Here’s the video to go along with the forthcoming post. Enjoy!
July 5th, 2013 – Day 2: Cliff Lake
Jack was so excited to get on the road this morning while I was just tired. I kept ignoring his suggestions to get up. When I did though he and Erik had a breakfast of eggs & cream cheese tortillas ready (so it did pay off!).
We were on the road by eight, headed towards the little town of Ennis where we stopped and grabbed some gas and snacks (ie. a milkshake) and Erik posted a letter to his brother. For the rest of the drive we watched the tall mountains off to the left – particularly the Sphinx. Erik had previously summited it and was describing the routes to best make it to the peak. We talked about doing it together someday as well as perhaps the Three Kings which were directly beyond.
Soon we were close to our destination, we passed by some old abandoned settlement and then through the open before we started dipping down. I was anxious to see the lake, tucked down in the hills so that you would hardly even know it was there.
We pulled down to the boat launch and I stood excited on the banks while the guys unloaded the car (I did help some, but they had certain ways that they wanted the canoe loaded). I had stood by these shores one other time when the banks were covered with snow and dreamed about this moment in time.
None too soon were we settled in the canoe – me settled in the bottom on a life jacket nestled amongst all of our packs & gear. We set off at an easy pace and kept an eye out for the rope bridge that Jack had been telling us about, but when we found it all we saw were the steps leading up to the bank and the rope frayed high up in the tree. Both Jack & Erik were disappointed, but I was somewhat relieved since it looked like it went pretty high.
So instead we stopped at a fallen tree and jumped off that into the water for a swim. The water was warm and crystal clear – I could see my shadow reflecting on the bottom of the lake below me as I watched for fish that would swim around below. Not only that, but the water was a beautiful gem blue where it was deep and turquoise closer to the shore.
When we got back into the canoe I watched the gentle ripples and swells of the water, mesmerized. Jack & Erik watched the massive fish glide in droves beneath us. We passed through “the pinch” in the lake before it opened up and an tall island jutted out in front of us. We turned to the right of it and pulled off for some fishing and some granola bars & ramen noodles. That’s also where Erik threw a dead crawdad at me so that he could watch me shriek and jump backwards. Soon everyone was fishing and both guys caught fish while I continued to cast out my line with no return.
When we were back in the canoe again I trolled while the boys rowed on and soon caught my first fish – that was the only way I would catch any on this trip I soon found.
Farther up the lake turned and became narrow and shallow with tall reeds growing in it – Jack would later remark that it looked like the Dead Marshes from the Lord of the Rings, which would then prompt quotations from that scene in his best Gollum voice.
We canoed through the reeds until we came to the head of the lake where a little path led the way up to the camping place right on the edge of the tree line. We set up camp and waited out a brief hailstorm before Jack realized we were short a fishing pole which we must have left at our lunching point.
So we backtracked and left Erik to fly fish while we retrieved the rod. That is when we ended up in a thunderstorm. So we pulled over and Jack continued to fish, while I sat up the embankment a little ways and listened to the thunder crack around us while I tried to update my journal.
Erik rejoined us and we found the missing fishing pole and on the way back I sat on the bow of the boat facing Jack and filled our quota of 9 fish for the day. Which made for a delicious dinner along with some roasted potatoes, oatmeal and s’mores.
I stood and watched the gloom come around us as the tall mountains above cast there shadows onto us and admitted that this was my first trip way out in the middle of nowhere alone.
“It’s either something you hate, or something you absolutely love.” Erik told me. Thankfully, as I stretched out in our little tent that night I realized that this was something that I absolutely loved.
Back in 2009 Jack and his good friend Eric spent four days on a trip to Cliff Lake, bringing me back many stories. Stories of gorgeous scenery & wildlife, of vodka bottles found in the lake, of accidentally spraying themselves with outdated bear spray and of the canoe springing a leak in the middle of the lake. All of which made me extremely jealous – except for the bear spray incident of course. Ever since then I have been dying to go on a trip with the two of them, but especially the Cliff Lake trip.
The preparations for the sequel began last year, just two September nights before Jack and I were married. We sat on the back deck and visited about their trip and began to talk about a future one. We pulled out our phones and set a date then and there for the following June.
As the winter and spring passed I began to get nervous about the whole trip coming together as busy summer schedules slowly came together. Our date got bumped back several times until we all decided to take advantage of work vacation over the 4th of July.
So it was that I found myself with my bag packed for my first real backpacking trip.
*The following posts are written from the journal that I kept while on the trip.
July 4th, 2013 Day 1: Bozeman, Montana
Sprawled across Erik’s couch, I think that the hardest part of this trip so far is just the fact that I have never been backpacking before, while Jack has and he has been regulating everything I take so that my pack won’t be too heavy. I fought hard to bring my book and this journal before I realized that my best course of action would be to silently slip that second book in my pack and to just wear my flip-flops and pack my hiking shoes. I did good though. Usually as our departure time gets closer I start shoving whatever I can think of into my bag, but I didn’t this time.
The drive was uneventful & relaxing. I fought the urge to doze so I could visit with Jack. The drive is one of the most relaxing parts of trips for me. I love just having plenty of time to talk without having all the distractions that are usually around and having the anticipation of the trip to come.
We pulled into town and easily found Erik’s house where we would stay the first night. We didn’t spend much time there though, instead we headed out and did some grocery shopping for the evening before heading out of town and up Hyalite Canyon until we came to the lake. It was beautiful and open surrounded by trees. Despite the fact that it was the 4th, we easily found a quiet piece of the lake.
Although I was unsure that it was really warm enough, the guys wanted to get in the water and try our new life jackets out, so I changed into my swimsuit. Erik popped the tops on three Corona’s and shoved lime wedges into them before we headed into the water. Thankfully, it wasn’t as cold as I thought and the fact that it is a no-wake lake meant that it was peaceful.
Once we got out Erik started a fire and Jack cooked up our steaks to perfection. We laid there on the bank and visited until the light faded. We headed back home to do some food prep, deciding not to go watch fireworks like we had originally planned, but we heard them exploding all night long and saw a few as we laid in the back lawn. It was warm enough that we moved inside to the couch to watch a movie before calling it a night for the early morning ahead of us. It was so warm in the house that I slept in my swimsuit and shorts and we just threw our sleeping bag on top of the bed without covering up.
Jack & I are so excited to introduce our long anticipated new team member, Bailey Rose. She is an 8 year old Labrador Retriever. We just went and picked her up this last Friday. She is so much fun & adores being with people.
On our first afternoon at the campground Jack and I were restless to get out and see the country. We were saving our long hike for the next day so we decided to take the little jaunt up to view the waterfalls above the campground. The air was fresh and clean as we started and just chilly enough to be invigoratingly crisp. The hike itself is a short and easy one – the trail was created by the Forest Service- and it wasn’t long before the waterfalls came into sight. The view from the lookout point was neat as usual, but we climbed a little farther up to where we had gone last year. The view was better, the ledge to the right was steeper and no longer blocked by the nice rock wall like down at the lookout.
Unlike last year when we stood up here, Jack was in no hurry to get going so that we could get to the lake where he would then propose, so we decided to see if we could hike all the way up to the top of the falls. We had been told that it could be done, so we headed up the trail that would veer towards another ledge where you could see yourself becoming closer to the cascades before leading you back into the trees to head farther up.
Then the canyon was out of sight and the hike went farther into the trees and a little brook was now on our right. Little drops of rain warned that our sunny day could turn stormy at any time, but Jack assured me that we would just find some shelter (which at this point would have been easy) and continue on. Thankfully the rain never did come.
We emerged above both of the waterfalls.
After that Jack thought that we would be able to hike down along the waterfall without going across the small creek and be able to make it to the base of the top one. And, as is often the case, he was right.
It was one of the neatest places I have ever been, tucked in a little bowl with the waterfall crashing down right next to us. Jack navigated the slick rocks and gingerly made his way as close as he could to the cascade. I was so close that I was only able to get one good picture because my camera was trying to focus on the water droplets that coated the lens, he was so close that when he came back to the dry ground his jeans were soaked. Then, of course, it was my turn to be right next to it.
I’m not going to lie – it was kind of scary. One misstep, one slip and it would be in to the churning water that immediately turned into the large falls in the picture at the top of this post. But it was amazing, standing there getting drenched as the water splashed across the rocks down onto me.
After this we still wanted to see if we could get above the lower falls. Jack’s theory was that we could get to a point directly above it and look over it. So we headed off again and skirted around the edge of a point, looking way back at the view point we had left behind long ago. There were people down there looking up and I waved my arms, but they didn’t see me. So we kept going around the edge and looked over. You couldn’t see directly down onto it like we had hoped but the view from there was still spectacular and now the people below saw us and they all started waving at us. It was exhilarating.
The hike back down was quick and relaxing. Already we wanted to hike back up and rediscover everything we had just seen. The people who waved at us were still the same people that were standing in the lookout when we got back down.
Woodbine Trip, Day 1 –
Day 1 actually wavered between being Friday or Saturday, but not having laundry done proved to be the deciding factor in that. We also wavered on whether this was going to be a camping trip or a combined camping/backpacking trip, but I, Ashley, have to confess that I was a little bit nervous about camping so remote since I’ve never done that before (this was only the first time that we have camped together as a couple).
So it was that Saturday morning we pulled into an extremely crowded campground. So crowded that as we drove around the only good looking site was reserved. Because of course, we didn’t think to do that. We pulled into site 3, the only other site that was open, and I was extremely disappointed because there wasn’t the room like in the other camp sites. However, once we walked around it turned out to be a good thing. It was right next to the creek, there was a little nook that our tent fit perfectly in, and it wasn’t a very crowded area of the campground. We also found out that it was one of the more popular sites and had been occupied the night before, but whoever was there froze out and left it fore us.*
Very quickly after we decided to stay and set up camp and make things official by getting our registration in place so no one would kick us out or take our spot.
Setting up camp took surprisingly very little effort, seeing as Jane (our mode of transportation that is) was loaded down with supplies. I don’t have a picture of that, but we packed that car so full that we really could not have taken much more.
After that we sat around and enjoyed our space, the fact that we were up here in this amazing place. Even all of the people around us could not take away from the looming grandeur of the mountains high overhead or the peaceful gurgling of the creek beside us. It was enlivening and refreshing and aweing all that the same time.
We made a simple lunch before deciding that we needed to go do something, so we decided to hike up to Woodbine Falls, which will have to be a whole other post because it was so spectacular and amazing!
One we were back we settled back down and spent the evening relaxing while sitting around the campfire and visiting.
*Campsite #3 is a non-reservation site, however we also really liked the looks of #42, which has lots of trees, is close to the water as well as the trailhead to the waterfalls.
The introduction to our Memorial Day camping trip.
Finally we came into a big open clearing at the peak of the mountain and by this time we were both ready to find the trail and get back to the car. Then just as we were going back into the trees I looked around us and realized that at that moment we were standing in the middle of a cloud that had rolled in over the tree tops. Not only that, but the cloud was starting to drop flakes of snow all around us.
Jack hurried me onward, going in front and making ‘post holes’ in the knee deep snow so that I could follow in his tracks.
“Come on, we need to keep moving to stay warm.” He prodded as I stopped to take another hasty picture and I knew he was right. We were both only wearing light jackets, our jeans were hopelessly wet and I began to take note that all of the snow that lodged in my shoes earlier as I tripped and climbed my way up to this point had now melted, soaking my socks and making a swimming pool in my shoes. Despite that, I was surprisingly warm now – but I knew it wouldn’t last.
Sure enough as we moved I felt my ankles beginning to numb and Jack was beginning to tire. I thought of the other two hikers and wondered where they were and hoped they had better luck than we were. Nothing around us was familiar and I was starting to get anxious as the water in my shoes began to drop in temperature and turn more and more icy.
We regained the trail however and I caught the sound of a creek, which meant that we must be close to where we started earlier and then I heard birds chirping happily before we broke back out into the sunlight. But still, nothing was familiar. So we walked and hurried as much as our tired feet would go. We listened to the crunching of the snow which was often followed by a jerking feeling as it gave way beneath us and we slipped forward.
At one point Jack came to a sudden halt that alarmed me and when I asked what was wrong he said that he saw fresh signs of moose.
Soon after that we came along side the creek and to my joy found a bridge we had passed earlier. Once across it we were home free. We sloshed and slid our way back along the trail that we had hiked up earlier. Trying to hurry on finally we saw the other two hikers from earlier headed down the slope.
They pulled away as we trudged into the parking lot. Apparently they didn’t want to talk to us – maybe they were upset that we mislead them – but I wasn’t too worried at this point because all I wanted was to sit in the car with the heater on full blast. (But if you two guys with the three legged dog who followed a couple up the mountain in Red Lodge ever do read this, please know that we are very sorry and now we really do know where the trail leads).