Barbara and I got an early start – Jerry and Cherie had gotten up but were still in camp when we left. After dropping down a bit in elevation we got to a dramatic lake – we were a bit confused and realized that this lake was Bald Knob – not where we’d camped the night before. Hikers have to cross over two outlets, which could be tricky when water is high. This meant we had more miles than we had planned for the last day!
We stopped to make some coffee near a stream on some flat rock slabs and then off we went. The trail goes through some craggy stuff here and then enters mostly wooded terrain. Russell Lake was nice, but after the drama of the lakes the day before, seemed ho-hum. Camp sites were in the woods – no view of the lake. We saw many backpackers coming in – glad we were heading out! The Labor Day weekend was starting! One of the backpackers turned out to be a fitness instructor Barbara knew from her Y!
We got out just after 1pm, telling Jeff that Jerry and Cherie had left camp later and would be out by 3pm or so. He hiked in to meet them and we found out later they did get out by 3pm. They got margaritas – we had to be good as we both had to drive home, so no wine with dinner.
After stowing our gear in my car, off we went to drive the same route to East Rosebud to get Barbara’s car. Again we stopped for a meal at another Italian restaurant called POM (pizza and really good salad) and great cappucino’s from a gourmet deli, Babcock & Miles. The parking lot was totally overflowing when we got there. We hit the road as soon as possible – Hwy 78 to Columbus and then I90 to Bozeman. Got to the interstate about 7:30pm and so that meant getting home pretty late after dark. As I approached Bozeman I could see smoke and near the Bear Creek Road exit, I could see a hillside near the M on fire! What a calamity….dry conditions and wind fueled this fire. Got home at 9:30pm – glad to be there. But, a fabulous trip. I will be back on and off the Beaten Path in future! Yeti was asleep when I got home, so I didn’t get to tell him about the trek until next day. He didn’t know about the fire either.
This day probably had the most amazing scenery. The trail continued to climb and passed by some of the most beautiful landscapes: Duggan Lake (with the stunning Impasse Falls), Twin Outlet Lake, Dewey Lake (sparkling blue surrounded by craggy peaks), and Fossil Lake on the Beartooth Plateau….we were ooh-ing and ah-ing all day long! Duggan had a fantastic camp site right on top of the falls that was incredible. Not many wildflowers left, but we did see Harebells, various berries (huckleberries, raspberries, currants and crow berries?), purple asters, pearly everlasting, elderberry, and Oregon grape. Jerry seemed to be our resident berry expert and she pointed out all the various berry bushes.
Dewey Lake had had a bear problem, but that was over two weeks prior. We had lunch there and no sign of a bear. In fact, I didn’t see any scat the entire trip.
We climb almost to 10,000 feet to the plateau and Fossil Lake – passing other hikers on the way. The Plateau offered yet another very different terrain – very windy up there and some flies. I really enjoyed walking the plateau and passing Fizzy Lake in the distance.
Though we’d planned to push on 10 miles to Russell Lake, we stopped short at charming Skull Lake, which we thought was Bald Knob. Grassy hills overlooking a smaller lake – absolutely wonderful. We managed to find flat spots and cooked dinner while watching a merganser swimming around and fish jumping out of the water. A wonderful camp and moonlight to boot. It was a cool evening, but never got too cold.
Barbara and I decided we’d leave camp early and try to get out by 12-1pm as we had the long shuttle to do before driving home. That was the plan. Great night with fab views and stars.
The Beaten Path certainly lives up to its reputation as a scenic trail; it was beautiful. You meander up the canyon on moderate trail with nice views back of East Rosebud Lake and valley. Then, the drama:
Elk Lake comes first – a lovely lake surrounded by mountains. The trail steepens, through rocky terrain, and TADA — a most amazing sight: Rimrock Lake, a pristine glacial body of water in a most dramatic setting. We had lunch at one end of the lake. Up, up passing Rainbow Lake where you hike high above the lake slabbing along the rocky hillside. We continued on to Big Park Lake on some steep trail, through trees. Big Park Lake was not exceptional – small and kind of marshy. The camp was large and had good flat spots, but just in the trees – no view.
Jerry was pretty tired and had rubbed one heel raw…ouch. We cooked dinner, did some yoga with Cherie and hit the sack at 8:15pm…we managed to stay up that late!
I drove to Yellowstone to meet Barbara in Cooke City. It’s the first time I’ve been there. The drive through the park was glorious; it was early morning and the light lovely. Saw bison and elk. I got to Cooke City early and Barbara had arrived just minutes before me. We decided to drive to Red Lodge for lunch and then head out to East Rosebud. So, we set my car at the Clark’s Fork Trailhead and on to Red Lodge.
Nice drive on the Beartooth Highway with some construction. Windy and steep road with lots of dramatic views. You go up over 10,000 feet in elevation.
Barbara and I ate at Pecorino Cucina in Red Lodge – had gnocci and took half of it to have that evening. The ride out to the trailhead was mostly on gravel road. The East Rosebud valley was gorgeous. Strangely, most of the lake has private houses on it…little public access!
Jerry, Jeff and Cherie were already at the campground. It was very nice and we stayed overnight there, setting ourselves up nicely for an 8am kick-off the next morning.
August 13 & 14, 2020
Yeti and I left home early to get to the Spanish Peaks TH by 7:15am. We passed lots of bison on the Turner Ranch along the road and in the road!
The morning proceeded quietly walking along the creek. We turned up on the trail to Pioneer Falls. Though a bit steep, we did fine hiking slowly and taking in the views. The meadow after the falls is really pretty, and wildflowers were still nice. The trail gets steep for the last two miles to Jerome Rock Lake and Yeti had a bit of trouble there. But, we made it and had lunch and a rest there at the lake. We only had a few miles to go – – getting over 9200 feet. The meadows on top were filled with flowers – it was great, quiet, and surrounded by craggy peaks.
We decided on a different route on the Camp Creek Trail and after a mile going downhill found a stream. That was our camp for the night. We set up tents off the trail in the woods and spent a peaceful night there.
The next morning, we left early and stopped about an hour or so later in the sun for coffee and breakfast. We had about 8-9 miles to the TH and it was mostly down, with only a few ups not too steep. We passed a few day hikers, a backpacker, and a horse group. The final bit of trail slabs a grassy slope and then angles down to cross the creek just before the parking lot and TH. Great overnight. We were out early enough to head to the Café Havana for lunch!
June 4, 2020
Yeti and I drove over 9 hours to get down to the place where we met Mike to scout a possible new route for the IBT by Mahogany Mtn in Leslie Gulch. It would be a 13 mile day hike. We met Mike on the road near Owyhee Dam – it leads down to the reservoir edge where there is a boat put-in. We all just camped along-side the road on the grass. Mike had his truck and slept inside, Yeti slept in the car, and I pitched a tent.
The hike started on the road winding up and then mostly down into the canyon. It was easy walking and got pretty dramatic and the walls got closer. Rugged cliffs, which Yeti said would be great for climbing. Wildflowers were amazing: desert blooms were lush. We must have seen four different colors of paintbrush. After a few miles, we turned onto a trail up a canyon, which was on wide jeep-road like trail. Unfortunately after a couple of miles we came to a fence marked private property. That meant that this route would not work for the IBT. But, we went forward anyway. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, with lots of wildflowers. After ascending, the “trail” kind of plateau-ed.
We had lunch up top and our plan was to re-join the main IBT route to loop back to our camp-site. Before reaching this junction, we came to another trail heading back down towards the road we’d started on. Mike decided to scout this trail to see if that could be the alternate route. Yeti and I went on as planned and we told Mike we’d pick him up on the road in the car once we got back to camp.
The rest of the walk was fairly moderate – walking along the plateau, grassy meadows with nice views of the surrounding hills. Again, lush wildflowers. At one point, we got close to a cabin – we’d gone off the GPS track a bit because we could see there was water – we passed several stream crossings. There was no one in the cabin, so we were okay. The route went steeply up at that point and then brought us over to the final push into camp. We passed a new spring, which Yeti waypointed, and got back into camp. We picked up the car and drove down to get Mike.
Mike told us he had also encountered private land and he wanted to try going back up the canyon a different way to see if he could get through! We headed back to camp. Mike made great time and arrived back in camp in time for supper….he entertained us with his tale of getting into a tight spot where he had to climb out to get to the top of the ridge. So, this route would also not be usable. Oh, well. Even though the scouting trip failed to come up with a route, we had a great time hiking with Mike. It was beautiful and weather was nice, so it was worth the whirlwind trip.