A trip in the Bechler region of Yellowstone National Park has been on my bucket list for years. I secured a permit encompassing a vast chunk of the SW corner of the park. My itinerary was to traverse the Pitchstone Plateau, then head westward to the Bechler River Valley, following it northward to my end point in the Old Faithful geyser basin. This would allow me to experience three vastly different ecosystems, camping one night in each.
I experienced beautiful moonrises, glorious sunrises, sunny afternoons, a seemingly endless thirty-six hours of continuous rain, mile after mile of both grassy savannah walking as well as mud and bog walking, a spectacular soak in one of the best backcountry hotsprings known to humankind, and hours of solo introspection and enjoyment. The journey through this section of YNP is well worth a visit for someone looking to walk an all-trail route that has just enough an element of navigation and route finding challenge to keep things interesting but is still moderate enough to allow your thoughts to wander without consequence.
The route crosses numerous springs, streams, and rivers so water consumption planning is simple. I inquired locally and with respected and trusted individuals regarding the fishing potential and fly choices. I cast my line into three separate stream/river systems, each containing different species and although my luck and skill (lack of?) didn’t pan out, the joy and meditative qualities of tenkara fishing made the extra six ounces of gear well worth it.
Logistically the trip worked out exceptionally. I left my car at the Pitchstone trailhead, hiked the loop, and grabbed an instantaneous hitchhike with an off duty park employee all the way back to my car at trip’s end. Bike shuttling along the busy park roads is an option as well but would require planning a morning start to allow for the extra hours needed. Hitchhiking can be a gamble but in this instance paid off exceptionally.
I decided to photograph the journey through wide shots of the landscape, trying to capture the essence of the different spaces I visited. From the wide open, grassy savannah of the Pitchstone Plateau, to the woody and wet valleys of Mountain Ash Creek, to the boggy, misty and steamy Bechler River Valley, all zones had a unique character that was constantly bringing a smile to my face.