Back in July we met up with some great friends of ours, Chaney & Lashae and their daughter Maubry for a day of driving around the Montana/Wyoming mountains.
We climbed up the Beartooth Pass, a tight winding highway up the side of the mountains above Red Lodge, Montana.
When we got out at the top to stretch we were lucky enough to see some amazing wildlife up close and personal.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at a campground outside of Cooke City. After throwing our garbage away we started to leave the campground when we noticed the campground host standing in the middle of the road watching us and looking down at a piece of paper. We stopped to see what was going on and apparently after we left the camping site he went and found someone else’s trash in the bear proof box and accused us of leaving it. He threatened to send us a ticket despite Jack trying to reason with him – thankfully we never did get a fine in the mail. Even though being falsely accused didn’t make us want to ever use that campground in the future, it is important to be good stewards of the land and also to just be safe by not leaving trash and especially trash that smells like food lying around.
As we headed down into Wyoming we began climbing another, smaller pass.
At the top is a lookout over the valley below and on the lookout are many tiny little chipmunks that have apparently been fed because they are quite fond of humans. Maubry was also quite fascinated with them.
Even though the drive up or down the Beartooth Pass can be somewhat daunting, for the explorer the great view, the great country and the great time are all well worth it!
The beginning of this February was extremely cold in Montana, with temperatures dropping all the way down to 30 F below zero. It has been ridiculous. Jack & I talked about getting away to somewhere warmer for Valentines Day, but since neither of us are very patient and the weather was due to warm up we decided to go to our favorite hot springs in White Sulphur, Montana a week ahead of time.
So Friday night after work we headed off, just grabbing some fast food because we would already be arriving late. I couldn’t complain about it though because I love traveling at night. Thankfully, the roads weren’t too icy and the drove was mostly uneventful. That is until were were in the middle of a rather intense conversation and Jack looked over at me for a split second and I simultaneously looked up at the road.
“Deer!” I screamed.
Looking back now it was silly. Obviously something that large and dark colored couldn’t be a deer, but my mind didn’t process that we were about to hit an elk.
I squeezed my eyes shut and felt the grab of the seat belt as Jack hit the brakes. I thought that there was no way that we were going to miss it and I waited for the impact. But it never came. When I looked up there was no sign of the elk anywhere. Jack (who thankfully has the presence of mind to keep his eyes open while avoiding elk) said he saw it slip on the ice for a split second before it disappeared on the side of the road. I spent the next few minutes to White Sulphur in tears, nearly hyperventilating from the sudden shock.
By the time we threw our bags into our room I was composed and thoughts of the elk disappeared as we quickly changed and made our way towards the pools. I was pleasantly surprised at how amazing it felt. The cold night and the steaming hot pools (which are kept at temperatures ranging from 98-105 degrees depending on the pool) blended almost perfectly to be a comfortable temperature. Between the darkness and the heavy steam rising around us, it was nearly impossible to see others, so it felt like we had complete privacy.
The next morning when went back out, it was even colder at zero degrees. If anything wet was out of the water for any period of time would freeze solid. That is why smart people left their shoes and other clothing items right inside the door instead of leaving them poolside like we did. That is also how Jack turned into Jack Frost.
Overall, the stay was very relaxing. We would definitely recommend that if you go in the winter to stay in a room close to the pool because the motel part is a long, cold walk away. We stayed in the new part of the hotel and we were very impressed with the large rooms and comfortable beds. My only complaint was that the walls and floors seemed thin and we could hear the guy two doors down repeatedly blowing his nose. So make sure you get a room that isn’t on the pool side if you are an early sleeper.
The water is supposed to be full of healthy minerals and I have heard people swear that constant exposure will even make warts go away. My skin and hair was incredibly soft the next morning and as always I left wishing that there was a way I could have constant access to the water there.
July 8th, 2013 – Day 5: Homeward Bound
Shortly after breakfast we began to gather all of our belongings together. We needed to get going relatively soon to be back home at a decent hour so that we could get ready for work the next morning. We stashed our nifty grate for the fire, tore the tent down and stashed all of our gear back into our three packs. Finally, I went through and brushed all the pine needles back under the area where we had the tent.
The trek back to Cliff Lake was all downhill, the weather was perfect and we made good timing. Thankfully, we found our canoe right where we left it, as well as the dry bag with all of our life jackets which we hid way back in the hillside.
But one of our dry bags was missing.
Jack & Erik had tied it high up in a tree away from the beaten path, but it was no where to be seen. We looked all over for any sign of the bright yellow bag or any of its contents. Our first thought was that a bear had taken it, but there was not a shred of anything that remotely looked like it could have been from our gear. Besides, there is no way a bear could have reached it.
Thankfully, to the best of our memories, we could only remember it having a couple of Jack’s t-shirts, some of our dry soup and cocoa mixes and our trash.
When we decided that there was no hope of finding it, we pushed the canoe off into the water once again. We spent most of our trip back tossing around theories about what happened to our bag, but we still don’t know.
We made good timing across the lake, not stopping until we got back to the tree that we jumped off of on our first day there. Both Jack and Erik wanted to take one last swim, but I stayed on shore and watched them, not wanting to get chilled.
We took a few more minutes for some photo-ops of the three of us – which of course is not an easy feat, even with the self timer on the camera. But we did get our shot in the end.
After a few more minutes of rowing we were back on the main shore where we loaded up the car and drove off, leaving the last four and a half days of excitement behind us, waiting for when we return.
Interested in taking this trip for yourself? Here’s some of the details to help you plan:
The weather when we went during the first week of July was perfect for fishing, it was warm all day and there were rainstorms every afternoon. It was just warm enough to get you into the chill lake water – though I would have liked it a little warmer, I don’t think the guys would agree. The only downside was the insane amount of flies & horseflies.
When Jack & Erik went the first time they went the beginning of June and the weather was cooler, they didn’t do much swimming, but there were no flies. Next time I would like to try August once it dries out a little more.
The hike from the end of Cliff Lake to Hidden was short and a fairly easy hike, especially if you weren’t carrying all of your camp with you. It has some short, somewhat steeper inclines, but for the most part it is an easy gradual climb. It is also clearly marked so you have no chance of missing it.
No boat? No problem – you can reach Hidden Lake from Wilderness Edge Resort (which is located at the nearest prong of Cliff Lake), or you can reach it from the opposite direction of Elk Lake. We have never taken either of these routes, but we would love to hear from you if you have!
Fishing is definitely something to take into consideration when planning your trip. Hidden Lake is only open to fishing from June 15th – November 30th according to the FWP site (the same goes for Otter, Goose, & Elk Lakes).
We didn’t do much fishing at Hidden, but at Cliff (which is open to fishing year round) we maxed out our limit of 3 lake trout per person.
Make sure to check the current regulations before you go!
If you have been reading any of Our Escapes to this point, you will realize that when it comes to camping, privacy is one of the most important aspects to us. This trip is perfect for getting away from everyone.
We were all anticipating tons of people since it was the 4th of July weekend, but there were only a few boats out on Cliff (it helps that it is a no wake lake). We didn’t meet anyone on the trail heading back to Cliff and there were only about 3 groups of people (who weren’t even overnighters) around Hidden and all of them seemed to want to mind their own business just as much as we did.
July 7th, 2013 – Day 4: Camp Hideaway
This morning after breakfast I finished gathering flat rocks off of the hillside and placed them in a ring around the place where I had cleared last night to make a fire ring. Shortly after I started this Lewis and Clark went off to see if they could find some dead fell for seating. When I went to check on them they had found a large log, downhill from the camp of course, that they were working on cutting into sections with their hatchets. Eventually, they had two decent size logs that they lugged up the hill. By the time they had them up I had finished my fire ring, so I watched as they drove wooden stakes in the ground to keep the logs from rolling down to the lake.
As soon as it was warm enough we went back to the rope swing and took turns dropping into the cool water and then getting out and being eaten by some more flies.
When we returned to camp the guys headed back down to the lake for some more swimming while I attempted to even out my tan, or sunburn rather. I enjoyed the warmth of the sun, but the hollering coming from below me was too tempting and when I looked down and saw them floating out on a log I went down and joined them. I grabbed a log of my own, since it seemed like their goal was to knock each other off. We floated for a while before the chill of the water became too much and we went back to shore.
Since we kept seeing people in boats drifting across the lake we headed to the far end of the lake to see where they were at. We were greatly pleased with ourselves when, from across the inlet, we found that our self-made camp was indeed, hidden from view. Thus, with all of our creativity we decided to name it Camp Hideaway.
Sure enough there were boats padlocked up at the far end of the lake, but apparently you had to hike all the way past the next lake (around 3 miles) in order to rent them, so instead we turned back. We spent the late afternoon trying to concoct a way to heat a stone hot enough to boil a pot of water on, because by now we were out of any fresh drinking water and had to boil lake water to drink. Of course, of the many things we forgot on the trip (seriously, the cinnamon rolls?!?!), we also forgot to refresh on how to purify drinking water….so we boiled it for roughly 2 minutes and then drank it through a straw filter.
You can avoid the possibility of nausea, diarrhea or stomach cramps from lake water by filtering it through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth and then boiling it for one minute–or, if at a location one or more miles above sea level, for three minutes. Once the water has cooled, pour it back and forth from one clean container to another to aerate it and improve the taste, if you wish. Store boiled water in clean containers with covers.
Later, Jack and Erik went back to the rope swing while I enjoyed some solitary time at Hideaway. On their return they stumbled on an old grate under some bushes and a log and hauled it back up to camp. It worked perfectly for putting over the fire and cooking up our last dinner.
July 6th, 2013 – Day 3: The Trek to Hidden Lake
As I write this I am listening to distant thunder and the pitter-patter of rain on the canvas of my tent. Last night went better than I thought – I wasn’t as nervous as I thought. But the ground was hard and uncomfortable and I woke up throughout the night, but neither Jack nor I crawled out of bed until nine-thrity when it became so sweltering hot in our tent.
We cooked our breakfast burritos up and visited about having a hideaway cabin tucked back somewhere in the woods that only we knew about. After breakfast we took our time packing up our camp and stowing the canoe and unnecessary gear out of the way until the return trip. By the time that we threw our packs on and started following the path that led back to Hidden it was already eleven o’clock.
The packs were heavy and it wasn’t long until I was tired and my sunburned legs were covered in scratches from the pine needles and wild rosebushes that brushed against them as I walked along narrow trails. But the trek was beautiful as we made our way through meadows before heading back into the trees. We stopped at Otter Lake (though there were no otters to be seen) for a short fishing break. It was a small green lake with a rowboat sunk in the middle of it. After his first trip, Jack asked a local, long time hiker about it he said that the boat had been there as long as he could remember. Does anyone know the story of the boat?
Instead as Jack & Erik meandered around the shore looking for their perfect fishing holes I laid down in the tall grass to get away from the flies and it seemed to work. However, as I relaxed and watched the clouds in the sky I suddenly heard Erik loudly cursing the flies, saying that he felt like a dead animal being attacked by them and couldn’t stay another minute.
So we scrambled out of the valley and took up our packs again. Shortly after this we began heading more uphill and soon we passed by Goose Lake, which was on of the most picturesque I’ve seen, but this time we didn’t stop. Not long thereafter we emerged out of the trees and saw Hidden Lake. It was larger than I expected and incredibly blue and clear. As we made our way around the shore we were all excited to see the rope swing hanging temptingly next to the refreshing water. Between the heat and the flies we couldn’t resist and within minutes the guys were in the lake. It took me a little while to try (ok, ok, it was a little like the scene from the Notebook, just not as dramatic), but once I was in it was a blast.
After a long while at the rope swing we continued on, apparently looking for the right spot to camp. We went through several before climbing to the top of a hill that jutted out into the lake. Jack pronounced this as the same place that they stayed last time and the packs were dropped. I wanted to sleep down by the water where there was a little flat spot under a tree, but after a closer look I decided that the top of the hill was probably the better choice. By the end of our stay I changed my mind about our camping spot, mostly because the view of the lake from above was breathtaking.
I unrolled my sleeping bag on the dirt and at my lunch inside to try and avoid some of the flies and mosquitoes while Jack and Erik visited and ate. But the first drops of rain came so we vacated our lunch in a hurry to get our shelters up and Jack and I zipped up the tent fly just as the hail started. When the weather let up I dozed while the other two went fishing and then I began to write.
For the start of our journey click here.
So one food you may hear us talking about a lot on this blog is breakfast burritos. That is because they are, in our opinion, some of the best camping breakfasts. They have lots of protein in them and they keep you feeling full.
When we were in the planning stages Jack said he wanted me to try making some breakfast burritos we could warm up over the fire in the mornings. Below is my original recipe. I was worried about how the eggs would freeze, but they turned out great! This breakfast was definitely one of the favorites and was great to have on a freezing cold morning. However, don’t be afraid to make them to keep in the freezer at home for quick and easy breakfasts!
2-3 lbs. breakfast sausage
2 dozen eggs
1 6 oz. can of mushrooms, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 –1/2 cup salsa
4-5 cups grated cheese
20 tortilla shells
Sautee the onions and mushrooms together in a large pan then add the breakfast sausage and cook until browned all the way through. In a separate pan scramble the two dozen eggs until light and fluffy. Mix the eggs into the sausage mixture and add salsa and any other peppers to taste. Cool and then add the grated cheese. Place some of the filling into the center of the tortilla shell and fold both ends over, then fold one side over and roll the tortilla in the direction of the last fold. Wrap each burrito individually in tinfoil and freeze.
When it comes time to reheat lay on a grate over an open fire and cook until steamy inside. Best served with taco sauce. They can also be cooked in a oven or warmed up in a convection oven at 350 degrees until the center is hot.
Here’s the video to go along with the forthcoming post. Enjoy!