Monday, August 29, 2011

How I Spent My Summer--Travelogue: Part V

Trip #5--Sentinel Meadows

Chimene and I decided we needed to get away, just the two of us, so we scheduled a day trip into Yellowstone to do a little hiking.  This was one of those days that we wanted to see things you don't normally see in the park.  We opted for a short hike just before Madison Junction called Harlequin Lake.  I hadn't been on this particular hike since I was a teenager, so I thought it was time for us to see it.  Harlequin Lake Trail is a short hike, only about a half mile long to a cute little lake covered in lilypads.  It was nice, but not a trail I would wish to hike again.  It was short and once you are at the lake there is nothing to do because the tree line is right up to the shore.  I wanted to see it after the fires of 1988 came through.  It had been a much sparser forest back then, but after it burned, the new growth is so heavy that it is almost impassable.  It's a trail worth doing once every twenty-five years or so, I guess.

Harlequin Lake
We decided to take the Firehole Loop Road, which is something we almost always do when visiting Yellowstone.  There are several sets of falls along this stretch of the Firehole River.  There is a small falls furthest downstream, then the larger more picturesque falls that everyone stops to photograph, then the swimming area, and finally above the swimming area is another falls that we had never explored before.  We hiked down to the water's edge to view this section of the falls up close.  We were glad we did.  It was quite stunning.

Chimene and I at Firehole Falls
The upper section of the falls
We stopped at our second favorite pinicking area at Fountain Flats Drive, photographed some random elk and paid our respects to Mattie S. Culver.  She was the wife of the innkeeper at Fountain Flats in the 1800's.  She died of consumption in March and the ground was too frozen to bury her so her husband, E. C. Culver froze her body in two whiskey barrels laid end to end and waited for spring to bury her.  To this day, you can wade out in Nez Perce Creek and pick up white "rocks" and find parts of broken plates and bowls.  When the Culvers would break a piece of china at their inn, they would toss it in the creek.  That "trash" is now an historical park relic and is illegal to remove from the park.

A random elk at Nez Perce Creek/Fountain Flats Drive
Mattie's grave
We picked up the trailhead to Sentinel Meadows at the end of Fountain Flats Drive and Ojo Caliente spring.  Ojo Caliente is a very hot pool that boils down into the creek.  In fact it's the hottest water in the park at 211 degrees.  When I was a teenager, we used to come into the park at night and swim in the river just below Ojo Caliente.  It was some of the nicest water in the park and would alternate between very warm water and cool water depending upon where you swam.

The old swimming hole at Ojo Caliente
In the 1870's, the army was garrisoned in these meadows and named them "Sentinel Meadows" for the three large thermal mounds that dominate the valley.  Superintendent Norris, the second superintendent of the park discovered a hot spring that was just the right temperature for a nice leisurely soak.  The soldiers would do their laundry in the spring and bathe in it as well.  Norris built a small log building at or over the spring and called it "Queen's Laundry Spring" and the structure was called the "Soldier's Bathhouse".  I had hiked to Soldier's Bathhouse when I was a teenager but hadn't been back since.  We decided to find the bathhouse but didn't have any luck and ended up having to blaze our own trail back to the car.  After we returned, I looked at a map and researched where we had gone wrong and next time I'm sure we will find the structure.  When I was a kid, we used to go hot-potting all the time, but now it's very illegal and the punishments are prohibitive so it's no longer worth it.  I do miss that though.

The Sentinels
When we were blazing our own trail back to the car, we stumbled upon a random bison.  He was too tired to gore us so we escaped unharmed.  On the way back to the car, Chimene noticed a really cool rock outcrop and decided that we needed to climb it.  On one side there was a cute little geyser, but on top the view was spectacular.  We will definitely do this hike again.

Random bison
Really cool tree roots
Random rocky outcropping
Random thermal feature
The view from the random rocky outcropping

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I do love me some Yellowstone! Glad you had fun!! :)