Montana 2000 backpacking trip to the Beartooth Wilderness

Out of GasRunning out of gas qualifies for "Emergency Parking Only". I officially blame Scott for this one, even though I was driving. When the gas guage in someone's car says that it has an eighth of a tank, you tend to believe it. Little did we know that this would be the least of our problems with this van. Details later.

3 StoogesGetting ready to leave Billings on a backpacking trip to the Beartooths in the summer of 2000. My cousin Jim would meet up with us in Big Timber for the trek in a couple of days. Good to have him along, as he kept the pace up. Of course, he almost killed us with the pace, but it built character. At least that's what he kept saying as the others and I pleaded for mercy. We did have great weather pretty much the whole time, and the trip was right before the fires. Great timing.

Beartooth LookoutFrom this picture, you can see the Beartooth Lookout partway up the Beartooth Highway. The canyon at below it and to the left is where the road starts. Yes, you are only part way up with this view, even more to go. Timberline is close, so the trees start to get stunted.

Hellroaring PlateauAcross the valley is the Hellroaring Plateau, named so for the howling winds that frequent the area in the afternoons. Great fishing at the lakes in that area, as long as you are there morning or evening. Also, there is a rough road to access the area. High clearance vehicles are recommended.

Twin LakesThe Twin Lakes are probably the most photographed point on the Beartooth Highway, so here is our version. Someday I'll get down there to fish, as I hear it's pretty good fishing.

Twin LakesThis is the 3 of us using the self timer on the Camera. This picture was taken just off the Beartooth Highway. It is quite a drop-off behind us, as you can see. Scott proved too fast to push.

Summit of the Beartooth HighwayThis was our first inkling that something may be awry. We could hardly breathe just standing still due to the elevaton. We thought this was an isolated incident. We were very, very wrong. At least Scott and Nate were. I accept no responsibility.

Island LakeIsland Lake is a beautiful lake, a quarter mile off of the Beartooth Highway. A really nice campground calls this home, although the lake is only ice free for about 2 months of the year. The trailhead for our 2001 Beartooth trip was at this lake. In fact, just to the right and behind the triangle shaped mountain in the background (Lonesome Mountain), was our destination.

Pilot and Index PeaksThis picture of Pilot and Index peaks is one of my favorite pictures we took in the summer of 2000. Make sure you click on the thumbnail to get the full effect. This was also photographed from the Beartooth Highway.

Mammoth Hot SpringsThis is Mammoth Hot Springs near the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. We saw a herd of elk actually standing in the hot springs as we were leaving. I really don't think that is normal. Of course, who am I to judge that?

North Entrance To Yellowstone Park This is the north gate to Yellowstone park at Gardiner Montana. This is the day before our 5 day trip into the Beartooth Wilderness. This was just about 3 days before the major fires broke out in Montana, so the skies are still very clear.

Fish Lake campsite.Our Fish Lake campsite was one of the most beautiful I have been to in the Beartooths. Part of the beauty is that we were alive to see it. It was a 12.5 mile hike with 3000 feet of elevation gain, all done in one day. Oops. Midwest lungs and bellies cannot handle that. Lesson learned (at least until the next time). I guess I'm a slow learner.

Fish LakeAppropriately named Fish Lake (for me anyway) from the front of my tent. Very hard to beat this view, and we only saw a couple of other people passing through. Nate and I scrambled up the peak you see, with mixed results. See below.

Me at the top of the peakOne day, Nate and I must have been insane (more than usual) because we decided to climb a peak. The view from the top was spectacular, but we had to race thunderstorms off the mountain. We also decided to take a shortcut down a snowfield clinging to the side of a cliff. Bad decision according to Nate, but we didn't die, contrary to his predictions.

James, Scott and Nate on the way outI just recently realized I had no pictures from my digital camera of my cousin Jim, James, Captain, Pilot, or whatever he goes by now. That's because I didn't have a digital camera at the time. I was able to find a couple of regular prints, so I scanned them in to give him a most honorable mention. Notice the cup he is holding? It's in the shadows, but it is full of wildflowers he picked for Jen, who he was meeting later. Keep in mind, they had really only just met, and he was going to carry a mug of flowers the whole way out. We made it out of the canyon in under 4 hours. This was a 12+ mile hike, mind you. Methinks he was in a hurry to see her, and as it turns out, they ended up getting married. Amazing what love will do to a guy. Takes a F-15 fighter pilot and turns him into a wuss. Um... that's a good thing, James. :)

James, Scott, Nate and IHere we are posing after returning from our adventures. We are on the Erickson grandparents porch in Belgrade, after a misadventure with Scott's van necessitated a detour to the beautiful Gallitan Valley. More details still to come on that, but it shall have to wait for now.

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