Day 80 - 83: Dubois to Grant Village
Day 80: A close call (14miles)
Leaving Dubois was as hard as getting into it. I had waited for more than 1.5hrs until I decided to start walking towards the trailhead, some 25miles away. Just after leaving the City limits I saw a flashing road sign "Bears on road, stay in vehicles". Yeah...great start. Luckily a few minutes later Harrison (23) and Andrew (21) stopped and offered me a ride.
It was already way past noon, when I got to the trail and so my only goal was to reach the crossing at the south fork of the Buffalo River.
I got to the crossing at 6pm and realised quickly, that this one was a major obstacle.
Some 20minutes I walked up and down the river, to look for the best spot to cross, but the "official" spot seemed to be the best. After making my bag and electronics waterproof and changing to my rain gear, I attempted the crossing. I made it halfway through the stream when it became clear, that I wouldn't be able to cross.
(Not the actual place, where I tried to cross, Looks shallow, but was actually pretty deep and very fast flowing)
The northern side was far deeper than expected and the water was already at my waist. My trekking poles were shaking and vibrating from the water pressure. I had a solid footing, but the river was pushing my entire body, including the rocks I was standing on, downstream. Seconds later it knocked me over. I got pushed downstream and while I was struggling to get back on my feet, I saw two Moose standing in the river, watching me. It was almost surreal. I managed to get back on my feet, before the river got full control of me, stumbled back towards shore and got washed away another time, before I was safe. I tried two other locations, but never even got close to the other side.
Back at the southern shore I thought about swimming across, but I hesitated. How to do it properly? Using the backpack as flotation device, with the risk of losing it? Keeping the backpack on my shoulders, to have my hands free for swimming? That would increase the risk of getting stuck between some logs and being pulled underwater, with a risk to drown...
I eventually ended up doing what seemed to be the smartest option. I set up my camp next to the river, relaxed and took some time to evaluate all my options for the next day, including potential detours and bypasses.
Day 81: The detour (20miles)
I had decided to stay on the southern side and walk westbound (downstream), looking for a better place to cross, or taking a bridge some 8-10miles from my current location. Without a trail, progress was slow. I first had to cross a tributary of the South Fork Buffalo River, which was also very difficult to manage. Than I ended up bushwacking through very rough terrain. Making 2miles cost me 3hours of my time. I finally found a place, where I managed the still very difficult crossing.
Now I had to decide if I wanted to return to the CDT or continue westbound. Returning to the CDT would mean, that I would have to cross the North Fork Buffalo River 10miles later and that crossing, was considered even more difficult. Therefore I decided to hike westbound on the Buffalo Trail, which I had found after crossing the river. Some 10-12miles later, it would reconnect with the CDT, while bypassing the North Fork crossing.
(Buffalo Trail, after crossing the river, that creek in the picture is not the actual river)
(South Fork Buffalo River)
After a few hours on that trail I saw two groups of horseman, heading out for an overnighter. The trail had now changed from a forest trail to a proper pack trail and was easy to hike.
It took almost all day to make it back to the CDT.
Day 82: Crossing borders (30miles)
The previous' day detour had cost me half a day, which lead to a problem. I would now reach the border of the Yellowstone National Park at noon. Without cell service in Dubois however, I could not yet obtain a backcountry camping permit and it was a day worth of hiking, from the park's border to the next village. Nevertheless, I decided to hike into the park and camp "illegally" for one night. I didn't expect to see a Ranger in this remote section of the park.
("Parting of the waters", one part flows into the Atlantic Ocean, one part flows into the Pacific Ocean)
The scenery was nice and I had a proper trail, for most of the day. After a 1800ft climb in the late morning, the trail became easier.
Most notably, however were the sounds that day. I heard bubbling geysers, screaming Eagles circling over my head and the howling and barking of a nearby wolf pack.
Day 83: Grant Village (15miles)
After being undetected by any Ranger, I quickly hiked to the Hearts Lake Trailhead and hitched into Grant Village, a small "village" in the National Park, with a general store, a restaurant and a campground, where I stayed the night. Being on federal land, I was once again confronted with Covid restrictions, meaning only take-away food in restaurants and long waiting lines, due to capacity limitations.