Mark and I had toyed with the idea of bushwhacking from 4M2 to 4B1. We eventually decided against this for several reasons. First, it is hard to pass up nearly half a mile of trail. Second, I wanted to see Orange Rock Spring again. It isn't large or spectacular, but after walking eight miles it is worth seeing. Finally, Mark had surgery on his knee about six weeks ago and staying to the trail while we still had a trail seemed like a good idea.
Dianne seems pleased that there is no orange at Orange Rock and proclaims her earlier name of "Puce Rock" to still be accurate. I ask Dianne if the hill behind Orange Rock is the hill that they ascended. She nods yes. But we will not be taking that route. There is a little draw between a couple of hills a few yards down the trail that we will use to bypass the hill. The problem is that there is more deadfall in that area. We have to go over it, through it or around it. The hill may be steeper, but it has less deadfall. I would seriously consider taking the hill on any future trip.
There is something heady about leaving the trail and relying on your map, compass and (Mark's) GPS. Once through the draw we have a good time in the Yellowstone backcountry. When we arrive at the small creek that runs through the meadow here, I point it out to the girls. This creek can be followed right down to Broad Creek and it is possible to use it as a hand-rail out of Joseph's Coat until one is about a half mile from the trail.
The terrain here rolls up and down hills and through a few drainages. At first it is fairly level but soon enough we find ourselves making the descent towards Broad Creek. There are some unavoidable drainages here and one must go up and down a bit.
We choose a rather bad route down to the thermally lake that lies above 4B1. Two hills converge in a sort of V shape and we spend a lot of time negotiating the steep hill and the deadfall. We can see the rhyolite hills of Joseph's Coat to our left and when we get part way down we can see the thermally lake below us to our right. After what seems like a long time we get down and make our way over to the ease of the hard-packed shores of that little lake.
The thermally lake seems to be a permanent feature at Joseph's Coat and yet it is not shown on the maps. It is usually green in color and clearly rises and falls with the rain and snow. Dianne mentioned that Jake wanted to show her a fumarole over here and I am glad to help Jake out and point Dianne in the right direction. The fumarole lies behind a small wooded area. She had no idea that there was such a large thermal back here.
Just over a little rise lies another small thermal area full of frying pans and little steamers. I direct everyone to head to the west of it where it is safe and we finally arrive at home in 4B1. I like 4B1. It feels good to be here again.
The bear pole is down and there is a tripod of poles that has been erected in its place. But it isn't possible to hang your food as high as you might like. The Park Service replaced the bear pole several times over the years and the tripod seems to be the last solution to the problem. It may be that the thermal area is shifting down towards Broad Creek and killing the trees as it moves. Both Dianne and I think it is moved somewhat down the hill since we first visited.
We get camp set up and take care of camp chores while the sun goes down. Since fires are allowed (explicitly on the permit!) we make a fire and set about telling stories and enjoying our meals. I think we would all love to hear a wolf howl, but there is no way that a wolf is going to be in this area at this time of year. And there are stars; stars everywhere. We pick out the constellations and the Milky Way until a chill starts to overtake us. When the fire dies down enough, Mark and I make a point of getting it all the way out. I do not want to be the backpacker that burns down Yellowstone.
The night turns out to be warm and I end up removing my thermals during the night. I love sleeping at Broad Creek. The creek sings all night and the thermals whistle and hiss along. I smile and sleep very, very well.