Archive Index ] [ 2002 ]
Trip Report - July 12 to 21, 2002
- Big sky country?.... you bet! And big storms, big heat and big
hoards of mosquitoes, too! The Hodgeman's on the road again, to
join some American friends, for a week in the Beartooth Wilderness.
Friday, July 12th. This week's forecast.... HOT !! So, I hit the
road early, to beat the heat and traffic as well. I cross the border at
4am, and it's clear sailing, down the I-5 to Seattle. East on the I-90
and I've got a clear lane, all the way to Spokane, Wa. I had initially
planned to spend the night here, but it's only 10am so I press on. It's
already too hot for rest stops, and I arrive in Missoula, Mt, before 3pm
MDT. It's 42ºc (108ºf) and time for a swim, dinner, and a quick internet
I-90 near Butte, Mt
|Saturday, July 13th.
It's going to be another hot one, so I'm up and out by 7:30am. I've got my
water bottle handy and I'll put the sun top on the Jeep, as the day warms
up, but it's almost impossible to stay hydrated for the hike.
Our Montana hosts have been feverishly preparing, for the onslaught of
'Paloozers'. Geezr and Aero, with the help of Newgirl and Chief (nicknames
have been used, to protect the innocent), have everything coordinated, and
one by one we descend upon Aero's front yard, in Billings.
|Sunday, July 14th.
The team is anxious to get started, and we convoy down to Red Lodge, for
breakfast and to drop off the shuttle vehicles, at the trail's end. It's a
spectacular drive, over the Beartooth Hwy, to Aero's cabin and our
starting point, near Cooke City. What magnificent views, from the 3350m
Chief taps the keg, and there's greetings and bar-b-q, as the stragglers
arrive at the cabin. Altogether, we are fifteen for the hike, with
Montana, California, Florida, Indiana, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, Wyoming and
B.C. represented. What a fantastic group!!
Aero's cabin, near Cooke City, Mt
'Dining room', at Ouzel Lake camp
|Monday, July 15th.
Thankfully, it's a bit cooler for us today, as most of our hike will be
above 2440m (8000ft). This will be 'hump day'. We'll gain about 460m
(1500ft) over 13km (8mi), enroute to our first camp, at Ouzel Lake. The
mosquitoes are incessant, for most of the day, and continue to pester us
at camp, until the first storm drives us to our tents. Before the heavy
rains arrive, we are entertained by a fantastic show of thunder and
Tuesday, July 16th. It's another warm, sunny day, for our move
to Windy Lake (2987m / 9800ft). Aero and I decide on 'higher ground' for
camp, in hopes that a breeze will help to keep the bugs at bay. We
have the whole afternoon to explore the area and relax in the sunshine.
|After dinner, a small
group joins Crazy Mike, for his first ascent to 10,000 ft, and to take
pictures of the sunset. It's a calm evening and we're happy to have a
chance to sit out and get to know each other. After dark, Gojo and I are
last to turn in, and it's not long before the breeze turns to high alpine
winds, as we are bombarded by hail and heavy rain.
What an incredible storm! The lightning flashes are so bright, it makes
no difference if I close my eyes, or not! We are quite exposed, at this
elevation, and I peer out of my shelter, to see if the flapping that I
hear is Pepperdog's tent taking her for a flight, into the lake.
The Hodgeman & Crazy Mike,
at 10,000 ft.
Rainbow, at Dewey Lake camp
|Wednesday, July 17th.
As usual, I'm up with the dawn to survey the damage and count tents.
Whew! .... all present and accounted for. Storms and mosquitoes are
popular topics of conversation for this trip. It's another beautiful
morning..... there is definitely a pattern to this weather.
Across several streams we go, on our way down to Dewey Lake (2847m /
9340ft). A quick
dip in the lake seemed like a good idea, but it's darn cold and I'm back
out as quickly as I can get to shore.
As the clouds build once again, we hurry to finish dinner and hang the
food, before the rain. I'm determined to stay out for a while tonight, so
Aero and I configure the tarp, after the others retreat to their tents.
Briar Rabbit and Snow Dude join us, as the daily storm lifts and we are
treated to a spectacular rainbow.
|Thursday, July 18th.
We have about 8km (5mi) to go today, to reach our final camp at Rainbow
Lake (2338m / 7670ft). As the first group sets off, I opt for a later
start, for a chance to clean up my gear. Pepperdog joins me, for the hike
and we enjoy the route, beside the river rapids and past many waterfalls,
as we descend the East Rosebud drainage. I promise not to take a photo,
should she fall at another creek crossing.
The camp at Rainbow lake is warm and sheltered in a meadow. The team
spreads out seeking sun, shade, or a quick swim in the lake. Aero and I
set up the tarp early, which of course means that it won't rain at all.
As I prepare my dinner, Prowler arrives, having hiked up the steep trail,
from our future exit point, to spend the last night with us. Not only are
we surprised to see him, but he and his wife, Kym, are each packing a
child carrier, complete with toddler and camp gear.
Pepperdog takes a break
at the scene, of the blaze
|Friday, July 19th.
It's an early start for everyone today, so that we can reach the trailhead with enough time to shuttle drivers, before meeting in Red
Lodge for a final dinner. I break camp and depart, shortly after the first
hikers. Before long, I encounter Geezr hustling back to camp, to alert
everyone of a wildfire near the trail.
Fortunately, the illegal campfire, which had spread underground to ignite
the blaze, is very close to the lake. Briar Rabbit, an experienced forest fire-fighter,
takes charge as we gathered up our buckets, bags and whatever we could
find, to carry water. After two hours, of dousing and sifting through the
duff, we climb back to the trail, confident that the situation is under
Prowler, who had scrambled to get his family packed and down to the
scene, collapses due to illness. Now Tex, our EMT, takes charge as Aero
hurries out to the trailhead, to alert the Forestry Service, of a
possible med-evac. The rest of us gather up Prowler's family and gear,
and make for the exit.
|Saturday, July 20th.
As usual, things don't always go as planned on these trips. Prowler
recovered and connected with some of us, back near Red Lodge. The
combination of events had left us somewhat spread out, but we managed to
return everyone to their vehicles, and get them back on the road.
Naviguesser, Tex, Pepperdog and I got back to Billings, in time for a late
dinner with Aero, and set up at his place for the night.
Today, Nav, Tex and Pepper will head for the airport and I'm back on
the road, after final good-byes. It will be another great, and somewhat
cooler, drive home. I love these Interstate Highways!!
A special thanks to Aero, Geezr and everyone else, who made this trip
possible. You guys are the best! And to 'the team'.... It was great to
meet "y'all" and I'll look forward to our first chance to do it
all again! Regards.... Hodgeman
at the Clay Butte Fire Lookout