After we left the mountains of the Grand Teton National Park, we headed north towards Yellowstone National Park. There’s no doubt about Yellowstone’s inherent beauty or its allure for tourists from every country, but throughout our trip we’ve heard horror stories from other travelers about the crazy behavior of tourists there. While we were in Glacier, we talked with a park ranger who is based in Yellowstone and he shared a couple of his favorite stories about park tourists. The first was his favorite question he’s been asked — “At what altitude does a deer become an elk?” — and I think he had a tough time coming up with a response to that one. He also shared with us that Yellowstone had to quit selling animal crackers at the snack stops because too many people thought the cookies were intended for the park animals. Wow. I was speechless. So when he advised us to hold off on getting to the park until after the Labor Day crowds left, we took his advice.
Since we had waited a few extra days after the holiday, we thought we had outsmarted the system. However, as with many of the most famous National Parks, we quickly realized that tourist season never really ends, it just has periods of slightly less insanity. Traffic, busy crowds, and road construction prompted us to drive straight through the park and make our way to Bozeman, MT. For the first three days we were in Bozeman, we were completely rained out. For us, this means three full days of sitting in coffee shops, bars, and anywhere else we can entertain ourselves, use Wifi, and get some work done. The good news, though, was the once the rain cleared, we were more than caught up on our workloads.
Our first Bozeman adventure was a hike at the end of the Hyalite Canyon into the Emerald Lake basin. For me, this was an important hike to make because we heard that the lake holds a population of grayling. I’ve never caught a grayling and although you can find them elsewhere in Montana, they aren’t too common.
Our drive from Bozeman up the canyon towards the trailhead was one of the most beautiful drives we’ve encountered so far. We passed through the narrow and winding Hyalite Canyon, beyond the reservoir, and up to literally the end of the road, dodging deep potholes the whole way. As we climbed, we drove through thickening fog and watched the digital thermometer on the van drop at a surprisingly fast rate. When we reached the end of the road, the fog gave way to clear skies, a dusting of snow covered everything, and the temperature hovered just below freezing. We piled on more layers and started our hike.
The untouched snow on the trail ahead of us confirmed that everyone else was still waiting for the day to warm up. Our hike lead us up a narrow single track trail that was increasingly difficult to follow as the ground was now fully covered in snow and the usually well-defined trail now blended in with the rest of the snow-covered area. After a couple of hours and many off-trail detours for photos, we arrived at our destination: Emerald Lake. By this time, the skies has clouded over and the lake reflected gray rather than showing off its green hue. With the clouds came wind, and with little cover at the edge of the lake, the cold cut deep.
After eating our lunch of smashed sandwiches huddled behind the shelter of a huge fallen tree, the clouds slowly gave way to sunlight. For me, the sun was critical, as I was also there to fly fish for the native grayling that live in the high elevation lake. For me, the hike was all about catching a fish that I’ve never caught before, even if I was pretty sure they were going to be tiny alpine fish. The sun peeked through the clouds just long enough to entice a grayling eat the few flies on the surface, including my own. The fish was small, just as expected, but to catch a rare fish in its native range in an alpine lake in Montana made the ten mile round-trip hike completely worth it.
So what is 10 and 2? Meet Ryan and learn about why he’s on the road with Crown & Caliber.