09: The Great White Buffalo
The Beartooth Wilderness
After a week of training and flying @ Northern Sky Aviation (Stéphane) / working in the parking lot of NSA (me), we are both ready for and excited about the prospect of an actual, real weekend! (When you don’t have a “regular” routine, you tend to forget what day it is and you lose appreciation for Fridays and weekends. Now that we are getting back into work mode, we’re starting to appreciate the weekends again).
Friday afternoon we hitch up The Buffalo and head off into the Beartooth Wilderness.
Thanks to beta from our new friend (and Stéphane’s flight instructor) Dave, we found ourselves at a legitimate National Forest campground this time around. The max trailer length of 21 feet advertised on the campground’s website did not deter us and we were able to squeeze The Buffalo, all 32 feet of her, plus the truck, into a spot easily enough.
Tucked in at the end of East Rosebud Road and feet of the Beartooth Mountains, we shared this amazing valley with the Alpine Lake Association, 1894 – a small grouping of homes circled around Alpine Lake. The Alpine Lake Association made it abundantly – and repetitively – clear that their lake is PRIVATE and their property is PRIVATE.
Who needs an elitist, private lake when you have a network of trails to choose from?
Even though it’s the weekend, Stéphane is in work mode – studying, reading, absorbing all that he can. So that means its time for Myra and I to go exploring up a trail!
Spread Creek Trail begins just at the base of our little campground and gradually rises 1,600 feet in 4.5 miles, offering expansive views of the valley below and up close and personal, in-your-face mountain time.
Working our way up.
Myra taking a breather in the shadow of a giant cairn.
Running through sections of blackened trees (forest fire a few years back), clear, alpine streams, and new forest growth – Myra’s bear bell jangling cheerily on her collar as we go – we top out at a cairn-filled meadow offering 360 views of the surrounding Beartooths: the effort was rewarded!
The next day Stéphane joined Myra and I for a hike up East Rosebud Trail. Rosebud took us back into the nooks and crannies of the Beartooths as we headed into an ever-narrowing valley with craggy peaks and jagged, tooth-like rock faces looming overhead.
They may not be the grand 13 and 14ers that we are used to back home, but these mountains are imposing in their own right: stoic, harsh, and dramatic.
Pointy, just like bear teeth.
Into the wild.
Family photo. Myra’s never looking the right way.
Along the way, we nearly run into a very large moose who, standing silently on the trail in front of us, glances our way, unimportantly, and continues sauntering up the trail towards us; we yield the right of way and back up and off the trail.
Our first moose encounter! It was surreal.
Myra did very well – she being up ahead of us on the trail (off leash, of course) – when she saw Mr. Moose, she stopped and stared, looked at us, back at moose, back at us, and just stayed put. When called, she came right to us and moved along off the trail with us. Good girl, Myra!