Waters of significance

Day 102: Two Ocean Pass to the confluence of the Snake and Heart Rivers in Yellowstone NP, ~25 miles, ~1800 miles (but I’ll have to double check later)

While nourishing the goal of hiking the CDT I often read books about the the region, the communities along the Divide, and classic fiction of the West. Lasso the Wind by Tim Egan. Gretel Ehrlich’s The Solace of Open Spaces. Lonesome Dove. Louis L’amour. Norman Maclean. Pam Houston. High Country News. Barry Lopez. (I thank wonderful friends who introduced me to many of these works: Jess, Angel, Elle, and Hayes.)

Stacks of books. Library late fees. More text than I had time to absorb. I wanted to gain some familiarity with places I’d never been. To appreciate their history. To grasp at least some of the complexities of living and making a living near the Divide. To feel inspired and remain disciplined to the goals I had to meet in order to set foot on the trail.

One such story painted a strong image of the Continental Divide in my mind. Akin to my memory of the brilliant orange tiger lily that I saw in a slide show about the PCT; 20 years before hiking the trail. For the CDT, it was Frank Clifford’s account, in The Backbone of the World, of visiting Two Ocean Creek. The seemingly modest creek with waters that seek to flow around a rock island and in process part on either side of the Divide. Water to the Platte and on to the Atlantic. Water to the Buffalo and onto the Pacific via the Columbia River.

This morning we reached the Parting of the Waters. A crisp start to the day with a nip of frost on the grass. We followed the trail through lodgepole and spruce stands and dense willow thickets. The freshest tracks ahead of us, those of a grizzly. Gabriel and I talked loudly of nonsense to announce our presence to anyone (furry) on the trail. We reached Two Ocean Creek about 30 minutes into the day.

For us it was one of those moments we have where we comprehend: this is the Continental Divide. Equally significant, it was also the first time we were aware that the waters we crossed drained to the Pacific, not just any old way (a la the Colorado and Baja), but through the Columbia River. Our home river. The one we both grew up along (in the Vancouver area for Gabriel and the Portland vicinity for me). To walk through the waters of Pacific Creek and think that (hopefully) a molecule or two will travel out the Gorge and cross the mouth of the Columbia.

Twenty some miles later, soon after we entered Yellowstone National Park, we met an NPS trail crew heading back to their camp along the Snake River. When one of the horse packers for the crew heard what we were doing, he replied, “You’re getting close.” A little more than 900 miles to go, but 1800 miles hiked we are “getting there” but we aren’t there yet. Still, it’s the first time we’ve been told we are close.  Another milestone day along the CDT.


Standing at Parting of the Waters. Left side of the photo the waters flow to the Atlantic. Right side to the Pacific.


Mukmuk bestrides the informative sign.


View of the Tetons from our breakfast spot.


Gabriel is "caught" by a one-eyed monster tree.


Officially in Yellowstone NP.


Marmot feet and the Snake River.


One of the best wildflower slopes of the trail! The paintbrush were particularly abundant on the slopes above the Snake River.


Hanging our food at our designated camp site, 8C5. If you ever go into the Yellowstone backcountry we strongly recommend folks NOT pick this site! It's in a meadow (i.e. wet), next to two rivers thick with willows, and sign of bear in the area.

One thought on “Waters of significance

  1. Sarah says:

    I hope the one eyed monster let Gabriel go… maybe after you bribed him with some Nutella? AHHH!!!! The paintbrush!!!

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