Randokitty enters Mr Bubbles on the Bechler River.
I’ve lived in Jackson for over 15 years now, and during that time, I’ve never done any real exploring of Yellowstone, the crown jewel of our national park system. Though Yellowstone is loaded with some amazing and beautiful country, it is also packed with tourist and RV’s for the majority of the time the park road is open, therefore keeping me from wanting to travel north for most of the year. However, the off-season is a great time to catch Yellowstone at its finest and have the whole place to your self.
Obviously, the geo-thermal characteristics of Yellowstone are one of the major attractions of the park, and Bechler Hot Springs in the southwest region of the park is a major attraction for those that are willing to put in the effort to soak in its therapeutic waters. With cold nights and warm days, this weekend was the perfect time to get away and explore this amazing area with friends. The trip started off with some big and open scenery as we hiked through the huge expanse of Bechler Meadows with the Teton Range visible in the distance. For much of the spring and summer, this area is logged with about 1-2′ of standing water, along with hoards of mosquitoes, making traveling extremely difficult. Therefore, a very late summer or fall trip is recommended. A winter tour to Bechler Hot Springs would be the best though, a defiantly stored in the memory banks for the future.
One of the few bridges crossing the Bechler River.
This area of the park is one of the wettest sections of Yellowstone and only some of the rivers and creeks have bridges over them. As we hiked further and further from the trailhead, we came to the first of three major crossings of the Bechler River. With the water level pretty low this time of year they were pretty manageable, but I could see how they could be much more difficult when the water is high. We were always on the lookout for bears as well, and though we didn’t see any in person, we did occasionally see some bear scat and tracks in the mud on the banks of the river.
After about 6 miles, we slowly made our way into the Bechler River canyon. There are numerous waterfalls on this hike, and although some require a little stroll off the beaten path, many are easily viewed from the trail. Though you’d have to suffer the bugs and sketchy river crossings, it would be very cool to see all of these falls in the high water of the spring runoff. The trail was a mixture of dry dirt, mud and snow, but the call at the trailhead to wear tennis, instead of big heavy hiking boots, was a good one, and with a little bit of caution, we managed to keep our feet dry for most of the hike.
Entering a thermal area on the Ferris Fork of the Bechler River.
After finding our designated campsite and having a nice big fire to keep us warm at night, we awoke to strong coffee and oatmeal in preparation for the search for Mr Bubbles…the most popular hot spring of the area…and characterized by a bubbling plume of thermo activity rising from it center. Having read all kind of stories of people getting burned jumping into the wrong hot spring, it was important we find the right one. Though there are many hot springs in the area, some are too hot, too cold, or just aren’t connected to a flowing river, one of the park requirements for soaking. But after a bit of a hike and some exploring, we found the right hot spring and indulged in its therapeutic warmth.
After a couple hours of soaking, indicated by the prunes forming on my hands and feet, we called it a day and headed back to camp. On the way back, we found a small pool closer to our campsite and worked on making it bigger, deeper, and hotter for a late night soak under the bright, late summer moon. A perfect way to round out the long weekend. (Sorry, no pics.)
I’m definitely ready for the snow to fly now and the gear is starting to pile up in the various locations around the condo. Pray….for snow!!!!