At the end of July 2002, two friends and I went on a road trip around the U.S. (mostly the west) and along the way we decided to visit Yellowstone National Park.
I had requested that we climb a mountain while we were out west, so without much hesitation they agreed to climb Mount Washburn in the North-Eastern quarter of Yellowstone.
So, we read the sign, and it says we have a 4-5 hour hike ahead of us. Getting a bit big-headed and man-like if you will, we laughed at the thought of it actually taking us that long to get to the top and back. So, after
throwing out our own estimates as to how long it will take, we start walking. Oh wait, what's this? It says that this is a bear habitat and that we just might see some on our way. "Damnit!," I thought, "I didn't bring the mace."
As we round the first bend in the trail, you can see that you are already around 8500 feet. A LOT of the park is visible now, including the vast landscape of Pine and Fir trees, and the Yellowstone Canyon. When you get over what you think is a kick-ass view, take a look at that peak over on your upper right. You'll notice a very small, speck of a building. That is your destination. Also keep in mind, that building has 3 levels. One is a basement, storage area. The second is the observation room/platform, and the third is the ranger station. From the looks of what was in there, (a bed, a stove, and other liveables) my guess is someone is living up there for extended periods of time.
As we approach the top, my friend Zach who is wearing Chuck Taylors with no socks, is starting to feel the blisters and soreness that climbing a mountain will do to you...should you decide not to wear socks with not-so-padded shoes. After a few breaks, we are almost there. At one point, along the once paved road near the top, there is a very narrow point which has a nice drop off on each side. One being around 30-40 feet, while the other is about 70-90 feet. (very rough estimate) I decided to peer over the edge, which is what I like to do when I'm really high up. It gives you that disoriented, off-balance feeling that lets you know you had better not fall. Anyway, the thin air and the hike itself got to us at the top. We were so slap-happy it would have been difficult to tell if we were under the influence or just light-headed. I'm up there being all loud and sluggish, and Dallas, my other friend who was with us, was voicing his usual array of noises, comments, and humorous statements. Even Zach was getting sluggish and having a hard time saying anything.
Finally, the summit. There's the sign: "Mount Washburn 10243 ft." *snap* goes Zach's camera, for the proof shot that we made it. So we take in the view and cool off quite fast in the 30mph or so wind that was a constant reminder of where we were. Once inside the observation tower, we took a break for some Aberfoyle and peanuts. There was a payphone that you had to use a calling card with if you wanted to place a call. Zach and Dallas called some family members, and I tried, but it was to no avail. Nobody was home for me. Anyway, we ran into these two girls who had been on a road trip for 5 weeks at that point, just driving all over the U.S. Basically the same thing we were doing, just that they had been at it for over a month. I was definately envious. So once were up on the platform outside, they had the pictures so you could identify the peaks and features on the landscape. One of which was the Grand Tetons, which were 113 miles away from us. Needless to say it was one hell of a view. The trek downward wasn't that bad. Had to take a few breaks because of Zach's feet, which of course, was understandable. Me in my Sketchers and Dallas in his shoes that were obviously padded enough, but I am unaware of the brand, were doing ok, so we gave Zach the benefit of the doubt when he said he had to stop for a bit. Oh, and I won't forget to mention that it got to a point that Zach took his shoes off and walked the rest of the way with no shoes and no socks.
Anyway, once at the bottom, it may have been the most relaxing feeling ever, to sit in Zach's Malibu and just chill the fuck out for a while. We checked the time, and went up, stopped a few times, came back down and still made the whole hike in less time than was advertised on the sign at the beginning of the trail. We got some awesome pictures, and at least got one of us (me) addicited to mountain climbing. It's the most rewarding thing to take it all in after you've climbed all the way up. I'm sure I'll do it again, and again and again.