2009 Rocky Mountains in the USA

Places USA. Wyoming. Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, later Salt Lake City and New York City
Time & length September 2009, 4 ½ weeks
Partners Christian Bock
Second Part of our 11½-weeks-trek through the Rocky Mountains. We spent 16 days hiking through Yellowstone, later we explored the Tetons further south. At the very end of our trip we hitchhiked through Idaho and Utah to spend some time in SLC before flying over to NYC and then back home.
After seven weeks of hiking through Canada we finally arrived in the US. Hitchhiking through Montana was easy and once we pitched our tent in the impressive Yellowstone National Park we felt like in a totally different world: just before we were surrounded by high peaks covered in snow and ice, now we found ourselves in a dry, grassy and more flat place stuffed with hot springs and geysers.

We ended up hiking cross-country across this park for 16 days on several trails and beyond the marked routes. Surprisingly we didn’t seen any other people on our hikes for days in the backcountry – at least in September you can have a lot of places in Yellowstone to yourself once you step away from the major attractions, roads and villages even though it’s one of the most famous North American National Parks. And with all its geothermic characteristics and the huge amount of buffalos Yellowstone was definitely a highlight of our journey.

In mid-September, when the days got shorter and the nights colder, we hitchhiked south towards the Grand Teton National Park. Yes, we enjoyed Yellowstone but now we wanted to end our summer being back in the big mountains. The Tetons are a wonderful mountain range. High and mighty they dominate over the big valley to their east; seeing the tallest peak of almost 4200 m from the road was already breath-taking.
We started hiking in Moose towards Phelps Lake up to the main ridge. Then we passed Marion Lake, the beautiful Alaska Basin and came down again through the Paintbrush Canyon to Jenny Lake, where we met some great people to hang out with.

We already left this area a week after we arrived to hitchhike further south. It didn’t take us long to get to Salt Lake City where we planned on organizing a stay for the night when a beautiful girl named Mara walked by and started talking to us. Just one hour later we took a shower in her bathroom and went to sleep on the floor while she had to work in the hospital all night long. I didn’t know this girl before and I have never seen her again since we left Salt Lake City two days later – it was just one of these great coincidences that happen sometimes.

And there is more to point out thinking about Salt Lake City: walking through the streets we met a few people our age that turned out to be Mormons. Even though I adopted a very naturalistic worldview some time ago I’m always interested in people’s faiths and believes which is why we ended up getting introduced as the “always questioning travellers from Europe” in a Mormon church on the very next day! Although their efforts didn’t really convince us we had a great time with these pleasant and enjoyable people anyway.

At the very end of our trip we flew over to New York City. It’s actually not the best idea to step into a metropolis like this after spending so many weeks in the wilderness. But somehow we managed to survive it, not least because of Don, our host. Don is a retired catholic priest who hosts couchsurfers in his flat located in the Bronx, he is also a great to talk to and probably the first what comes into my mind thinking back at my time in New York City.

And that was it. Sitting on plane flying back to Germany I was still trying to deal with everything we had seen and experienced the weeks before. Since it was my first “big trip” I was totally overwhelmed with sharing my thoughts about it when I first tried to answer my family’s questions. I would say that this trip changed my life more radically than most other things that ever happened to me before that. Before I looked at hiking and outdoor sports as a hobby – now it had become a passion which since then has been growing on me more and more on me.

The best time I had on this entire trip was up in the Yukon, Canada. Hiking off-trail though the wilderness of the Kluane National Park was just stunning. And it led me to a new level of nature experience: wilderness trekking, something that I did again for nine weeks in Alaska the very next year.