Sunday, August 27, 2006

Making the most of summer's end

Some photos from our Beartooth Highway tour
I’ve been so busy trying to cram in as much as I can into this end of summer that I haven’t had much time to file.
In a 10-day period I’ve traveled the Beartooth Highway with a stop in Yellowstone Park, climbed Mount Edith (elevation: 9,480 feet) in the Big Belt Mountains dropping into Edith Lake, and did three-days of day hikes with my daughter in the Two Medicine country of Glacier National Park out of the town of East Glacier Park.
A little hyperactive, eh?
The Beartooth Highway has always been a favorite of mine. I like to argue its merits as superior to those of the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier. I think is more scenic with lots more hiking possibilities with its endless high mountain lakes and peaks.
My wife and I leisurely drove to Red Lodge where this magnificent highway begins --- through the Little Belts, across to Harlowtown, down through the Big Timber valley and over to Columbus where we picked up the road to Red Lodge. The downside was extensive road repair work.
We stayed at the most quaint bed and breakfast --- the Lazy Bear. We were charmed by Red Lodge’s shops and eateries, which have managed to avoid the American standardization of the big chains.
Then it was on to the 69 mile Beartooth Highway under cloudless skies and warm temperatures.
For the life of me, I can’t understand why this area wasn’t included in Yellowstone Park. It is more spectacular than many parts of the park.
We stopped at the 9,000 plus foot Vista Point, got photos of the ‘Beartooth,’ saw mountain goats and hiked six miles out and back hike from Island Lake to Beauty Lake, passing eight lakes along the way.
We had lunch at Cooke City, a resupply outpost with good restaurants in splendid surroundings, before entering Yellowstone Park’s northeast gate. We stopped at Lamar Valley and hoped (but didn’t) see wolves.
It was then on to Gardiner and out of the park.
Edith peak and lake and a bear experience
On the way home we stopped at White Sulphur Springs where I noticed Mount Edith on the Big Belts skyline.
When I lived in Helena during the 1970s I had climbed the slightly higher adjacent Baldy peaks several times, but never ventured over to Edith.
The Edith-Baldy area has a number of alpine lakes that are great for backpacking and fishing.
On my trip there last week I was very surprised to find out how close one can drive up to the peak (about two miles and within 1,800 feet). It really isn’t too much of a climb --- a simple walk up to a high place. Access is from the Cabin Creek Road from U.S. 12
Unfortunately, the smoke from various forest fires obscured my views of the Crazies, Little Belts and beyond.
Edith Lake in the Big Belts
The Baldy peaks are most prominent and Edith Lake is well-within view some 900 feet below on a good trail.
I went down on the trail to have a look at Edith and was well-rewarded for my effort with great views of the lake.
On the way back up the switchbacks I spied an animal in the brush. It appeared to have a buff colored head, so I assumed it to be an elk. On closer observation, it was clear that it was a bear, a honey-colored creature.
My experience has been that black bears are generally shy and will move out of view quickly when you make your presence known.
So, I clanked my hiking poles and hollered, expecting it to turn and run.
You can imagine my surprise when it immediately charged toward me and kept coming despite my noise.
Just as I was thinking about hitting the dirt and covering my head and neck, the bear abruptly stopped about 20 feet away, looked me over, and moved into the brush, still keeping its eye on me.
I continued to holler at him to scare him off, but he stayed put until I started moving up the trail.
Very strange.
My daughter, Leila, near Goose Island overlook
More Glacier Park favorites
My daughter, Lei, 35, stopped by from Portland, OR and we spent three days in East Glacier Park, enjoying that small town and the Two Medicine Country.
We walked into Upper Two Medicine Lake, drove Going to the Sun Highway with a hike on the Garden Wall, and climbed Scenic Point (elevation: 7,522 feet).
East Glacier Park is the most charming of the Glacier Park tourist communities.
We stayed at the Mountain Pine motel run by friend and fellow climber Terry Sherburne the first night. The second night we stayed in the family room at Brownies’ youth hostel. Both were clean and comfortable.

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