28-Oct-2003 -- I first became aware of the Confluence Project by reading an article about it in the Denver Post. After visiting the website I became very interested and started pondering which of remaining confluences (that hadn’t been visited yet) I could be the first one to visit. After narrowly missing the opportunity to be the first to visit a couple of confluences in Arizona I decided to make a trip to this previously unvisited confluence in the NW corner of Yellowstone National Park.
I was able to talk my Dad into making the trip with me. He was excited about the adventure but was concerned about the weather we may run into. October is a late time of the year to head off to Yellowstone but we wanted to make a go for it rather than waiting until the next spring.
I left Denver on October 26th and picked up my Dad in Grand Junction, Colorado where my mother had driven him to from their home in Montrose, Colorado. From there we drove through Rangely, Dinosaur, and Vernal, before stopping for the evening in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The next morning we hit the road again, driving through Jackson, the Grand Tetons and on into Yellowstone. Of course we had to stop at Old Faithful where the tourists seemed to appear from nowhere to watch it spew. Old Faithful turned out to be not that faithful at all, it was 15 minutes late. Other than the Old Faithful stop, Yellowstone was amazingly void of tourists. We then ate lunch in West Yellowstone before proceeding to scope out the trail we would take the next day. See Photo #2 for the view from the trailhead. This is the same trail mentioned in the previous attempt to this confluence. The trailhead is on US Hwy 191 between Mile Marker Posts 21 and 22 on the east side of the road between West Yellowstone and Big Sky, Montana. We ended up hiking up the trail for 1.5 miles to get a sense of what the next day had in store for us. It seemed pretty straight forward but we knew that the mission should only be started in the morning with a full day of hiking opportunity available. That night we cozied up in a hotel in Big Sky to get some sleep prior to our expedition.
After eating an excellent breakfast at our hotel we arrived at the trailhead at about 7:30am. It was a very cool morning with highs in the 40’s expected for the day. The sky was overcast with a strong likelihood of drizzle. We began by hiking 4.5 miles, up Fawn Pass Trail, then up the Fan Creek Trail until our GPS read exactly 111 West. This was pretty uneventful other than the beautiful scenery. We were disappointed however that we didn’t see any animal life other than a few birds. We had a few creek crossings, some of which had bridges, others we successfully crossed on dams the beavers built for us. This leg of the journey took us about 2 hours. We then headed off the trail, up the hillside, out of the valley. We could see from a distance that this hillside had been burned by fire at some point in recent history. We mistakenly concluded that this meant our hike would be made easier by the lack of brush. What we actually found was that all the previously standing trees were now lying on their sides (Photo #4) presenting a nice uphill 1 ¼ mile obstacle range in front of us until we reached the confluence point. After an exhausting hour we finally reached the confluence. It was on a 30-45 degree slope to a small creek below. We took a few pictures but didn’t even stop to eat lunch because the sky was darkening and we could see snow showers on other ridges and peaks. We cooled down quite a bit during our stop and were anxious to get moving again in an effort to generate some body heat. I did leave a sign-in sheet and pen inside a bottle at this location. Someday we may return to see if anyone else has paid a visit.
The return trip took us approximately the same amount of time. We arrived back at the car around 2:30 with the wind howling and a light drizzle falling on us. We were very satisfied with our journey and started discussing which confluence may be next.
In the end our timing was pretty good. In the days following our hike the drizzle turned to snow and low temperatures were in the single digits with highs in the 20’s.