Yellowstone Backpacking Highlights 2016, Part One: Wildfire!

Our 2016 guided hiking trips in Yellowstone National Park included some amazing experiences, from wildfires to snowstorms to spectacular views of grizzly bears in their wild habitats. What a year it was!

The summer of 2016 was a dry one throughout most of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, although localized thundershowers did produce wetter conditions in some areas, particularly in the northern part of the region. Consequently, by mid-July the forest fire danger in most of the park was rapidly increasing. As the summer unfolded, lightening struck and ignited blazes in a number of different areas around the region. On two of our Yellowstone backpack treks, Big Wild Adventures guide Beau Fredlund was forced to alter the route in response to natural wildfire. None of our other trips or guides were so inconvenienced. On one trip in Yellowstone’s Gallatin Range, Beau watched as an afternoon thunderstorm passed by, just a few miles down the valley. After dark, he noticed a faint but growing glow coming from that area. It was the last night of the trip, and the new fire was between the group and the trail-head! Rather than wait until morning and hope for the best, Beau made a quick decision to break camp in the dark and lead a moonlight stroll back to the Big Wild van. Although fires rarely grow very hot at night, Beau took no chances, erring on the side of safety in performing his duties as a guide, with safety as the absolute first priority.

Lucky Beau! Because on the Southern Yellowstone Late Summer Magic trek in late August, Beau had his trip re-routed by the Park Service when the agency decided to close the South Entrance road to all non-official traffic. The closure was because of a wildfire south of the park. The fire never actually threatened our group, but the Big Wild van was in the road-closure area. A park ranger intercepted Beau in the field to let him know about it, and happily, the Park Service was very helpful in providing a ride to retrieve our van at the end of the trek.

Lightening-ignited wildfires are a natural feature of the Yellowstone Ecosystem, and are an example of the “untrammeled” (meaning uncontrolled or unregulated) nature of real wilderness. Wilderness travelers must adapt to the wildness, not the other way around. And that’s one of the great things about wilderness adventure: when heading into the wilderness you are heading into the unknown, even in familiar territory. You never know what unexpected adventures await!


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