An 8 day solo, mostly cross country excursion in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. I developed the route after studying maps with a few goals in mind. In the end, when terrain and conditions told me to deviate from that original plan, embracing and appreciating those adaptations resulted in an extremely rewarding experience. The combination of sheer beauty, solitude, and sense of connection with my environment places this trip way up on the all time favorites list.
Day 1: I left the Lake Fork Trailhead near Red Lodge, Mt at around 11:00. I jumped off the trail at Keyser Brown Lake and managed to bushwhack my way upstream past First Rock Lake and Second Rock Lake to a little meadow near a little waterfall.
Day 2: I started with a climb to lunch at Sky Pilot Lake before continuing up and over High Pass. From there, it was down to Donelson Lake, at which point I connected blue dots upstream and over and down to Crystal Lake. Here, I turned north past the Pleiades Lakes, popping up over a little saddle and into the Sierra Creek drainage, which I followed to my home at Flat Rock Lake.
Day 3: I left Flat Rock Lake, ascending a waterfall inlet to Copepod Lake. After a quick detour to Lake 10,580, I took off up and over a ridge to a nice lunch spot at Erratic Lake. From here, it was northwest past a series of lakes before dropping to Big Big Butte Lake and Desolation Lake where I negotiated some interesting high bench lakes en route to a beautiful but mosquito ridden camp at Zee Lake.
Day 4: After heading west from camp, I was greeted early by looking glass views at Lake of the Winds. Then, I proceeded on to Gallery Lake, Lake of the Clouds, and Ouzel Lake, where I met up with The Beaten Path. After following the trail for a half mile or so, I left it again to continue west past Molar Lake and Sodalite Lake where I took a roundabout way to Surprise Lake. Here, a serendipitous storm rolled in causing me to end the day early. Surprise Lake did indeed surprise, and turned out to be one of my all time favorite places.
Day 5: I began with an exploration of the absolutely magical Hobbit Creek headwaters before a climb to the ridge to their west and an incredible skyline walk to Stepping Stone Lake. From here, I continued on northeastward to eventually find myself on a high bench containing an awe-inspiring unnamed lake with views in every direction. Storm clouds gathered again, so I had no problem calling this place home.
Day 6: I awoke to rain and a wet tent, so I did some morning camp chores and eventually decided that this was as good a place as any to call home for another night. Around noon, I set out on a day hike to the Sky Top Lakes and the ridge between them and Cairn Lake.
Day 7: I broke camp and made for Looking Glass Lake and the low saddle to its east. Crossing it put me in a nice, wide open drainage that I followed southward to Fossil Lake. Here, I picked up the East Rosebud Trail, which I followed down to Lake at Falls, where I jumped off one more time, detouring to Echo Lake and one last night of solitude.
Day 8: Back to the trail and out to the East Rosebud parking lot.