4:45am is early in Yellowstone, and cold. But most importantly, it is an amazing time of the day free from the noise and motion of other people. When the weather cooperates, there is nothing better than being the only person around to savor the splendor of the start of a day.
I grabbed some Via instant coffee, a granola bar, and headed towards Pumice Point to launch the canoe. I’d found what looked like some good drop-off features in the West Thumb the night before, and I was determined to catch and kill some Lake Trout. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do in the park. Regardless if you keep them, you must kill them. The Park has set up gill nets deep underwater on their spawning routes to try and eradicate them in an attempt to salvage the Cutthroat population.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The steam on the lake, the light, and the complete absence of other people, save for a research vessel leaving Fishing Bridge, made of a dreamlike experience. I had goosebumps, and only party because it was cold.
Once I reached Pumice Point, I slowly moved the Canoe, trolling motor, and fishing gear down to the shallow and rocky shore. Still no sign of other people.
I trolled out towards where I knew the drop-off was using the same setup I use on Oregon lakes. These are hand-made lures – pink hoochies with a few beads and a smile blade (with double barbless hooks) behind a pink sling blade and a dropper weight. In small craft, you’re not supposed to venture beyond a 1/4 mile from the shore because the lake is so cold (43F).
Since I had a trolling motor and, well, the lake was glass, I might have gone a little further. In fact, I was in the middle of the thumb, surrounded by geyser steam, clouds, mountains and sun when I made my first turn and got my first strike. Woohoo!
It was a little odd puncturing the swim bladder and tossing it back, but given the bear activity, I didn’t want to take fish back to the camp site. I poked, then dropped the fish back in, hoping a pelican would be nearby to enjoy the fresh catch. Oh, here’s the boat setup. Rod holder, paddle, spare paddle, trout-slayer rod (that my dad found on a lake while canoeing and has been unstoppable since), tackle, spare rod, and net. There was no way I was going to lug this stuff all the way from Oregon and not use it.
I did another loop and in almost the same spot, hit another fish. Puncture, drop, and loop again. On the third loop I caught my biggest trout, probably around 16″.
It was now 7am, the sun was up, and the breeze was starting to pick up, so I decided I’d had enough fun that I should get back to shore while the water was relatively calm. I saw another boat just as I reeled in my tackle, but I wasn’t quite done. You see, pumice point is relatively shallow water with lots of rocks, so there were a number of lost lures that I could see from the canoe. I hauled in the trolling motor and pulled a few lures up from the bottom. Salvaging lures is yet another favorite activity, so this was a very fun and successful trip. Spending solitary time in the splendor of And it was only 7:30am.
The day hadn’t even begun. Our next outing was to see the Falls. Our first stop was the upper falls and Uncle Tom’s Trail. We opted to hike all the way down, something that was quite a feat for Michelle especially since she doesn’t like, well, cliffs and precarious-feeling ladders. But good god is the view splendid.
As we were getting back to the trailhead, we overheard some folks say they’d just seen a black bear. I rushed up to try and see it but instead noticed a young male grizzly above the parking lot. I wasn’t the only one though. People started swarming towards it. Some people getting within 30 meters of it. Fools! I almost sent the kids back to the car so they didn’t see a mauling and have that ruin the trip. Fortunately the bear was doing his best to high-tail it out of there. We were able to snap a few quick shots from the van as he made off.
We also checked out the far side of the canyon, including Inspiration Point, and despite the dreary day, the intense colors of the canyon still impress. Getting a clear shot here was challenging though because tourists kept walking in to the frame while I was shooting.
By now, everyone was tired of waterfalls and rain, so we headed to Canyon Village and got some lunch at the dining room. It was mediocre, but warm.
After fighting traffic to get back to camp, we chilled at our site for a bit. The solar charger ensured that we had a full battery every day. And it was time to start preparing for the next leg of the journey.