It was decided last night that Brad and I would leave before Bob and Jeff and hike out the 4+ miles as fast as we could. Once we got to the trailhead we'd try to flag a ride to at least the Lulu Pass road. From there it was still another 2 miles and about 800' elevation gain to the trusty Rav 4 but that was still alot better than adding another 2 miles of yellow blazing. With any kind of luck we'd be back at the trailhead by the time Bob and Jeff arrived.
|Fox Lake in the morning
Needing all the help I could get I didn’t bother with a real breakfast, opting for a few of my leftover granola bars and lots of water.
Shortly after 8 AM we began the hike out from our camp site through deep, wet grass. Our footware was already soaked by the time we hit the spur trail for the steep climb up from the lake, startling a dog from some campers who had gotten in after we did.
Once we got to the trail junction we kicked it into high gear and flew down the well-used trail. Besides not having any views, the unexpected climb through a burn area along the south end of Kersey Lake was somewhat of a downer as we tried to keep up our torrid pace. I couldn’t help but think that to those going the other way probably loved this section.
Seemingly having just started, we began running into dayhikers, horse riders and a spindly-legged trail runner. We had to be close.
Soon enough we could hear the thundering rapids of the Clark’s Fork and then came upon some wooden stairs. We were out, but not finished, at 9:20.
We walked through the day use area and got onto 212 for the next leg of our journey, the two miles to Lulu Pass Road. I’d never hitch-hiked before but Brad had done his share while doing the Colorado Trail. He didn’t think we’d get a ride so we didn’t even bother sticking our thumbs out, opting to yellow blaze the 2 miles in about 35 minutes instead.
Since it was Brad’s friend who altered the itinerary I made the executive decision that it should be Brad that hiked up to and retrieved the trusty Rav4 while I stayed behind at a shaded dispersed camp site near the highway. In all honesty, I think he would have gone the rest of the distance anyway because he’s a good guy and was in way better shape than I.
Brad had been gone but a couple of minutes and was out of sight and I had barely unlaced one of my boots when a pickup towing a couple of ATV’s pulled onto the road. At that moment I was pretty sure they'd pick up Brad and give him a ride up to the car. I predicted he’d be back at about 10:35. Five or six other vehicles followed over the next 10 minutes so if the first didn’t pick him up then one of the later ones surely would. We wouldn't make breakfast but we'd done pretty good.
I spent a few minutes writing in my journal and, at precisely 10:28 heard the unmistakable honk of the trusty Rav4---which appeared to have suffered no damage during the week. We quickly loaded our packs into the back, grabbed a coke from the cooler and started back to the trailhead while cranking some Foo Fighters.
Brad and I amused ourselves by checking out the old power plant site on Clark’s Fork, watching two horsemen trying to find the horse trail (it was less than ¼ mile down the road toward Cooke City), and looking for hot babes in hiking shorts. Sadly, we saw no hot babes in hiking shorts.
Still having found no hot babes shorts, we saw the hulking figure of Bob coming into view instead. They’d made it out and beat my expectations by about 45 minutes.
|Bob and Jeff discovered this fella hanging in the grass on their hike out
We quickly loaded their gear into the trusty Rav4 and took off to Cooke City for a well deserved lunch and some souvenir shopping.
We hit the General Store where T-shirts were purchased along with some other small items before finding a good spot for lunch. I’d never eaten anything but breakfast at Cooke before so this would be a crap shoot.
The Beartooth Café looked to be packed, the burger van wasn’t yet open so we went into the Bistro by default and got an outside table with a nice view of Main Street until some douche bag from Ohio parked his big rig directly in front of us.
The Cokes were cold, the burgers fat and the fries hot. A good post-hike meal. Jeff even got a special bonus when our eastern european server accidentally dropped a cup of ice down his back.
After we finished eating we went back to the General store and grabbed a few more gifts before heading down the road a few miles to Silvergate---Just so the others could say they were there and so I could grab another Coke.
Since we were all in need of a shower, Jeff suggested that we find a campground on the other side of Beartooth Pass and hit the shower at the Red Lodge KOA. I wanted to snag a campsite on the Cooke City side but relented. I did smell and doing the hour to Red Lodge would mean that much less driving over the next couple of days.
We found a good site at the Ratine campground about 15 minutes south of Red Lodge, quickly set up the tent and got our gear organized for the trip home. It was hard to believe that 8 days had passed and that tomorrow we’d be starting the drive home.
I sprung for the showers at the Red Lodge KOA. I felt a little bit guilty after the other three kept picking up the meal checks throughout the trip so I guess t his was my way of saying “thanks” and that I thought they stunk.
|Clarks Fork near the trailhead
All cleaned up we drove back to Red Lodge and made a stop at Sylvan Peak so that Jeff could buy some clean clothes for his flight back to Canada. He is now stocked with hiking gear for the next few years.
Next, we made our way over to the Red Lodge Pizza Co.---somewhere I’d never eaten before. Still suffering from caloric deficiency we each ordered our own 3-topping pie.
When the pizza’s were delivered it became apparent that we’d all bitten off more than we could chew. Significantly larger than the pan, our 12’ pies looked to be at least 15” and were smothered with toppings.
Sadly, my pepperoni, sausage and green pepper pizza was the only one completely consumed that night. The rest would ride home with Bob and I. maybe we’d eat some on the way home, maybe not.
We made it back to the campground with about an hours worth of light left in the day so I picked my way through the underbrush to Rock Creek and watched a fly fisherman try his luck. Obviously a fisherman's curse, I went back to camp not seeing anything on the end of his line.
The four of us conversed for a few minutes then retired to the spacious Coleman for the night.
I knew I was fucked when I lay down and started rolling toward the edge of the tent. Even though I had taken another sleeping pill to combat the snoring that would inevitably start up, sleeping was difficult on the west slope.
After about 90 minutes I finally dozed off then, at about 2 AM Jeff’s snoring began. Another hour of slipping and sliding passed before I nodded off again. Then the snoring concerto woke me up again just before 5:00.