Sunday, April 30, 2017

August 2016: Island Park--Fifty Miler with the Scouts--Part One

The Team

Last summer, I spent so much time travelling that I couldn't spend any time blogging.  Now I'm playing catch up.  I logged over a hundred miles of human powered travel last summer.  About half of it came on a single trip.  For High Adventure, the boy scouts in our church unit decided to get their Fifty Miler patch.  Since two of my boys are in the troop, and I had never gotten a fifty miler patch, I decided to go as a chaperone.  I always like to accompany my sons on their High Adventure adventures and scout camps.  I love the outdoors and I love to see new things.

To receive the Fifty Miler award, a scout must travel fifty continuous miles over no more than five days.  The fifty miles can be obtained by any combination of biking, boat, canoe, or hiking.  In addition, each scout must log at least ten hours of service during the event.  Easy.

Our plan was to canoe for ten miles across the Island Park Reservoir on the first day and camp on it's eastern shore.  Day two we were going to hike ten miles or so from that camp to the Island Park Boy Scout Camp where we would camp the second night.  By this time in August, Scout Camp was finished and we would have the camp to ourselves.  The third day we were going to hike another ten miles Warm River Springs.  The Fourth day to Bear Gulch and then bike for another mile to the Warm River Campground.  Day five we planned to bike thirty miles to Tetonia.  Most of the hiking and biking was going to be done on the old Union Pacific right of way.  Union Pacific pulled it's tracks in the seventies or eighties without consulting anyone in the towns along the way.  West Yellowstone felt especially betrayed because people there wanted to install a steam locomotive from Ashton to West Yellowstone to bring tourists up to the park.  Now the railbed has been converted to a hiking and biking trail.

If you were keeping up on the math, you'd see that our fifty miler was really going to be more like a seventy miler.

Day One

The one thing we didn't count on was the water level in the reservoir.  It was quite low.  The guy I was canoeing with grew up with a summer home on the reservoir and he was shocked at how low the water was.  Our ten miles on the water would end up being more like seven.

When we got to the put in place, it was covered with grass and wildflowers, not water.  We had to drive along the lakeshore for awhile until we could find an appropriate put in.  When we got there, we had to walk along a dry, mud cracked plain.  The dry plain turned into a wet mud cracked plain.  The mud had some of the attributes of quicksand, but quite a bit slower.  More than one boy had to retrieve a shoe from deep in the mud.

When we finally put in, we paddled for over a mile still able to touch the lake bottom with our paddles.  After that, we finally found deep water.  It's a good thing that canoes have flat bottoms and shallow drafts though.  We ate our lunch on the water and we told the boys to sunscreen up.  Water has a tendency to magnify the UV light from the sun.  Some of the boys listened.  My two sons did not.

After we had paddled about four miles, some of the boys began asking how much further we had to go.  I started saying, "Nine miles."  We'd paddle for a mile or two and they'd ask again.  I'd repeat, "nine miles."  That demoralized them.  (heh heh heh).  We were within two miles of our destination and one of the boys asked how much further.  I told him, "Nine miles."

When we got to camp, we beached the canoes, dried them out and loaded them onto the truck that would haul them home.

Bear tracks in the dried mud plain

Wolf tracks in the dried mud

Boys hiking across the quickmud

We had to hike quite a long way to get to the put in point

As you can see

Imagine putting in right there.  The dots in the middle of the picture are ibis.  They are standing on the lake bottom

My youngest son standing in the front of the canoe

My other son eating lunch in the front of the canoe

Boys and men paddling

Some of the boys couldn't figure out how to paddle straight, so they zig-zagged.  We estimated that those boys actually paddled about three miles more than the rest of us.

We got to the campsite and the trailer with the tents hadn't arrived yet, so everybody kind of did their own thing.  Some of the boys built an elaborate dam with a spillway, some of them played in the mud, and I found a long stick and began carving it.  Some of the boys got interested in what I was doing, but they said, "I could never do what you're doing."  To which I replied that I was once their age and I had to start somewhere and so did they.  One by one, over the next few days almost all of the boys found walking sticks and began to carve them.  It was relaxing and a lot of fun.

One of the leaders made dinner in an old milk can.  He put oil in the can, then put it on the grill.  He added layers of meat and vegetables.  It turned out to be very tasty.  Camp food doesn't have to taste like camp food.  After dinner, we cleaned up and set up camp.  When we unloaded the tents, we discovered that the people who had used it previously had broken a tent pole and had neglected to tell us.  I crafted a new section of pole out of a tree branch and some pink duct tape.  The scouts called it the "Frankentent" from that moment on.

When dinner was done and camp was set up, the Bishop (our ecclesiastical leader) brought out a really cool potato gun and we had a good time shooting it.  I hadn't shot a potato cannon since I was about fourteen.  I guess that was forty years.  While we weren't aiming at the trumpeter swan, it was none too happy that a bunch of boys and men invaded it's territory and started shooting potatoes everywhere.

My son, playing in the mud.  He said it helped with the sunburn.  More of that later

Oh dam

My other son sitting in the reservoir

The annoyed swan

The spillway


Milk can dinner

Sun getting low in the sky

The bishop loading the epic potato gun

My son shooting

The old man shooting.

Day Two

After breakfast, we broke camp and headed out on the road.  We hiked a mile or two, crossed the main highway and made our way to the old Union Pacific Right of Way.  The right of way has become a popular trail for horseback riding, four wheeler riding, snow machining, cycling, motorcycling, and hiking and not necessarily in that order.  The railbed is hard packed in some places and inches thick in dust in others.  It vacillates between easy walking and kind of tough walking.  Unlike other trails that bend and curve, this trail is a straight shot for long stretches with gentle curves.  It also has long stretches of all the same scenery punctuated with short bursts of really scenic views.

Along the way, each boy was issued a pair of loppers and we groomed the trail as we hiked it.  From time to time, the Right of Way would cross rivers and streams and we'd stop at them and take a dip.  Being August, it was pretty hot, so cool water was welcome.  The problem was that the water wasn't cool, it was downright cold and kind of shocking to the system.  One of the leaders is a policeman for his day job and may have had some military training.  He convinced some of the boys to do twenty burpees in the cold water.  My youngest son and one of the others did a bunch.  Only one boy got to twenty.  The prize for twenty was a pizza when we returned to civilization.  A burpee is what we used to call a squat thrust in gym class.  Starting from a standing position, you squat down to a crouch, with your hands on the ground you shoot your legs out straight, do a push-up, return to the crouch and then jump up as high as you can.  Repeat.

The coolest thing about the river crossings, though were the old railroad trestle bridges that we crossed.  There was evidence that they had been built and rebuilt over the years, and every now and then we'd find a Geo-cache.  That was kind of fun.  We added our expedition to the log and returned them to their rightful location.

Island Park Reservoir inlet or outlet, not sure which

This was a potty stop, one of the boys went off in the trees on the left side of the road, and when he came back I told him that was the girls bathroom!  That became a standing joke the rest of the week.  He was a good sport so no teenagers were harmed.

Uber cold water right there.

Cooling down

Burpee time


There was a primal scream here

Shock to the system



My youngest son facing the burpee challenge


Trestle bridge


This is where the Geo-Cache was

Groomen das trailen, unt yah (didn't know I spoke German did you?)


Signing in on the second Geo-Cache

Remnants of old pilings from the original trestle bridge

On the bridge above the old pilings

More trail grooming

The last several miles of the trail on this day were kind of brutal.  We had moved from the railbed onto the frontage road on our way to Island Park Boy Scout Camp.  It was hot, it was dusty, everybody was about out of water and there was almost no shade.  From time to time we'd pass a telephone pole and ten boys and leaders would line up in the shade for a few minutes just to cool off.  We finally arrived and set up camp.  After that it was time to play in the lake.  As I said before, camp season was over and we had the place all to ourselves.  We were good stewards though.  Didn't cause a lot of mischief.  Probably because we were too tired to get into much trouble.

The brutal slog on the frontage road

At last

On the lake at night

In the lake at night

The whistlin' and whittlin' brigade

It has become obvious to me at this point of the blogging that this is really a two part blog post.  I will return and blog about the final two days of this adventure.  Sunburns awaiting.

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