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Chapter 2: Backpacking in the Beartooth Wilderness, Part 2








Day 5) Weds, Backpack to Diamond Lake

Thawing our bodies and boots in the sunThis morning we woke up to frozen stiff boots. After yesterday's day hike, our boots were wet and over night in the freezing cold they froze. We found a log out in the open along the shoreline where we were able to warm up our boots and our bodies in the sunshine while we ate our breakfast.

We cleared the frost and snow from the tent and dining fly, packed up camp, and headed off to our next camp at Diamond Lake.

This stretch of our backpack took us thru the premier part of the Lake Plateau area. We passed by several small pristine mountain lakes. Each one beckoning us to setup camp and stay for a while. This was the beautiful back country we had come here for. Unfortunately, we could not dawdle long. We passed by Owl and Pipit Lakes and then the string of Rainbow Lakes. After the last of the Rainbow Lakes we entered a "boring" forested valley area. We eventually climbed up a hill and arrrived at our destination, Diamond Lake. Total hike distance was 7.4 miles.

After seeing the beautiful Rainbow Lakes area, we wished we had skipped Lake Pinchot and spent more time in the Rainbow area.

Unamed lake

One of the several un-named lakes in the Lake Plateau area.

Upper Rainbow Lake

Approaching the upper Rainbow Lake from the north.

Diamond Lake

Approaching Diamond Lake from the east. We camped here for two nights.
We had the place to ourselves.

Day 6) Thurs, Dayhike to Mirror Lake

Today we planned to day hike up to Mirror Lake, about 3 miles away. There was no trail, so were planning on just bushwacking our way. Fortunately, the terrain was fairly open so we didn't have to wack a lot of bushes.

Panorama from day hike

From Diamond Lake, we hiked up into the hills towards Mirror Lake.
This was an early view back. Diamond Lake is the water off on the right.

From the end of Diamond Lake, we followed a small stream up the hillside to a series of tarns in a rocky bowl area. From the edge of the bowl we could look down into the valley to the east and see two lovely lakes, the further one was Mirror Lake. We enjoyed a quick snack from our lofty perch overlooking the lakes before we descended into the valley. We decided to take a quick dip in Mirror Lake. I got in to just above my ankles and Diane got in all the way. The water was COLD ! I don't know how she can swim in such cold water.

View of Mirror Lake

Here's where we stopped for lunch. The near lake in the distance is un-named.
The further lake is Mirror Lake.

Rainbow Lakes panorama

From view from the ridge line above the Rainbow Lakes.

After drying off, we continued on heading east. According to the map, we should be able to climb over a wide gentle ridge and look down on the Rainbow Lakes. We easily found our way over the ridge and looked down on the Rainbow Lakes that we had hiked along just yesterday. From the ridge we hiked southward. We soon found ourselves on a rockier, steeper section of the ridge. After checking our map, compass, and GPS, we plotted a path back home that would take us along the contour of the hillside and intersect with the outlet stream from Mirror Lake. Well, we went wrong somewhere and ended up decending the hill and getting into some rough steep countryside. We finally decided to change our plan, head downhill, and just pick up the trail back to Diamond Lake. It took us longer to find the trail than we had anticipated, but we eventually did. From then on it was an easy hike back. Total hike distance today was 6.6 miles.

Day 7) Fri, Hike out to Upside-Down Trailhead, Drive to Deer Lodge

The hike out from Diamond Lake (or nearby Horseshoe Lake) along Upside-Down Creek is a very long 7.2 miles), boring, tiring downhill trek following a long valley back to the trailhead. It is mostly forested, but there are a few areas of open rock slides. There are also several areas of steep switchbacks thru areas of rock slides. I wouldn't want to do this trail in reverse. The long continual uphill grind would have killed me.

When we finally reached the car we got cleaned up in the nearby stream, changed clothes and started the 45 mile drive back out to the Interstate. Along the way we stopped at the Roadkill Café in McLeod for lunch. The Roadkill Burger, fries and Coke were pure heaven. My first "real" food in days, after all the freeze-dried meals from the trail.

This is the beginning of Upside Down Creek valley.
It's a 7.2 mile hike down to the trailhead.

From McLeod, it was a 184 mile drive back thru Bozeman to Deer Lodge where we stayed at a Super 8 motel. We were heading for the northwest corner of Montana where we were going to rent some firetowers next.

While checking in at the Super 8, the TV news was showing all this flooding damage in a major city. I thought there had been a tsunami in India or some other third world nation based on the damage. We were shocked to learn it was New Orleans! The lady at the motel thought we must be real idiots. It had been on the news all day, every day. But, hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans the day after we entered the woods and we of course had no way of hearing the news till we came out.



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last revised : February 9, 2006