With Yellowstone Park still closed Mr L planned a drive from Gardiner up to Jardine and then up Bear Creek Road where we could find a trail for a walk. We thought we would stop at the National Forest Ranger’s office in Gardiner on the off chance they might be open to pick up a trail map – they were not open and had this brilliant sign on their door.
Unperturbed, Mr L drove us up to Jardine which as roads around here go was not too bad…….but as we proceeded on toward Bear Creek the road became narrower and rougher as we zig-zagged up the mountain side. Aware that Mrs L was not enjoying this drive one iota we stopped at Timber Camp (before the Bear Creek campsite) and agreed to find a trail from here. We had a quick wander round this campsite (there was no one camping) and came across an area where people could corral their horses and tie them up – looked like something out of a cowboy movie! There was not much in the way of trails leading out from Timber Camp but Bear Fork Road looked suitable for use as a trail – the use of the word ‘road’ is extremely debatable as it was more of a track and unpassable in anything less than a 4WD vehicle! Although not suitable for driving the average car, Mrs L was happy as it was a good width for a trail, albeit deep in grizzly bear country. From Timber Camp, which is at an elevation of 7,200 feet, we climbed ever upwards on the winding, zig-zagging track up the side of Ash Mountain which sits in the west of Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is located in both Montana and Wyoming and is partly in the Gallatin, Custer and Shoshone National Forests; it was created from these existing National Forest lands in 1978. The wilderness encompasses two mountain ranges – the Absarokas and the Beartooth ranges, hence the name.
The views even from half way up our climb were, as ever, stunning as we looked over the Wilderness and towards the assorted mountain ranges of the Rockies.
Two hours steady walking, we puffed and panted our way to the top of the incline of the track which we later worked out was at 9,000 feet and by now we were well above the snow line and walking in snow. We carried on a bit further but the track was starting on the decline and as we knew not where this would take us we decided it was time to turn round and head back down. The journey down took us 1 hour 20 mins. Going down is much easier than going up!
No sightings of bear but we reckon this tree shows fresh bear marks.
Minimal wildlife spotted over the past 2 days – only elk, pronghorn, mule deer and squirrels!
Sadly, it is goodbye to Montana and Wyoming in the morning as we head off for new adventures in Utah. Slight alterations are required to our journey plans as we can’t drive through Yellowstone and out of the West entrance as originally planned but instead we will have to head back to Livingston and pick up the Interstate 15 which will take us all the way to Salt Lake City.