While at our Grant Spring campground the next morning, I re-stocked up my saddlebags with food and water and left them on the ground beside the trailer tack room while I fetched my horse from his morning feast on the well-watered grass. When I returned, I noticed that one side of the pack’s velcro had come open, my little Ziploc of Ibuprofen lay on the ground, and a my packet of crackers was missing. I could only conclude that someone had neatly reached in and helped herself. Daisy soon proved me right. She showed up happily munching on the cracker wrapper… Ah, well. I suppose she was hungry. True, she had already eaten all a generous amount of dog food, but she HAD gone at least twice the distance the horses traveled the day before – which put her in the 30-40 mile range. No wonder she’d worked up a bit of an appetite.
Since we’d seen at least 3 trailers pass on the road that morning, headed toward the limited parking at the official trailhead, we decided to leave our trailer at Grant Spring and ride the extra mile from there. The first mile of the trail along Yellowstone Creek is the same as Swift Creek.
After that, the 2 trails diverge. Yellowstone Creek trail crosses a stout bridge over the creek and heads uphill. Much of the lower part is alluvial, allowing for a little trotting here and there. About 4 miles up, the trail crosses a scree slope, where someone has arranged the rocks into steps that allow relatively easy horse passage.
The path remained rocky off and on after that, but not nearly as bad as Swift Creek. We met 3 groups of horsemen. Two of them seemed to be families riding a mixed bag of horses and mules. Daisy decided to lick the privates of a mule names Herbie. He instantly cocked his leg in readiness to kick her lights out. I called her away in time and fortunately for her, she listened for once. Her unusual obedience may have saved her from a bad injury. The third group was an organized pack trip with 4-5 pack mules and 8-10 riders. We also saw two women hiking back to the trailhead carrying large packs. They could easily have camped for a week with all that gear.
As we passed one of the scree slopes, a marmot whistled at us. I snapped a photo, but I wasn’t close enough to get a good pic. This marmot was snagged off the internet.
The Yellowstone Creek had beautiful pools but we observed only a few small fish. The creek is undoubtedly heavily fished by campers, horsemen and hikers.
Our plant finds included black elderberry, with the berries still red: I took a photo of Englemann spruce to show how its underbranches droop and the cones hang down from the top.
Under the spruce trees, we found woodland pinedrops. These have no chlorophyll. They’re a parasitic plant that lives on soil fungi.
Here is a mystery plant with yellow berries. If you know what this is, please inform me. We went about 6 miles up the trail before turning back. Our day’s round trip adventure was a little over 12 miles and about 1500 feet elevation gain. Moving time was 4 hours, but actual trail time was 6 hours, what with a few breaks and chatting with passing hikers and riders. (Steve chatting about mules, mostly. He has a fascination with those critters, but I won’t let him have one!)
That left plenty of time to drive the hour and a half home to Roosevelt and arrive in time to pick our overactive garden and throw a steak on the grill.