Yellow Aster Butte Trail

 

For location and directions (because I’m not super great with directions) this is a good link to follow:

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/yellow-aster-butte

First, before I start, I just have to say that this hike/backpacking trip is probably one of my all-time favorite experiences.  The hike itself is hard.  Mostly uphill.  But the reward is incredible and so worth it.  I think if we had just done it as a day hike and had light packs on, it would have been a bit easier.  We had at least 30lbs in each backpack because we were staying the night once we got up there.

From the DOT station, you head up Twin Lakes Rd.  The road is bumpy, and you have to drive 5 slow miles of bumpiness before you get to the trail head.  Just a heads up too, the parking lot was PACKED. There was no space to park whatsoever.  We parked a good ¼ mile from the trail head along the dirt road.  This is a very popular trail, so I highly recommend starting earlier in the day if possible.

It was September, and the temperature was about 85 degrees.  So, you can imagine, it’s HOT.  Pack lots of water, and protein and carb filled snacks, you will need them.

We get our packs situated and set out for the trailhead.  I had just been down with a severe cold, and had NO IDEA what type of hike I had in store for me that day.  I had heard the hike wasn’t that bad.  Well, immediately at the trailhead you start ascending.  ¼ mile in I was like man, I don’t’ think there is any way I can do this!  I was covered head to toe in sweat, not feeling super awesome, and generally a little irritated that I had been lead to believe the hike wasn’t that hard.  I kept thinking, I know I heard it levels out a little bit after a mile or so, but nope, it really never does.  We just took it a little slower, and steadily made our way towards our destination.  We had my dog, Gracie with us and she was at the time, just happy as a clam.  The trail was busy, as most of the trails are during the summer.  We passed people often coming down the other way.

 

 Yellow Aster Butte Trail

 

On our way up, we noticed these little berries, and had no idea what they were.  There were TONS of them and they were everywhere!  The scenery was so incredible, we stopped a lot to take it all in.  We stopped for breaks in little meadows, and let the dog cool off a little bit too.  Gracie (dog) had her own backpack, so she too was carrying her own weight. 

 

Hiking Yellow Aster Butte Trail

The hike to where we stayed the night was about 5 or so miles.  5 or so miles of uphill.  And I will remind you that I had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t know if there would be water where we were going, I didn’t know if there would be trees for shade, I had no idea.  I made this trip with my boyfriend (Dave) and he had done it before, and promised me there would be water where we were going so we could at least pump and filter water to drink once we got there.

It seemed like an ETERNITY of uphill.  I think I complained a lot. I think Dave complained too.  I was so eager to get to where we were going, that I was walking way faster than he was.  I was determined to just get there and take off my back pack.

We finally get to a point where we come around and we are up on top of this cliff, looking down.  What I saw totally surprised me!  Looking down we saw several of what they call “tarns”.  A Tarn, is a mountain lake or pool.  It is left over from snowmelt, and formed into a little lake.  There were so many of them and people were SWIMMING IN THEM!  At this point, I didn’t care how cold they were, I just needed to get down from this cliff and get into the water!  The water was so crystal clear.  I couldn’t wait.  My body was saturated in sweat and dirt had begun to stick to me from the dust on the walking trail.  I could not wait to submerge myself into the water and get cleaned up.  I had no idea that we would be able to swim when we got there, so it was the biggest treat.  It was so beautiful, and the water was so nice, it wasn’t freezing like I had thought.  Here are some pictures of the tarns.  They are gorgeous.  While swimming we noticed that there were these little beetles swimming around in the water, and these tiny little red organisms.  We didn’t even care, the water felt so good.  There were rocks to jump off into the water too, which was fun.

 

Yellow Aster Butte Tarns

Yellow Aster Butte Tarns

Yellow Aster Butte Tarns

 

After we spent an hour or so swimming, we pitched the tent and made some dinner. Pasta!  The goal is to pack light when backpacking, so we didn’t get a meal fit for a king that’s for sure.  There are TONS of areas to camp there, FYI.  I was so worried we couldn’t find a good spot, but it was totally fine.  Lots of space available.

 

Yellow Aster Butte Trail

 

We explored around a lot, there are a lot of different little trails and beauty to look at.  If you do this hike, you must walk around and explore with your backpack off!  We hiked up over the west side of the tarns and watched the sunset over the mountains!  It was breathtaking.

Yellow Aster Butte Trail

Yellow Aster Butte Trail

Yellow Aster Butte Trail

I think we ended up going to bed around 9.  We were tired from the trip and retired early.  It is extra exhausting when carrying a heavy backpack, which makes you sleep well in the wilderness!  It is so quiet and serene, and the stars are bright and amazing.  We spent some time just gazing up at the stars.

It does get cold at night, near freezing.  If you’re going to spend the night, make sure you pack warm clothes to sleep in and a warm sleeping bag.  We were nice and toasty, and the dog slept right between us. 

Up with the sun rise, and we made our coffee and hiked around a little more.  We deiced since it was so hot the day before, that we would get an early-ish start.  It ended up being 90 degrees that day, and our shoulders were sore from the backpacks the day before.  Once we got going, we decided there wasn’t much to complain about.   Another beautiful day, and it was mostly downhill on the way back!  Our trip back definitely didn’t take us nearly as long. 

We learned on our way back that the berries we had seen the day before were wild blueberries!  We picked a bunch on the way back and ate them on the way down.  They were delicious.  They didn’t taste like normal blueberries, but a bit like banana. 

I can sit here and try to describe to you how gorgeous and fun this trip was, but honestly, reading this it doesn’t even do it justice.  I would highly recommend this as an overnighter, or even just a day hike.  I really want to bring my kids on this hike this summer, as I think they would absolutely love it once we got there.  They would love to swim in the tarns and just explore.  I think the hike up with them would be brutal though.  I am not sure I am ready for that!  I would like to try though, and just go with the mindset that we will need to take it slow.