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 Cascade Bill (William Mooseker) | Home > Backpacking Trips > 2003 Backpacking Trips > 
Beartooths 2003
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Beartooth Wilderness, Montana
August 2003

Day 1: Clarks Fork Yellowstone TH to Big Moose Lake
Day 2: Big Moose Lake to Farley Lake
Day 3: Farley Lake to Marianne Lake
Day 4: Marianne Lake to Fizzle Lake
Day 5: Fizzle Lake to Lower Aero Lake
Day 6: Lower Aero Lake to Lady of the Lake
Day 7: Out to TH and home via Yellowstone

Shelby & Roger at Jordan Lake

Troop 24 "The High Adventure Troop" Backpacking Trip
-Cascade Bill Mooseker


Date(s): August 2003. Album by Cascade Bill. Photos by WHM. 1 - 86 of 86 Total. 4487 Visits.
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Shelby and Danny waking up at Pine Cr Campground - We arrived at the CG at about midnight after an all day drive that started at 5 in the morning.  We couldn't find our assigned campsite in the dark and took this spacious site instead - it turned out to be the Picnic area.  Oh well! - we were on our way before anyone else in the camp was awake.

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Fred, Derek, and Jon packing up - Slugabeds Shelby and Danny still in their bags.

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Fred near the Trail Head as we were starting out -  This was our first screw up as we missed the bridge and we followed
a quickly disappearing fishermans trail down river. After crawling under a couple of downed trees and scrambling down
a cliff, I realized that this wasn't a major trail (the official name was "The Beaten Path"), and turned back where we
found the trail had taken a sharp left while we went straight.


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Route for Day One: Clark's Fork TH at left to Camp 1 at Big Moose Lake at the right.  
There was a big thunderstorm right before we started out and another about the time we got to Kersey Lake
(Good view from trail).  The guys started off down the Rock Island Lake trail but we got that straightened out.  
Eric and Jon disappeared between Rock Island Lk Trail and Widewater Lake - Somehow they had missed the trail.  
We found a nice camp at Big Moose Lake.


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Day 2 Route: Big Moose Lake to Farley Lake.
I had hoped to make it to Jordan Lake on day 2, but another route (mis)adventure occurred as the trail dipped into
Wyoming.  I only had Montana maps which show the trail only about a couple of hundred yards apart at the
Wy. boundary.  I assumed that the trail dipped slightly into Wyoming before swinging back into Montana.  How wrong
as the map shows -  When we arrived at Lake Reno I was thoroughly confused.  The trail on the Montana map
follows the route shown as I've drawn, not as on the map.


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Day 2 started out with a formidible ford of Big Moose Lake.  It was very shallow for most of the way across but it was crotch deep on this side.  Of course, long legged Danny had no trouble (only thigh deep for him).  Eric watches as Danny, Fred, Shelby, Greg, and Derek are about over.  Still out in the middle are Shelby, Joel, Nick, Roger, and Jon (far side in red).

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Danny has made it, and Fred is going through the deep part.

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Derek, Greg,Nick, and Jon have made it - Shelby tried a short cut straight across and waded into a deep part
up to his waist and soaking his sleeping bag.


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Roger made is own route going way around to the left (south).

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Eric, Jon, and Shelby.

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Our Wyoming mis-adventure - here we are heading due south instead of east as we hoped.

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This is just before the junction of 4 trails (see map) .  One went south - clearly wrong.  Another went east, which we
took (we missed the faint tread of the correct trail which went north) leading us to Lake Reno.


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Taking a break - This is where the trail makes a right angle between Lennon Lake and Shrew Lake, a short distance from Farley Lake.  We've climbed out of the trees to a more open alpine area.

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Near Fritter Lake, looking north towards crest of the Beartooths.  Farley lake is in a depression beyond the trees ahead.

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Day 3 Route: From Camp 2 at Farley Lake to Camp 3 at  Mariane Lake:
Although there is no trail shown on the map, there is a trail at each end of the route.  The tread peters out at Otter Lake and some routefinding skills are required.


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Leaving camp at Farley Lake - Jon and Fred lead out.  We found a  camp on a bench above the eastern side of the outlet.  Fishing for fat brook trout 10-12 inches long was good.

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Following the trail along the eastern shore of Farley Lake.

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Greg, Shelby, and Derek near the north end of Farley Lake.  The "trail" to Jordan Lake goes over the small knoll at the left.

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Looking back(south) towards Farley Lake from trail to Jorden Lake.  At the junction, we met another scout troop from Fargo, N.D. who were also going this way.  They had camped at Elaine Lake the previous night.

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Cascade Bill int the Beartooths -  The trail climbs from Farley Lake to this viewpoint.  Elaine Lake appears below.  The trail contors around the ridge above Jorden Lake.

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Greg at the same viewpoint.

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Greg Packhorse Phillips - This is looking  west from the viewpoint above Elaine Lake.  You can see the trail winding its way around the fidge.  Jorden Lake lies around the hill at the left.

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After going around the ridge, Jorden Lake appears below you - you descend steeply and go around the southern end of the lake here.  The flowers here were spectacular.  The trail does not follow the lakeshore but goes down the outlet stream to a ford and then a steep (but short) climb over a small rise to again reach the lake at its western end.

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After the ford at Big Moose Lake, the ford of the outlet stream from Jorden Lake (Farley Cr) was fairly easy.  The key is not to worry about getting your feet wet.

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We took a long break at Jorden Lake - Roger unveiled his raft and Shelby his flamingo as Nick looks on.  Rather than deflate it Roger strapped it to his back for the rest of the day.  He was almost blown off the trail a couple of time.  Although the fishing was reputed to be good here, no one had a strike or even had a fish follow the lures. The troop from Fargo passed us here as we took our break.

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The tread peters out a little between Shrimp and Picket Lake (shown here).  But the way is obvious.

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There is no trail at Otter Lake.  We struggled along shore hopping from boulder to boulder.  At one point about halfway from either end, we came apon this sight - a skeleton of a horse with its saddle still attached.  There is a story here and your imagination can come up with a good one. Why anyone would try to take a horse along the shore is beyond me.  Near the eastern end of the lake we met the other half of the troop from Fargo, their "A" team.  They had humped it all the way from the northern end of the "Beaten Path" trail far to the north.

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The tread, though vague, reappears at Mariane Lake which is much easier to negotiate than Otter Lake with only a couple of tight spots.

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Cascade Bill (photo by Danny) at Mariane Lake.  The flowers (red paintbrush here) were spectacular.

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Another view of Bill at Mariane Lake.

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Cooking supper at Mariane Lake - Jon, Roger, Eric, and Shelby.  We met 3 hikers (my contemporaries) who camped near the snag beyond Jon.  They were from Montana and moving slow as one of them had a knee brace and was complaining about the rough trip along Otter Lake.  They had tried to go high but dropped back down to follow the shore.

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Day 4: Mariane Lake to Fizzle Lake:
My original plan was to make it to Jorden Lake on day 2 and then to Fizzle Lake on Day 3.  The realities of route finding and rough terrain forced us to modify that plan.  I had speculated that we would follow the outlet stream down, but we noticed a very vague impression going through the meadow we were camped at at Mariane Lake.  This vague tread shortly became a real trail.


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Crossing a meadow near Wand Lake (behind us ).

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We followed the trail until it petered out in a talus slope.  Backtracking brought us to this ford which Greg is shown crossing.

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Following the trail on the northern side of the stream, we thought we had it made until another ford appeared - Roger is showing his frustration. ( I guess Joel is too in kis own way).  Some made it across by crossing on slippery logs upstream while others (myself included) did the wading thing.

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After the last ford, it wasn't long before we hit the main trail aptly named "The Beaten Path".  This was the trail we had started on originally.  Shown are Greg, Derek, Nick, Roger, Erid, Jon, Danny, Joel, Shelby, and Fred.  Fortunately, we didn't have to ford the stream again but found this fine bridge.  Jon is not "cold" he is protecting himself from the hordes of mosquitoes.

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Danny at bridge.  This view is looking back up the stream we had followed down from Mariane Lake.

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Another view of the stream from the bridge.

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Soon after crossing the bridge, the "Beaten Path" switchbacks up a hill giving this view back up the canyon that we came down from Mariane Lake.

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Looking south from "The Beaten Path" - After climbing the switchbacks from the canyon beyond, this pleasant hanging valley with its meandering creek and shallow ponds gives the heart a break with its nearly level trail.   The switchbacks soon begin (again as we see from this photo) as the trail climbs though talus and open forest to suddenly arrive at Ouzel Lake (see map).

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Danny taking a break along this section of the trail.

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Beyond Ouzel Lake, is this larger unnamed lake which for lack of a better name, I'll call Bald Knob Lake for the nearby peak of the same name.  We stopped for a break here and had great fishing for all the small brook trout that you would ever want to catch.

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Another view of the lake with Bald Knob to the right here.

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Breaktime - As usual, Jon is in full mosquito defense mode while Shelby and  Danny are sans shirts to catch some rays. Derek, Roger, and Fred are getting their fishing gear together to try their luck, and the "teeny-weenies" Nick and Joel are just hanging out.  (Note: "teeny-weenie" is from the perspective of a 19 to 21 year old to a 16 to 17 year old.)

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The trail switchbacks steeply from the lake below Bald Knob and then begins a steady gradual ascent.  Here, Nick and Joel are framed in a scene looking back on the lake.

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A last look at Bald Knob Lake before going over a small pass below Skull Lake.

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Twin Lakes as seen from viewpoint on the "Beaten Path" before crossing divide to Fossil Lake.

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One old Fossile with Fossil Lake in the background.  Fred and I hiked the short distance up to the divide to get a look at Fossil Lake.  I had planned to camp here but we adjusted our plans and it wasn't to be.

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Taking a card break along trail opposite Fizzle Lake (Greg, Eric, Roger, and Danny).  Our eventual camp was in the meadows on the far side of Fizzle Lake (near the rock bluff that juts into the water).

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Fred at Fossil Lake.

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Leaving "The Beaten Path" behind we make our way around one of the many arms of Fizzle Lake.  Our camp was on another arm just over the ridge beyond.

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Two years ago it was "Chickens to Jackass Pass", last year it was a 25 pound watermelon for my birthday on our third day out - but this year Danny "dressed" for dinner with a Suit, tie, dress shirt, black socks, and dress shoes.  As always,
Dan is the Man!


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Day 5 - My 60th birthday - Camp 4 at Fizzle Lake to Camp 5 on Aero Lake. What a way to spend a 60th birthday - an off trail scramble through beautiful alpine country.  As usual there were the unexpected route finding adventures, but all in all a great day.

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A short distance from our camp near the outlet from No Bones Lake is this pond (the second one on the map).  Our route is up this valley to a pass over to the Sky Top Creek drainage at Rough Lake.  The peak in the background is Mt Villaro (12345').  If you zoom the picture, you can see the guys as they make their way up the valley.

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Danny as he catches up to me - He is the fastest hiker and he'll take a break and start off 10 minutes after everybody else.  He then passes me and often catches up with the lead group.

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I couldn't resist a picture of this idyllic stream flowing down this fine alpine valley.

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Looking back down the valley near it's head. We stopped to take a break here before hitting the steep climb over the pass.

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Break time - Eric, Roger, Shelby, Nick, and Joel.  Our route was up the hill beyond Joel.

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Jon - still in full Mosquito Defense Mode.

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Making our way up - The route gets tough a heart pounding climb for the FOM.

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Whoops! - this is the wrong pass!  Lone Elk Lake below (with its distinctive island) with Shelter Lake beyond.  Our route to Aero Lake is over the pass beyond Shelter Lake.  The large snowfields on this pass started me worrying.  We had made a wrong turn at a small pond.  I had thought that it was the larger one (see map) but it was the smaller one. We backtracked to the pond and were soon headed the right way.

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Another view of Lone Elk Lake from our vantage point at the wrong pass - It might have been possible to go down this way but it was a steep talus slope with large boulders so I think it was wise to go back.  The peak in the background is Mt Zimmer.

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Fred and Derek - above small pond where we made our wrong turn.

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Finally on the right route, we pass this small pond before descending to Rough Lake.  (See map)  Glacier Peak is at left.

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Rough Lake - I had wanted to spend some time here but our earlier shift in plans had to be made up somewhere.  This is truly spectacular country and quite a birthday present.  The Glacier Peak to Mt Villaro massif that frames Rough Lake is breathtaking.  Our route is fo follow Sky Top Cr at the lower right down to Lone Elk Lake.

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We took an extended break here to fix up Greg's pack (that is a truly epic saga in itself from 1995 to 2003).

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Fred crossing Sky Top Creek at a small lake between Rough Lake and Lone Elk Lake.  We met a Dad and his son at this lake who had come from Aero Lake so we knew the route was possible which relieved my worries somewhat.

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Danny making his way along Lone Elk Lake - The knife edged ridge that juts out from Mt Villaro is impressive.

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Leaving Lone Elk lake we head up a draw and then descend to Shelter Lake for lunch and a break. (good fishing for small brook trout)  You can see the pass to Aero Lake above - It still looked scary to me.

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Looking back down to Shelter Lake (foreground) and Lone Elk Lake (beyond) you can see our viewpoint from our wrong way route on the far ridge.  It would have been a nightmare to try to come down that slope.  Although the route up from Shelter Lake looked bad, it was very easy and the snow fields avoided completely.

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Descending down to Lower Aero Lake was not steep but the bouldery talus made it more difficult than the way up from Shelter Lake.  If you zoom the picture you can see the guys going down.

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Getting down to Aero Lake proved to be a challenge - most of the guys went to the left and climbed over the ridge to the left.  Negotiating the large boulders  on the steep slope seemed too difficult to me so I contoured around and crossed the long snowfield just above the rocks seen in the snow.  It wasn't too bad after that.  We thought we had lost Danny when he didn't appear but he finally showed up.

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We found a nice camp near a small pond in a pass above Aero Lake.  Here Derek and Nick prepare supper.  The
fishing in Aero Lake was good in the evening for large brook trout.


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Danny reading his book at our campsite at Aero Lake

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Day 6: Aero Lake to Lady of the Lake
We had to leave the spectacular high country behind for a long descent from the tundra to the timber.


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Bill leaving camp at Aero Lake - Mt Zimmer in the background.

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Close up of Bill as he begins his 6th decade.

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Aero Lake from a high point (you can't just follow the lakeshore around the lake) from the route around the lake.  If you zoom the picture, you can see a small blue dot  near the far shore at the center of the picture.  This is Eric, dressed in Danny's suit, tie, etc. rowing Roger's raft and towing Shelby's flamingo.  Eric pulled into shore near some other hikers' camp for their amazement.

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Looking back towards Mt Villaro from viewpoint above Aero Lake.  Our camp was to the right of the photo.  The ridge at the center was where the guys came over the previous day while I had come from the left.

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Leaving Aero Lake you climb to this pass before beginning the long descent.

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Looking back for our last look at Aero Lake high country.

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Heading down Zimmer Creek - this valley was very much like a Pasayten valley in Washington.

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Looking back up Sky Top Creek from the meadow at the junction of the Zimmer and Star Creeks.

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Another creek to cross - Roger and Jon - at the large meadow above Lady of the Lake (see map).

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Our Last Camp - Lady of the Lake.

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The Last day's route -  It wasn't long but it was a pretty stiff climb out.

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