Absaroka Mountains

The long weekend of July 2, 2010, Tracy and I headed up to Wyoming to check out the North Absaroka Wilderness and the Washakie Wilderness. We hadn’t really been in this area, so I wanted to check it out a little more. I also wanted to check out the Beartooths since I would be doing a week in those mountains a week later, so I wanted to see what the snow situation was like. The Absarokas are thick with grizzlies, and I kind of wanted to see some bears. We stayed in Rexburg on Friday night, then drove through Yellowstone and out the east entrance on Saturday.

We hiked for a couple of hours near Grinnell Creek looking for the North Absaroka Wilderness sign. We either didn’t hike far enough, or there wasn’t a sign, so after a couple of miles we headed back to the car. That trail was uneventful, and it overlooked the highway for most of the time we were on the trail. After getting back to the truck, we headed into Cody. We checked on hotels, but it was a holiday weekend, so they were too expensive for our tastes. We then drove up to Powell, WY, to take a picture of the Powell High School Panthers to prove to people back home that they had all “Liked” the wrong school on Facebook. We then drove out to the Shoshone River at the base of Carter Mountain. The drive out to the trailhead was really nice. There were a lot of cabins along the Forest Service Road, which is bad for access, but they were really pretty if you want a cabin in the mountains. The river crossing at the trailhead was too high, so we just walked along the dirt road, and then we car camped at the trailhead.

The next day we drove around the Shoshone River valley, and then headed up towards the Beartooths via the really pretty Chief Joseph Highway. We drove up Sunlight Basin and did some hiking on the closed Forest Service Road. I was a little spooked by the thought of grizzlies in the thick forest, though, so we only walked a couple of miles. Sunlight Basin was really nice, also. After leaving Sunlight, we got lunch in Cooke City, and then I checked out the trail for a little ways at Kersey Lake. From there, we continued up the Beartooth Highway, and checked out some of the trail at Island Lake.  The following week I planned to start hiking for a week at Island Lake, and then exit at Kersey Lake. There was no snow at Kersey, and there wasn’t a whole lot of snow at Island Lake. There were probably going to be some high creek crossings, but I felt like the snow would not be a big issue.

We then continued down the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge, and then we headed to East Rosebud Lake. The drive from Red Lodge was very pretty, with endless rolling grasslands at the base of the Beartooth Mountains. East Rosebud Lake was in a very pretty cirque, but there were a bunch of cabins right at the trailhead at the end of the road, which detracted from the view. It was getting late, and we had made a hotel reservation in Cooke City, so we had to head the couple of hours back. We made it back to Cooke City just before they started the Fourth of July fireworks, so we stopped on the side of the road just outside of town to watch the fireworks. They actually had a pretty nice show considering the town only has about 100 residents. It was really, really cool hearing the explosions of the fireworks echoing off the surrounding mountains. The echoes were really loud and just seemed to go on forever.

The next day we just headed back home through Yellowstone. On the way, though, in the Lamar Valley we had the closest grizzly and wolf experience we’ve ever had. Right on the side of the road was a grizzly feeding on an elk carcass, and there was an entire wolf pack that was hanging out nearby and kept trying to get some of the food. We stayed there for 30 minutes or so and got some great close-ups of a grizzly, and our first pictures ever of some wolves. After that, we just made the long drive back home. This was a nice trip, but I’ll have to figure out how to hike the Absarokas. The wildernesses are huge, and the pretty areas seem to have some long approaches through thick grizzly-filled forests. However, I do think it’s worth hiking up there some more.

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