The snow in Baltimore has forced me to stay inside, cozy up by the fire and binge watch Star Wars Clone Wars (feared). Every now and then, I’ve been doing some CDT-related online skimming (equally feared). This normally equates to looking at gear reviews or documentaries or blogs, but lately I’ve been doing some route-planning. That is, scouting out a potential route through the bottom right section of Yellowstone, the Thorofare, arguably the most remote part of the lower 48 states.
This place is special for me even though I’ve never been there. At the ranch, I listened to old hands (along with my dad) tell story after story about the rugged beauty and isolation of the famed Thorofare. The Thorofare was apparently named by trappers who used it as a route to get into Yellowstone Lake and the general area, but I read that online somewhere a long time ago and don’t feel like looking it up again. Imagine a meandering river in a meadow flanked by high mountains all around. There’s not a soul in sight, and it would take at least a day’s journey to get anywhere close to civilization. That’s the Thorofare. It’s also famous for the vast amounts of elk that travel through there. For that reason, the Thorofare is home to some of Wyoming’s most famous hunting outfitters in the fall. There, guides take hunters – along with strings of mules and horses packed with equipment – into designated base camps from which they take hunting day trips. I’ve always dreamed about working as a wrangler for one of these camps…
The CDT passes just south and west of the Thorofare. It crosses a famous pass, Two Ocean Pass, where two creeks – Atlantic and Pacific – split down each side of the divide. Atlantic creek drains eastward into Yellowstone river.
The Yellowstone River is special. It is the longest undammed river in the lower 48, and it starts in/near the Thorofare from a mountain called Younts Peak named after Henry Yount (apparently the first ranger of Yellowstone National Park). It is the highest peak in the Teton Wilderness and the foundation of the Yellowstone River. Just east is Thorofare Mountain, where Thorofare Creek begins.
I have been to the mouth of the Yellowstone River, inside of the National Park, but I did not venture further back along the watershed, nor up the Thorofare. Obviously, I am trying to get there on my CDT journey and hopefully, after that, pop over to the ranch for a quick visit and rest in Cody. A stop by Club Brooks would also likely occur depending on Slammin’ Sammy and Ian’s summer plans #ay.
fly fishing in my boxers near the mouth of the yellowstone river into yellowstone lake
So I think I have a proposed route starting from the CDT at Two Ocean Pass… gonna try to draw it out using ArcGIS USA Topo Map screenshots and Powerpoint highlighter… here goes:
start from Two Ocean pass and head northeast along Atlantic Creek trail
cross yellowstone river and take trail south all the way, loop around the south fork of yellowstone river and find a way to summit Younts Peak (off trail)
somehow (still have no clue how possible this is) hop across the saddle to summit Thorofare Mountain, then descend into Thorofare Creek and pick up the trail going north all the way around to Open Creek, apparently this is some of the prettiest country back here
head up Open Creek and turn up Silvertip Creek (tributary), trail should lead up to Petrified Ridge, once there, head to Ishawooa Cone (not labeled) and stay on highest ridge in the northeast direction
traverse the famed Wapiti Ridge, northwest bailout into Elk Fork (turqoise) if necessary – this would be wild
make it to Ptarmigan then drop down Canyon Creek and pick up trail I remember to ranch, Elk Fork alternate to the highway in turquoise — that’s a horse in red
some of the terrain I could be facing… http://www.summitpost.org/wapiti-ridge/647761
yellowstone/thorofare loop overview leading to wapiti ridge
photo of the east end of Ptarmigan Mountain looking south, I would drop down Canyon Creek which is one (kinda) ridge out of the frame to the right
Logistics… Starting from Two Ocean Pass following my proposed route (not including summiting the Younts Peak and Thorofare Mtn.) all the way to the ranch, it is 82 miles. Gee, that’s a haul. However, much of the part inside Yellowstone/the Thorofare is walking along creeks with relatively little elevation gain or loss. On the other hand, walking over Younts Peak/Thorofare Mountain, and then up Petrified Ridge, Ishawooa Cone, and Wapiti Ridge could be EXTREMELY slow going, difficult, and potentially impassable (but not impossible!). I’m pretty confident by that point I can do 82 miles in 4 days (~20 miles per day), but crazy navigating might be hard and time consuming.
However, Two Ocean Pass is only about 32 miles (both mileages estimated with ArcGIS click point measure mileage calculator, so kinda rough) from Brooks Lake Lodge, a potential mail drop resupply point. Nearby is a highway where I could hitch into Dubois if I wanted to go more heavy duty with a town resupply and rest.
So taking a WILD guess, this section would be anywhere between 114 miles to 150 to be safe if I get lost or reroute. 150 miles can be done in 7 days, which is a tough haul but I’ve done longer. That was with a more heavy duty pack though. I just hope I will have enough canister fuel at Brooks Lake Lodge and won’t have to hitch into Dubois, since it’s known as the toughest hitch on the CDT.
Hope you enjoyed me geeking out over this, it might not have made any sense at all. I’m just planning things out for fun at this point… If I could make this happen I would be one happy camper. I’ve always dreamed about the Thorofare and also walking Wapiti Ridge. Gotta get up there.