Friday, September 2, 2011

DAY #7: Beartooth Mountains Backpacking Trip

 "Man! Check out this nasty-ass scenery behind us... I can hardly stand it. I soooo wish I was at work instead!"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We woke up to a pretty big rain and windstorm again. I think we all enjoyed sleeping in a little later than usual… maybe just about 30 minutes worth. But once the rain stopped, we all rolled out of our tents and started our morning, which turned out to be gorgeous! The sun came out and dried everything up before we broke camp and took off hiking again. Breakfast was oatmeal with blueberries, and yup, you guessed it – coffee.

We were able to make our way up and around a cliff that was jutting down into Oly Lake (this was kind of becoming a regularly scheduled terrain-challenge for us!).  We were all on fresh legs and in very good spirits with the clear blue sky and sunshine above us… and it helped that the valley we were heading down was PACKED with wildflowers and a couple of fun river crossings. The Crocs went on and made it much easier on the rocks. Finally, looking ahead, we noticed a well-worn trail. There were no cairns, which popped up every now and then as we made our way through the backcountry… they never seemed to make any sense… so we joked the whole trip about the cairns being placed by some evil being that wanted to mess us up! In all honesty, though, even though the cairns didn’t put us on any specific route or trail, it gave us peace of mind. I remember thinking, “Well, this can’t be the stupidest route to take if someone else has been here…”

We quickly realized where we were – the Rosebud Trail!! We were LOVING the backcountry, but tell ya’ what --- that trail sure looked inviting!! The rest of the day and the last day would be following this trail to where we had my mom and dad’s Envoy parked. It would require much less trouble-shooting, and would be a little easier on our feet and muscles… no more insane boulder-crossings. I think we all felt a little sad, too. Along this route, we’d meet up with a lot more people, and we’d sure miss the serenity and beauty of the true wilderness we just made our way through. But we were also aware that this was going to be an excellent part of the adventure, too. We hiked on down the trail with smiles on our faces. And the views certainly didn’t disappoint, either! Just because we were on trail, that certainly didn’t mean there was no more to see! WOW the views!!!!

We reached the high-up Fossil Lakes section. What an incredible area. We stopped for lunch, and the sun was out and felt really warm, so Rachel and I quickly jumped into action… we stripped down to our “backpacking bikinis” which consists basically of whatever sport bra and undies you are currently wearing, and without even thinking about it, we waded in and DOVE! As we came up gasping for air as our hearts stopped from the coldness of the water, we realized there was a huge drop-off and neither of us could touch bottom and stand up. While shrieking like crazed animals, we doggy paddled our butts off until we could stand again. I turned around and dove one more time. We washed up quickly and got out back into the sunshine, dried off and laid back to enjoy our lunch. It was invigorating! And, just before we got going, a little rain cloud came over and sprinkled on us. So we hit that window of swim time just perfectly!

After our stop at Fossil Lakes, we hiked on pretty steady. We were trying to make our way to Russell Lake for our last night of camp. We came across a lot of other hikers, campers, and fishermen. We were definitely on the main drag again. Everybody was super-friendly, though, which is almost always the case on trail. We eventually did make our way to Russell Lake, but it was a long day and we were all pretty pooped. We set up camp, spreading our tents over what we thought was two spots, and settled in. A campfire was going, and we were all starting up our dinners.

Then we experienced our first conflict with other backpackers. As we were setting up our tents, a couple of guys in the site next to us stopped over and were talking with my mom and dad – right as they were setting up their tent. It was a short conversation, and they shortly made their way back to their camp. About an hour before dark, they hung their food bags in a tree about 10 feet from my mom and dad’s and Margie’s tents. I was really irritated that they would do such a crazy thing! I avoid conflict as much as I can, but I had to ask them to move it. There were trees everywhere around us, and being from Wisconsin, we’d hung food in much trickier spots that the trees around us… it just seemed as though they could’ve hung their food anywhere else.

What we didn’t know was that the campsite was set up a certain way so that you could cook next to where you hang your food, and camp a distance away. We had half our camp set up in the “kitchen,” and were totally unaware. So we were wrong in how we set up, so we eventually had to move a couple of tents. Everyone ended up feeling better about it, but it was just a crappy situation all around. What I was SUPER disappointed in, was how one of the guys handled the situation. He became nearly aggressive after I politely asked if there was another tree they could hang their food in. He made a couple snarky comments… First he asked me, “Well, where do you plan on hanging your food?” as he looked around with his hands out (with about a million pine trees around him). I replied calmly, “In those boulders over there… we have bear canisters.” He replied back, “Hahahaha… nobody in Montana uses bear canisters.” Okay dude… whatever. I explained to him that we just came down from 3 days above tree line, and we felt safe having our food in canisters so we could stash them on the ground without worrying. Later on in the conversation, after things cooled down and we agreed to move, they explained that they were heading up towards Cairn Lake. We warned them about the snowfields and terrain, and they quickly talked about changing their route… then I asked where they planned on “hanging” their food… the snarky dude replied humbly, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought about that… that might be a problem.” I think that’s the first “meanish” backpacker I’d ever met. So weird and out of place.

We enjoyed the rest of the evening with our campfire and the sunset over Russell Lake. The sky lit up bright pink over the treetops, and come to find out it was the sun reflecting off a giant smoke cloud from a fresh forest fire over the mountains. So scary, yet so beautiful.

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