With more than 750 miles of trails in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness to choose from this was an excellent choice. It is the most popular Trans- Beartooth trail in this system but it was hard to resist. We began our trek near the Chief Joseph campground and the Clarks Fork trailhead, just east of Cooke City Montana. http://www.cookecitychamber.org
Once we divided up the gear we added another fifteen to twenty pounds of camera gear rounding our packs at almost 80 pounds each. It was hard to keep balanced. That first mile was just getting use to the added weight.
We choose to start our trek on the west side because of the long elevation gain on the East Rosebud side. With our heavy packs it would be better to be hiking downhill the last 16 or so miles.
Just off a foot bridge we could hear a waterfall. We checked it out for photo possibilities. One of the new guys to these trails leaned over the wooden rail for a better view and his camp shoes slid off his pack and down thirty feet into the creek. Within seconds his shoes tumbled over the falls another twenty feet.
Dropping our packs we scrambled down the side path next to the falls recovering Buzz’s shoes which added another two pounds to his ordeal. This was our great start to a 30+ mile, seven day hike to the East Rosebud side of the wilderness.
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area, covering 920,310 acres, is an administrated unit of the Gallatin National Forest, http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin,
Custer National Forest, http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/custer and the Shoshone National Forest, http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/shoshone. Both Montana http://www.visitmt.com
and Wyoming http://www.wyomingtoursim.org claim sections of this magnificent wilderness.
This mountain range was named after a jagged mountain peak above Hell Roaring Canyon that resembles a bear’s tooth. The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is one of the largest contiguous road less areas in the United States.
The high granitic plateaus of the Beartooth Mountains contain hundreds of lakes that lie throughout the bald rock and alpine tundra. This is a backpacker’s dream, with more contiguous acreage of alpine tundra above 10,000 feet than any range in the lower 48.
We moved on the trail which lead us past Kersey Lake and up toward Fossil Lake. Panoramic views surrounded us with ragged rock peaks and sheer rock walls that plunged down talus slopes to canyon bottoms.
Fossil Lake is the drainage divide between the Clarks Fork and East Rosebud. During the night at Fossil Lake the northern lights glowed along the horizon to the northeast. The faded green light turned to reddish streaks adding to the mystery of stars that blanketed the big sky.
On the descent toward East Rosebud we spent a couple of days at Dewey Lake and explored side trails that climbed up to Sky Top Lakes to get views of Granite Peak, Montana’s tallest mountain at 12,807 feet.
Impasse Falls was impressive as it cascaded down the rocky canyon walls. The great diversity of this region really comes into play as the trail crosses paths with dozens of streams, waterfalls and lakes on the descent toward the tiny summer community of Alpine that borders East Rosebud Lake at the trailhead.
The Beartooth’s are very different from its neighbor Yellowstone National Park http://www.yellowstoneparknet.com with so much alpine territory to travel. It is important to allow enough time to enjoy this spectacular country. Backpackers should allow at least four days. Six or seven days gives one some rest time and opportunities to do some side trails that would expand the experience and soak up the isolation of this wilderness.
Photographs used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography, 2010, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. My image catalog can be viewed at http://www.rangeofvisionphotos.com. You can contact me through this blog or through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org