Monday, February 10, 2014

XC Skiing into the remote western edge of YNP

This area is very secluded and we have yet to bump into anyone on the trails.  We enter south of Big Sky and north of West Yellowstone where the Gallatin River exits the park.  All images are "Clickable"

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wildlife Viewing at it's Finest

We had a great day in Yellowstone this past weekend with our main goal of wildlife viewing.  We pushed through a blizzard in the Paradise Valley heading south but decided to press on to Gardner to re-evaluate.  The blizzard was isolated and Gardner / Roosevelt entrance provided an inviting partly cloudy day with temps in the 20's.  Perfect!!!   All images are "clickable".

While observing the Soda Butte Creek area, we spotted five bull moose amongst a group of buffalo.  This is the first time we have seen such a large grouping of bull moose. 

One large bull decided to take a stroll through the creek by himself.  He is an incredible animal and very healthy.

Not to be outdone, a herd of Mountain Sheep decided to descend a ridge line and pay us a visit.  They gave us quite a show and the lamb was especially active.

It is always a great experience in the park during the winter months and probably our favorite time of year to visit!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Yellowstone Spring through Fall 2012 Part 2

Wolf Encounter........ In prep for the Beartooths and other backcountry trips, we took the opportunity to test-run the light and ultra-light backcountry gear at Yellowstone since it was a 70 degree and blue sky weekend. We were (as always) hoping to spot wolves...and were not disappointed! 
This black male was about 50 feet from our campsite when the photo was snapped at around 5pm. We believe he was originally traveling East to link with his pack when he was disrupted. He ended up loping off to the west.

We believe the white female and the rest of the pack were near the Gardner River Valley to the east. This was amazing! But it got better. He came back around 1130 pm with a faint howl in the distance (west) and then he moved right through our site stopping every 100 yards or so to howl. The peak was the growl right outside the tent!

We believe that the growl was for Jazzy who was in the tent with us...or possibly to another pack mate as they moved. That seems less likely though as he was alone earlier in the day.. Right after the growl, he let out a spine tingling howl that was very loud since it was right on our doorstep! He continued east stopping about every 100 yards to howl until he eventually faded. We didn't get to sleep for quite a while. We are doing some research as to which pack this was. We watched 3 of the 6 members of the Agate pack earlier in the day near the Hellroaring Valley area. It could be Blacktail, Quadrant Mountain, or the Canyon Pack as they nearly overlap.

*All images are "clickable".

Monday, November 12, 2012

Yellowstone Spring through Fall 2012

We have had an incredible summer in the Montana back country and surrounding areas and attractions.  Since I have not posted for a few months and the pictures are piling up, time for some photos of the mighty Yellowstone National Park from spring through fall 2012.

View of the Gardner River looking Southwest. 

Thirsty Buffalo getting a drink in the Hellroaring area north of the Lamar Valley drainage.

Bighorn sheep causing an awkward pause on a hiking trail.  They won.

Bighorn sheep continuing on their way as we took a "detour".

All images are "clickable"

"Wolf Encounter" to follow......

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Garnet Mountain Fire Tower

This is a shot of Garnet Mountain in the Gallatin Range. Taken from the approach to StormCastle, this photo catches a glimpse of the fire lookout tower at it's peak at 8,245 feet. The structure is accessible by foot and ATV (when authorized) and by snowshoe in the winter months. The tower is no longer in service, but serves as a back-country "cabin" of sorts. Available for overnight camping through the NPS, it offers incredible views with minimal accommodations while giving campers a very remote experience on a tall peak.
We will be spending a night (or two) very soon and will post pictures and trip report when completed. The views should span the entire Gallatin Range as well as the Madison and Absorka wilderness areas as well. The following site serves as both information and reservation system. "cut and paste into your browser.

Image is "clickable"

Where's my map......

Sunday, July 15, 2012


StormCastle is a prominence in the Gallatin National Forest / Gallatin Mountain range about 25 miles south of Bozeman, Montana. StormCastle's crumbling yet majestic rock peak is easily spotted from the Gallatin Canyon and instantly explains the well-described name.

From the trail-head elevation of 5400 Feet to the summit at 7480 Feet, the 2.5 mile hike to the top is continuously uphill and steady. Drifting from switchbacks amongst juniper and loaded with scree to dense lodgepole pine and ferns, the trail has a large variety of terrain as well as views. Wildflowers are abundant in the meadows, while chipmunks run rampant through the boulders, cliffs, and rocky fields.

Once near the summit, the trail enters the darkest portion of forest with a pine needle covered floor. The blue sky peeks through the trees from every direction and the exposed rock forms a long wall on the Eastern side leading to the top.

View from just below the summit to the sheer face crags to the east. Squaw creek flows through the valley in the foreground from the peaks in distant center.

This is a view through the natural "keyhole" on the eastern crags. The drop-off from the edge is a sheer 400 foot plunge which explains the "belly rubs" on the ground leading to the edge.

The Spanish Peaks provide the south and western backdrop while the Gallatin River splits the Madison and Gallatin Ranges. This is prime grizzly country and sightings are often. The drop from the edge of the summit is well over 600 feet and is comprised of aged and crumbling rock. Caution is critical on the edges, but the views are just as stunning from a few feet back.

Total time for the hike and a snack while taking in the views is about 3 hours. I recommend dipping your feet in the icy cold Squaw Creek near the trail-head or further down in the Gallatin River itself. A great reward for a great hike!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Epic Bike Ride and Inspiring Story

While parking our bikes at the library early this morning, we struck up a conversation with a gentleman doing the same. The conversation was sparked because of the loaded panniers, sleeping bag, and "road trip" condition of his bike. Seems he was on the return side of a pretty epic adventure following a near tragedy.

He said he had beaten cancer in the spring of last year and the battle had left him badly out of shape yet with a new lease on life. He felt he needed to enjoy life to it's fullest and see the country while at the same time getting back into shape. After saving every penny he could for six months, he set out from Bismark, North Dakota to the shores of California in August 2011.

Through the Beartooth and Absoroka ranges of Montana and Wyoming into Yellowstone and then the Tetons, he pushed through Idaho and Nevada on his way to Northern California. From San Francisco to San Diego he rode the Pacific Coast Highway camping and sightseeing along the way. His use of motels was very limited and it was apparent he had spent the majority of nights under the stars.

As winter was gripping the northern states, he began his trip back home with another push up the coast of California. As winter began turning to spring, he followed the Oregon coast and eventually Portland. This leg of the trip would see the Columbia River valley along with a trek north across Washington to Spokane and then across the sliver of northern Idaho into Montana. Across the continental divide and the northern Rockies, his trip led him from Missoula to his current stop in Bozeman.

As he was gathering some hygiene items and anxious for the e-mail the library would provide, I asked about his thoughts on blogging or writing an article on his adventure. He said he had given a couple interviews in California when he was approached by reporters and this prompted him to write detailed notes of his trip should he wish to put pen to paper. The rest of our conversation involved bike maintenance, road hazards, weather, and planning. He had taken them all in stride and gave the impression that he was never too concerned, but had faith in enjoying the trip and the next day's miles.

He would soon be home with both a monumental victory and life changing adventure in his memory. It was an inspiring story and a great encounter. You never know the plight of the man or woman next to you on the street.

We hope to see this story told in a book, blog, or article over the next several months and wish him the best of success in his future endeavors!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Yellowstone Part II

Continued from Yellowstone Part I, January 2012.

Within a mile of entering the park we were greeted by these happy campers from high above. They were giving quite a show and seemed content on their rocky cliffs. Some head butting, jumping and chasing, and tricky foot-work had us both laughing and holding our breath at the same time. Mountain Goats are abundant throughout the Gardner and Mammoth areas with it's many cliffs and outcroppings. We ended up watching their antics for the better part of half an hour. They were in no hurry, but we had things to do!The next stop was the Mammoth Hot Springs area. The springs themselves are very active from all the thermal activity and the entire area belches smoke like a witch's cauldron. Rising well above the valley floor, the terraces are eerie in the winter landscape, but full of beautiful colors and icicle laden trees. The boardwalk provides a great stroll "through" the many pools and bubbling streams. It was interesting to note the depth of the snow as much as two to three feet while water too hot to touch was merely inches away. The vapor turning to ice and clinging to gnarly tree branches sparkled and reflected light and the yellows and blues of the mineral deposits.

View from the terraces across Mammoth Village to the northeast. The Absoroka range in the distance.

"Falls" and deposits. This whole thing is a massive "bulge" from the surrounding valley and hillside. Elaborate deposits of blue, yellow, green and brown.

Despite the beauty of this "alien" landscape, the Lamar Valley and it's wildlife beckoned. With thoughts of wolves, grizzlies, buffalo and elk, we put the steaming springs behind us and into the valley we went.

Images are "clickable"

to be continued......

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Moose Encounter, Gallatin River 10 March 2012

We spent Saturday and it's incredible 60 degree temps and blue-bird sky fishing and exploring the Gallatin River from the Axtel bridge to Big Sky. It was a great day and met us with a few surprises as well.

The above photo is of the Gallatin River looking northeast with the Bridger Range providing the backdrop. Bozeman is located near the foothills of the Bridgers in the far center of the photo. This is a beautiful, sprawling section with wide open views and a never-ending sky. Our exploration would take us up river to the south towards Yellowstone NP through the canyon separating the Madison and Gallatin Mountain Ranges.

Upon entering the canyon south on highway 191, we happened upon a yellow lab which appeared to be injured. Since this is a very dangerous stretch of tight, canyon road, we assisted some other folks in stopping traffic and getting the dog calmed down and out of traffic. As the Mrs. coaxed the dog off the road, he responded with a flop onto his back for a belly rub and his tail never stopped wagging. Thankfully it appeared to have no internal injuries or broken bones, only some minor scrapes and cuts. She cleaned his wounds from the shoulder of the road while another good Samaritan attempted to reach the owners listed on the tag. Since they lived very near the area, up went the dog into the back of their car for a link-up with the owners while we continued south.

Some really beautiful stretches of river gave us an opportunity for rainbows, brookies, and cutthroats. We had several trout rise and follow the bait, but it was apparent they were not born yesterday and decided to tease us instead. The tranquil settings and warm breezes easily outweighed the lack of bites and soon fishing evolved into exploring.

Above: Wifey casting into the current on the Gallatin River.

Above: Gallatin River vicinity Stormcastle.

Just downstream from the above photo we stumbled upon not one, but two moose! I have to say it is a heart pounding experience getting within 30 yards of these magnificent beasts especially when not knowing if it was with a calf and therefore potentially dangerous. Thankfully it was a pair of cows which were much more concerned with munching pine needles than us pesky trekkers with cameras. The second came into view shortly after the first, wow! We were lucky enough to be in a position to maintain a safe distance with good tree cover should they get aggressive or shy. For the next 15 minutes we watched and photo'd these two lovely ladies as they ate and finally lye down in the snow for a rest. Bumping into moose while exploring is an incredible experience as it is, but along the banks of the Gallatin in a deep canyon was simply amazing!

Trout = zero, moose = 2, rescued dog = 1. Not a bad day at all in the Gallatin Valley!

All photos are "clickable"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dog World in Montana

While sitting in a parking lot near a busy intersection waiting for the Mrs., I decided to count the number of pooches enjoying a ride with their owners. Between pick-up beds, front seat droolers, and back seat window lickers, I counted 11 of 15 autos with furry sidekicks in the first 30 seconds. Now some may argue that this is NOT the dog capital of the world, but I would submit it is in the running for "top dog hot spot"!

For example, coming out of the US Post Office I was greeted by two drooling hounds fighting for the open window of a Subaru while the labs in back of the pick up beside it got a drive-by licking completed on me!

And then there are the dog parks which out number people parks. One park even has a climbing boulder of sorts for those adventurous canines looking for some crag work!

Retail businesses are not immune and most have succumbed to doggy peer pressure. Retailers allowing and even encouraging 4 legged fidos include Target, Costco, Walmart, and most downtown local shops. One shop has underwater treadmills for doggy fitness!

Of course the sidewalks on main street are just shy of a Westminster Kennel Club championship event in breeds and overall numbers. Even the mutts are wearing Northface! And their dogs too!

But the clincher for the world title has to be the back-country adventure Rover's, Spot's, and Buddy's. While enjoying the views from the 9600 ft. Sacajawea Peak, we couldn't help but notice the dog to human ratio. At one point, there were more dogs than humans and they were panting significantly less than their human counterparts!

So if you wonder why people leave their car doors unlocked in parking lots, water bowls are found at a bistro or boutique, and many a fleece looks like it survived a mating attempt by a sasquatch, no worries.... you are in Bozeman and life (for dogs) is good.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

International Street Food Bazaar

We had a really great time at the 30th Annual International Street Food Bazaar. The event was held at the MSU Student Union. The venue was fun and included 30 country booths and live bands. The crowd was a broad mix of students, faculty and locals since it is open to the public.

The Petis and Samosa from Bangladesh were excellent with their mint and tamarind sauces. Deep fried potato and chicken with various spices, made for a very tasty "pocket".

Cyprus served potato meatballs and katmer pastries, while Turkey offered baklava and ground meat phyllo pie. The phyllo pie resembled a very delicate pastry with meat and spices inside and full of flavor.

The tamales wrapped in corn leaves were delicious. As they were from Panama, they had a different texture than the Mexico version and I would say a bit better. Corn, chicken, cheese, tortilla and spices in a pasty texture made for a great tasting dish.

The Korean bulgogi was the favorite. Very bold and sweet, I loved this when I first had it back in Kentucky as a friend's wife was Korean and cooked her native dishes. It was incredible!

Follow this up with a fusion band playing from Moroccan to Turkisk to Greek music and the festival was a big hit. We will be there for the 31st annual!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bridger Mountains Hike, 9 February 2012

With a light snow dusting the higher elevations, Jazzy dog and I set out to do some back-country trekking. Our destination for the day was the southern end of the Bridger Range along the western slopes.

This is a pretty mild hike with an elevation gain of around 2300 feet over a 5-6 mile stretch. The initial leg (no pun intended) is a bit of a thigh-buster, but once traversing the many spurs, the downhills are frequent enough to catch a breather. With the crazy warm weather this winter the first few miles of trail were snow free and in really great shape. We finally hit snow and ice pack at around 6800 feet and had to don the yak traks. Of course Jazzy dog just shifted into 4 wheel "low" and smiled as she did drive-by lickings on me.Since the trail climbs and skirts the ridge line, deep forests open up to great viewing spots throughout the hike. This is usually accompanied by a refreshing blast of wind. The views of the Gallatin Valley are inspiring. Looking west, Bozeman drifts into Belgrade and then beyond to Manhattan and Three Forks. The Gallatin River meanders northwest while the Madison and Jefferson Rivers flow north until linking up with the Gallatin and forming the Missouri River. The Tobacco Root Mountains provide the backdrop for the sunset while the Madison Range flanks the South.

At around 8000 feet we began post-holing through heavy snow and decided to turn back. Avalanche threat at this point was generally low, but the next mile had much more snowfall at higher elevations and steeper grades above the trail. Jazzy was hopping like a rabbit to clear the drifts and she agreed it was time to turn back.

It was 35 degrees and crisp providing excellent conditions for a fast hike. We look forward to adding another 10 miles to this hike and then the entire ridge traverse in the future. The East side holds some great views and challenging scrambles, but will have to wait until late spring when the avalanche threat subsides.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Beautiful Winter Snowfall

We are finally getting a snow "refresher" this morning and it is beautiful. We have struggled to maintain any on the ground for longer than a few days here in the valley. The foothills even melted off after each snowfall.

Since the area is so accustomed to winter activities, the topic of "lack of snow" is flowered with grumbles and censored language. The majority of ski resorts were at less than 50% open up until a week ago and any snow shoeing or xc skiing in the valley or foothills is sporadic at best.
These conditions have really increased the avalanche hazards and have made it very difficult for snowmobiling and back-country skiing. We have been turned around from some great hikes even though the foothills were in great condition. The higher elevation slopes are extremely volatile so it is very hard to justify the risk. The above pic is courtesy of

When you add up these factors you can see how many outdoor activities have been curbed and much gear is resting quietly in garages and sheds throughout the area. 40's in January and February seems nice, but it is unwelcome say the locals!

Might as well head out for a run. In February!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another "Tap Room" Favorite

After another hearty day of exploring we again found ourselves in a fine "craft beer" establishment. The Bozeman Brewing Company or "Bozone" did not fail in quenching our thirsts and providing a nice "all things beer" atmosphere. This fine factory of foamy goodness is located very near the downtown area and its many restaurants. I’ll cover the “food proximity” issue a bit later.

I tend to lean towards the heavy and hop laden IPA's, Pale's, and Cream Stouts while the Mrs. makes no doubt that clean, crisp, and "easy on the finish" are her preferred choices. An unfiltered Hefeweizen, Imperial Stout, or Double IPA under her nose will usually generate a prompt and lively critique that would send a well intentioned monk stumbling for cover! Better make that a Lager, Pilsner, or Brown Ale!

Luckily, Bozone has enough standard and seasonals to satisfy any taste. She has her Schwarze Blackmore Lager and I have Hopfest and Plum Street Porter. Bozone Select (Amber), German Blonde, and Java Stout are noteworthy as well.

As with all Montana brewery “tap rooms”, some quirky laws prevail. Each guest can have no more than 3 pints per visit. They fall under highly regulated hours (closing at 8pm each night). Food is not served on site (proximity to restaurants may be a bonus), and “growler refill” hours are strictly enforced. Some additional tid-bits of Montana beer laws are found here

Growlers (1/2 gallon glass or river-friendly plastic jugs) are the best take-home value going. In fact, growlers can be refilled at other tap rooms as the brewers mutually support each others customers in a “co-op” type of agreement. This is kind of nice when seasonals change or one craft brewer runs out of your favorite. Fresh beer in a half gallon jug is always a welcome addition to any refrigerator!

Some things are always certain at a Montana tap room. The beer is always fresh,the crowd is always lively, and the talk is always of great beer. Cheers!

I will be posting "Yellowstone 2" soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yellowstone Part 1, January 2012

With a "free entry day" and unusual 30-40 degree temps in January, we couldn't resist making the short drive to Yellowstone. The only entrances open to autos are Gardiner (north entrance) and Cooke City (northeast entrance). This closure takes effect each year between mid November through late April because of heavy snowfall and low out-of-season tourism. All park roads south of Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt areas are closed as well. The park does however, remain open to snowmobile, ski, and foot traffic throughout the year.

The drive from Livingston to Gardiner follows the Yellowstone River through the Paradise Valley. The valley is flanked by the Absaroka Range on the East and Gallatin Range on the West. Both ranges provide an incredible backdrop in color, ruggedness, and wildlife as you work your way south to the park. The elk pictured above are grazing the foothills of the Absaroka Range. The Yellowstone River serves as a beautiful companion as it wanders throughout the valley providing fishing and habitat. Below is Emigrant Peak (10915 feet) as viewed from The Yellowstone River north of Chico Hot Springs.

Once through the small town of Gardiner, the North Entrance awaits. "For The Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People, Created By Act Of Congress March 1, 1872".

Our destination...backcountry hiking the Lamar Valley.