Backpacking the Bearthooth Wilderness
Like many of the other sections of our summer adventure, our next backpacking section began with a road trip. We began our drive around 8:15am and stopped for lunch at some picnic tables outside of a rather bizarre store/restaurant called 50,000 silver dollars. Inside, one can buy funny country trinkets, which all the students enjoyed looking at and playing with. Celeste was very happy when we had time to buy ice cream before hitting the road again. We then kept driving through a town called Butte, and Nico did a great job being DJ all afternoon. We later stopped to grocery shop, and Page got an earful from the cashiers about problems they have with local hippies ruining their produce. We then continued our drive to Lewis and Clark campground where we made hobo packages for dinner (meat and veggies cooked over the fire, topped with barbecue sauce).
We woke up this morning and made a new and exciting breakfast- baggy omelets! This is when an omelet is made by putting eggs, vegetables, and cheese in a plastic baggy and cooking them in boiled water. We then drove for about 15 minutes and stopped in town at REI so some of the students could buy some missing equipment they needed (water bottles, duct tape, etc.). Will bought an awesome bug-repelling candle that definitely came in handy later on in the backcountry. We then drive for 2 more hours, did laundry in another town, and made some sandwiches for lunch. After lunch, we got ice cream, and everyone loved the Montana Moose Moss ice-cream (mint chocolate chip). That night, we prepared for backcountry backpacking, distributed group gear, and went to sleep.
The next morning, we woke up and enjoyed our last cereal and milk breakfast for a few days, and then drove 2 hours to our backpacking trailhead. Our drive was slowed down a bit, however, by some bison that were in the road. Nico took some great pictures of the amusing road block. We then started hiking in the Beartooth Wilderness around 10:30am. Our first day out there was absolutely breathtaking: there were beautiful streams and waterfalls surrounding our trail throughout the day. Gates took the lead and kept a great pace for the group to follow throughout the day. Everyone did really well this first day, and we reached camp by 4:30pm. Our campsite was really a site to see as well: it was right next to 2 lakes with a waterfall streaming down on one side. Our early arrival at our campsite allowed some downtime for the group, and also plenty of time for the cook crew of the day to make some Mac and cheese for dinner. Before bed, the students learned how to do a bear hang, which is a food storage technique where all food and toiletries are hung from a tree branch in order to keep them out of reach from bears.
On our second backpacking day, we woke up at 7:30am and started backpacking around 9am. It was immediately apparent to the group that the scenes of the Beartooth Wilderness are very different from the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness. The Beartooths are much more flat and have streams and lakes at every turn. We passed various lakes and then had our first serious river crossing of our trip. Everyone had to change into their camp shoes (tevas or chakos), and then we walked into and across the river. The water was really cold but everyone did a great job. We later made it to the top of a mountain pass which had a beautiful view of a lake and mountains in the distance. We took some great group pictures, and then found some snow nearby! Brett made his first snowman ever, and Gates made a snow angel which Will later enjoyed laying in. We made it to camp by 1pm, just in time for lunch! After eating, Mandy, Jackson and Gates went swimming in the lake near our campsite. Aubree was really happy to have this time to write in her diary, and other people read their books or took a nap. That night we had delicious quesadillas for dinner, and saw a deer walk right through our campsite as we were eating around the campfire.
The next day we woke up early because we knew it would be a difficult day navigation wise. Allston did a great job navigating since there were so many different forks in the road. We passed a lot of travelers on horseback throughout the day, all of which were really friendly. The scenery today was mostly woods unlike the other days, which had been more open terrain with streams and waterfalls. When we reached Big Moose Lake, we had to change into water shoes so that we could cross the shallow part of the lake (with our packs on) in order to reach our campsite on the other side of the lake. Celeste got a bit wet but was a great sport and laughed it off. We reached our campsite on the other side of the lake and had lunch. The leaders of the day, Gigi and Allston, decided it was best to camp here for our last night, and so we stayed. Nico took out his tarp and a lot of people layed out on it. Will, Nico, Mandy, Allston, Gates, Brett, Page and Aubrey played cards on the tarp, and other students either read or took naps. That night, we had a delicious stir fry dinner thanks to the all-star cook crew Mandy, Jackson, Page, and Will.
On our last day in the Beartooth, we got a very early start in order to get out of the backcountry in a timely manner. On our hike out of the Beartooth, we passed a breathtaking lake with a lovely early-morning reflection of the mountains on it. Mandy did a great job navigating and leading the group, and we reached our van earlier than expected. We then drove through Yellowstone National Park, and got to see the Yellowstone Canyon. This canyon has really beautiful cliffs that drop off to a sizable waterfall and rushing river deep below. We were also able to stop and see Old Faithful, which is a geyser that erupts at highly predictable, thus the name “faithful”, time intervals. There were various false-alarm spurts, but Allston convinced the group to be patient and keep waiting. Alex was glad we did as it was a rather exciting eruption, and he really enjoyed seeing this natural wonder. We then continued our drive through Yellowstone, and Gigi made a great playlist for the ride! We made camp at a campground near the town of Jackson called Gros Ventre, and then went into town to get pizza. Nico really enjoyed the change in diet. After a quick grocery pick-up, we came back to camp and all the students were surprised to have a cake waiting for them to eat! And thus ends another exciting and rewarding backcountry section.