Amtrak, California Zephyr, somewhere east of Grand Junction, CO.
Photos have been updated again with pictures from Yellowstone! Also, check out the map feature. I’m continually adding photos. You can click on a feature, such as a tent icon, and usually see a photo.
I’m not sure if this counts as a CDT entry or not, but we’re still wearing the same clothes every day, so until we get a change of clothes, we’re on the CDT. That said, being on the train is pretty easy hiking. April and I are sitting together in the observation car of this eastbound train, gazing out at high Colorado desert with the Colorado River flowing in the opposite direction below us. The elderly lady next to us is wondering if we’ll see any “moonshiners today.” No, not Colorado River liquor runners, just folks who like to moon the train. Dressed in sandals with socks, a purple shirt, checked polyester pants, and a pink hat (April: “It’s typical Key West garb, babe”), she’s pretty much nominated herself as the child disciplinarian of our car. “That six year-old with the earring, his daddy just let him get a red bull.” “Hey! No screaming!” We’re headed for St. Louis and I think we’re doing it right.
We had a pretty fantastic time seeing Yellowstone. The pictures should speak for themselves: bubbling mud, lots of tame wildlife, geysers, and tons of cars, the latter being my only real gripe about Yellowstone. Unlike Glacier National Park, where just a single road spans the park, Yellowstone is a giant, branching, figure-8 of roads. If you really want to see the exciting features in Glacier, you have to get off your butt and hike in. In Yellowstone, all you need to do is park and walk a few hundred yards on a boardwalk. In fact, driving in Yellowstone is sometimes the ONLY way to see neat features, such as the paint pots. I remember April and I having to walk down the side of a 2-lane highway in the park just to check out some of these bubbling mud pits.
Even some trails in Yellowstone lack real inspiration. We spent an hour or so on the Powerline Trail going out to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. The trail follows a powerline swath. Nonetheless, taking in the thermal features here are worth the sometimes monotonous, dusty trail and pavement. And if you really want interesting backcountry hiking, my guess would be to go to other, more remote sections of park where roads don’t penetrate. Thankfully, there’s plenty of this in Yellowstone as well. I’m told that in or near southeast Yellowstone lies the most remote point in the lower 48: 45 miles from any road in all directions.
Getting to and from Yellowstone allowed April and I to nearly become masters at hitchhiking. We covered the six-hour drive from Lima to Emigrant, MT in one day and three hitches. A young employee of a baby food factory driving a beat up minivan picked us up on I-15 and took us from Lima to Dillon. He had a shocking amount of missing teeth. A agricultural geneticist who is working on manipulating the fat composition in beef picked us up along the side of the road in Dillon and dropped us off in Bozeman. My cousin Phil, just happening to be passing through Bozeman, picked us up and took us to his place in Emigrant. (We stayed at Phil’s for a few days, relaxing at nearby Chico Hot Springs and checking out his farm.) Getting back from Yellowstone wasn’t quite as easy, but we made it back to our second home (Lima) in pretty good shape. In fact, we were so heady about our success covering all of SW Montana by thumb we decided to head off to April’s mom’s place in St. Louis by the same method. However, after an hour and a half standing along the shadeless southbound lanes of I-15, feeling the sting of rejection, we decided to fork over a little dough and take the train.
Until the time we take up our journey again, this will be the last entry from me. I’ve added some more photos and will try to upload some video as I’m able to get near a fast connection. For now, though, we’re taking in the sunny afternoon through the big south-facing windows on the train, watching Colorado drift by and looking forward to seeing friends and family again. This blog will stay up and we’ll start posting again once we get back to hiking!
Some final thoughts on hitch hiking:
1) The type of vehicles that picked us up the most often were minivans and pickup trucks.
2) The worst thing about hitchhiking is the rejection.
3) The jury is out on whether or not where you stand helps your chances of getting a hitch. April thinks someone wanting to pick us up would do so regardless or where we stand as long as they can see us. I think our chances are helped by standing near turnouts, gas stations and restaurants, places where people can see us, etc. It is also unclear as to whether or not making a sign helps. April thinks late afternoon is the best time to hitch as people usually are feeling generous at this time of day.
4) Don’t waste you energy lifting a thumb for the following vehicles, you’ll never get a ride: RV’s, any vehicle towing something, 18-wheelers, new SUVs, and any vehicle displaying Utah plates.
5) Hitchhiking is an underestimated pretty good way of getting places in Montana. Harder roads to hitch are interstates and urban areas (had a miserable time getting out of Missoula and Butte). Best roads to hitch are out of the way dirt roads. Fewer cars, but most will stop.
6) Fastest hitch: Getting dropped off near Hebgen Lake and getting picked up immediately by the next vehicle. Slowest hitch: I-15 south trying to get out of Lima. We never got picked up.