Unlike our thru-hikes we got up later at 6:45am and actually made coffee before setting out by 7:30am. I took some early morning pictures of the lake as we left.
The junction which goes up to Jerome Rock Lakes is only about a tenth or two of a mile back the way we came in. The trail goes downhill a bit passing small meadows filled with wildflowers and a small pond. Then, it goes up steeply. We gain about 1,000 feet to 9500ft at the pass. It is a spectacular climb. With meadows, views of all the peaks around – quite craggy. Though a tough climb for Yeti, we make it up for a well-deserved break at the pass. Here we have 360 degree views – too bad it’s hazy with smoke, though not as bad as previously. There is a breeze and it is getting rid of some of the smoke. We can see Lake Solitude on the other side of the pass, where we will be coming to on the way to Jerome Rock Lakes.
The way down is via a contour of the hill to a ridge with a trail junction sign. We follow the Lake Solitude Trail, which is steep down at first before it moderates going very close to the lake. This is probably where you should come for solitude – no people in evidence. The trail goes sharply left (look for the cairn) and continues for a bit at a moderate grade. This trail is spectacular – well worth the climbing. At the next junction, we fork left to get to the lake. There is an established spot (probably not legal for camping though there is evidence that people camp there) and we stop for a long break for lunch. Just opposite is a bigger site, where it’s okay to camp. You must be 200 feet from the lake.
After our meal, I explore along the lake front and did find another site, probably too close to the water but clearly used. No one here, so again, maybe the better option to Spanish Lakes which is more accessible especially to horse packers. This lake is also surrounded by rocky, craggy mountains and seems more remote. It’s a quiet, relaxing break.
Yeti and I discussed our plan and decided to continue on down the Pioneer Falls trail to find a camp. We’d have a short way out. Yeti said he thought we had 11 miles from Jerome Rock Lake, more than I had thought.
Now, we were going downhill so the going was pretty easy. Mostly, it wound through some forest, meadows, more forest. We’d been going almost two hours and started to look for sites – I had not seen anything suitable yet. After a wide open part of trail, grassy and with Aspen trees, we started down through some woods and found a camp right next to the stream and by the trail. We decided this was it, as we’d not seen anything else. We set up here.
One young woman passed with just a fanny pack as we prepared our meal. Later, three folks on horseback and two hikers came up and tied the horses up just near us. They went down the trail a bit for water and when they returned we struck up a conversation. Some lived in Bozeman, the others were visiting from the east coast, including a woman who lived in New York. They headed back and we got ready to pack it in for the night. More reading – I wanted to charge my phone around 9pm and realized I’d forgotten to bring the cord. I had the charger but no way to connect it – I’d simply forgotten that piece! Oh well, we would be out before the phone died.