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Backpacker Magazine – October 2009

Insider's Guide: Yellowstone

From camping with wolves to fly-fishing smarts this insider's guide has you covered.

by: Michael Behar

Get Lucky in the Lamar
The Lamar River Valley has "a bit of everything," says Orville Bach, the author of two Yellowstone guidebooks and a seasonal ranger for 36 years. His favorite spots:

Explore a Mystery
On August 23, 1877, 800 Nez Perce Indians with 2,000 horses entered Yellowstone on the run from 400 U.S. cavalry soldiers. But shortly after reaching the Lamar Valley, the Nez Perce vanished. "The Army lost them," says Bach. "How do you lose 2,000 horses and that many people?" See for yourself on a hike to their last-seen location near the confluence of Mist Creek and the Lamar River, 38 miles from the start of a thru-hike that begins at Artist Point. To hike to the site of a battle between the Nez Perce and the Army.

Visit the Wildest of Wilds
The remote Mirror Plateau, the unforgiving Absaroka Mountains, the petrified forests of Specimen Ridge: All lie within the Lamar and Pelican Valleys, where grizzlies assemble in such numbers that overnight camping is forbidden and hikers are encouraged to pass through loudly and quickly. For the ultimate highlights tour, begin at Artist Point on the Wapiti Lake Trail. Near mile seven, you'll cross Moss Creek, leave the trail, and bushwhack three miles northeast to (soakable) Joseph's Coat Hot Springs. Spend the night here–at a designated campsite (4B1)–before connecting with Upper Pelican Creek Trail, Mist Creek Trail, and finally the Lamar River Trail, where there's a good chance you'll spot bears, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, bison, osprey, bald eagles, and antelope. If you're lucky, you might see or hear the Druid wolf pack. The route spans nearly 60 miles–tack on 15 more with a traverse of Specimen Ridge. "Go in September," says Bach. "The streams are down, insects are pretty much gone, and the elk are bugling."

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