Island Lake Camp Ground

The Canadians managed to get through customs without being detained by Homeland Security

The squeaky bed at the beautiful Miles City Super 8 slept like a dream. Bob was up by 6 while I slept in until about 7:00. We both grabbed a quick shower (not at the same time) and then ran down to the breakfast area to partake in the usual sub-standard Super 8 continental breakfast fare. I did not know it at the time, but my multiple bowls of Frosted Flakes and yogurt cups would have a lasting impact by the end of the day. The weather babe on the local TV station revealed that eastern Montana would be hot for the next week with temperatures pushing into the 100’s.

Knowing the Canadian contingent wouldn’t be arriving until about 10:30 we took our time checking out, watching some of the cable TV shows that Bob had never seen before…like Sportcenter and Pawn Stars. At 8:00 we climbed back in to the trusty Rav4 and were soon speeding down the secluded interstate to Billings.

I pulled a “Yumi” (rough translation: I missed my turn) at the airport and had to circle the parking area again to get to the hourly parking section which cost us at least a minute and a half. Once safely parked, Bob and I set about getting the roof bag mounted for a quick getaway once we picked up our extra cargo. Even though they were Canadians I felt it was my responsibility to make sure they were comfortable for the trip over to Island Lake.

We’d only been waiting for a few minutes when the glare of Canadian Dude’s head reflecting off the skylight’s golden rays nearly blinded me as he and his buddy, Jeff, trudged down the steps. Quick introductions were made and Jeff ran over to the baggage claim to get some of their stuff.

After noticing they had only their backpacking gear and a small travel bag with a change of clothes between them we uninstalled the roof bag. There’d be enough room in the trusty Rav4 after all.

A stellar view of the Beartooths from the Beartooth highway

It didn’t take long to get down to Red Lodge despite our near-death experience near Laurel. Driving in the right lane, I slowed for a merging vehicle, giving the driver plenty of space to merge into traffic. The other driver, obviously a dolt, also slowed down. I slowed some more to give him room to merge as he was running out of on ramp…so did he. Finally, travelling at about 10 mph the fool got the hint just as I was having visions of getting rear-ended by an 18-wheeler.

Once safely in Red Lodge we grabbed some lunch at Bogarts, which I thought was the place we’d eaten cheeseburgers at twice back in 2009. That establishment was actually Foster & Logan’s a few doors down. Though confused that the menu was now mostly Mexican, I wolfed down my tacos, rice and refried beans with gusto, blissfully ignorant of the gastro-intestinal synergy that would soon be taking place.

Setting up camp at the Island Lake campground

We a quick run through the Sylvan Peak Outfitters store to grab some fuel, maps and other small items then dropped the others off at the grocery store to pick up some potato salad, cole slaw and Moose Drool for dinner while I filled up the trusty Rav4---and forgot to clean the bugs off the windshield because that was Bob’s job.

The drive up the Beartooth Highway, as usual, impressed us all but more so for Jeff who had never been. We stopped at the Rock Creek Vista for a short while before continuing up to the alpine section of the road.

Before too long the combination of peering through bug guts and the bright sunshine triggered a small migraine, but that was taken care of with a few Aleve. Because a mountain road with few guard rails is not the kind of road to drive with impaired vision I pulled over and let Bob take over. Though I couldn’t see that well, it was nice to be able to check out the views without having to worry about the driving. By the time we’d made it back down to the trees I was pretty much back to normal but for some minor head pounding.

There were an abundance of open camp sites at the Island Lake camp ground so we picked out the best and set up the mammoth 5-person Coleman I had dragged along. It didn’t take long with the 4 of us on that detail and soon we were all going through our gear one last time before hitting it the next morning.

By 5 PM most of our gear was set, I had broken a camp chair due to my massive size and we were all starting to get hungry. I started with the meal preparations at about the same time our new neighbor from 2 camp sites down had stopped by to ask if we were fishing. We were not, but we invited him to come on over and have some dinner with us.

The last supper

Terry, a retired commercial pilot, was recently divorced and looking for a good place to live somewhere around the Rockies. He also had a well-stocked kitchen which came in handy when I realized I had forgotten to pack a fry pan to warm up the brats and Italian sausages. Terry came to our rescue with one AND some paper plates so we were spared having to warm the brats on aluminum plates and some dishwashing. I did remember to bring a small pot to warm up the baked beans.

The mosquitoes were tolerable which was a good sign for the hike, but that might have been due to the fact that the yogurt, refried beans and now the baked beans were starting to work their magic---loudly, and about every 2 minutes.

By dark we were all ready for bed and crawled into the cavernous Coleman. I offered ear plugs to all just in case, and promptly lost mine. Luckily the 3 Moose Drools and a sleeping pill were just enough to counteract Canadian Dude’s snoring, and I managed to drop off fairly quickly, but not as quickly as Canadian Dude.


Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, 2012
The Hikers and Special Invite
The Drive West
Island Lake CG
Trip Map
Skytop Creek
Lone Elk Lake
Skytop Lakes
Skytop Lakes
Oly Lake
Fossil Lake
Fox Lake
The Hike Out
The Drive Home
Final Thoughts
Trip Photos
Back to Backcountry Trips

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