After months of anticipation, I finally undertook the drive out to Montana with 3 of my friends where we met up with Kyle who was coming from B.C. The Ontario crew passed through 3 time zones on our journey to the Beartooth Wilderness, a vast stretch of rugged mountains located just north of the Wyoming border near Yellowstone National Park. Because this trail is linear and not a loop, we had to drive 1.5 hours from our hotel in Red Lodge to drop off Kyle's Jeep at the Clark's Fork Trailhead, which is located over 40km from our starting point at the East Rosebud Trailhead. I anticipated that this was going to be a pretty relaxed trip since we had 6 days scheduled to be on the trail, however, I have had the epiphany that if you are backpacking through the mountains, it's going to be tough going in parts, and this trip was no different.
|Starting out at the East Rosebud Trailhead|
Initially the hiking was very easy and I was quite happy with my route selection. The guidebook recommended completing this trail from north to south, and described the climb as "a rather gradual ascent". We met several groups on the first day coming the other way, and all of them had a good chuckle that we were in for "a bit of a climb". Shortly thereafter, the trail took off vertically, with switchback after switchback up the mountainside, a climb that would ultimately take us from 6,000 ft at East Rosebud up to over 10,000 ft near Fossil Lake. The camping areas I had marked off in my head followed a string of crystalline alpine lakes, each one higher than the next, and connected by tumbling mountain streams and waterfalls.
|A curious Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel|
|View from nearby our campsite|
|Campsite for the first night|
|Mushroom-eye view of the forest|
|Below one of the falls|
Despite the beauty of the falls, we came to realize that when we saw or heard a waterfall, it meant we had a climb to get up to our next lake. Hiking a few hundred feet higher, and our efforts were immediately rewarded with one of the single most beautiful spots I have been. The trail visited the river which cascaded down the cliff face, giving us great views of the valley we had just hiked up.
|At the edge of the falls|
At this elevation, trees were still common, and the alpine forest was dotted with beautiful meadows carpeted with wildflowers.
|Waterfall entering Dewey Lake|
|Clark's Nutcracker- want to play the memory game anyone?|
|Our site on Dewey Lake|
|Dewey Lake at sunset|
|Fossil Lake panorama|
|Multi-coloured lichen stitched into the rocks|
|Adult Bald Eagle was a surprise visitor to the area!|
|Fizzle Lake wildflowers|
That night as Mike and I sat around the campfire, we heard footsteps and turned around to see a large Mule Deer buck staring back at us. Surprisingly, they stuck around all night, waking us occasionally with their stomping. The next day we decided to try to drop in elevation to find a spot that might be less buggy. On the way down we followed this mountain stream that tumbled down the mountain side. Soon I was rewarded with a lifer (new bird for my bird list), an American Dipper! This species is known to swim through the strongest rivers in search of invertebrates to glean off of rocks.
|Female Pine Grosbeak at camp|
|Camp at Ouzel Lake|
|Heading around Ouzel Lake to climb Bald Knob|
|View to the south. The distant mountains on the horizon is where our final destination for the trip was|
|View to the north. Fossil Lake is in the background.|
|Mountains around Fossil Lake|
|We could even see our tents, 700ft below!|
Later that night in our campsite, I woke Mike up and told him I could hear something outside the tent. We grabbed the flashlight and I just got out in time to see a shape disappear over the rise in the hill by Kyle and Jensen's tent. I went back to sleep and heard it again. This time we made out a ghostly shape wander behind some nearby trees, but I still wasn't sure what it was. The third time was the charm and we were able to see that it was a Mountain Goat! He stood there in the rain munching on spruce branches while we watched for a few minutes. I snapped this awful shot of the goat.
The next morning we woke up to a steady rain and decided to try and wait it out. It slowly cleared towards lunch and we packed up quickly and decided to head to Russell Lake where I was planning on making our camp for the next night. However, we were disappointed to find campsites few and far between and right beside the trail at this lake, so we made the decision to push on.
|Stream near Russell Lake|
|American Pika! Cute little teddy bears that are found in talus slopes|
|Tired, but happy after another great wilderness adventure!|