I am back from a traverse of the Beartooth Plateau with BSA Troop 676 of Bozeman, and am getting caught up, so can't provide much more than teasers right now. The good stuff (photos and gear list) will appear when this blog is relaunched with a new design later this month, or in early August.
Here are some highlights from the trek:
Three adults and six Scouts completed the entire traverse. The average age of the Scouts was 13.5 years old. Four members of our crew were either 12 or 13 years old. The Scouts carried a total of 149 pounds of personal gear, food, and patrol gear amongst the six of them.
We completed a route of about 50 miles that traversed the entire plateau from the Beartooth Highway (Highway 212) to Aero Lakes. We spent about 1/3 of our time off trail on snow, talus, and tundra. The longest hike any of these Scouts had completed before was 18 miles, and two nights.
The Scouts slept in a GoLite Shangri-La 8 (no inner tent), cooked over fire using two 4-L pots (with a few meals over Esbit when wood was not available), and treated water with Aqua Mira in two 4-L collapsible water bags.
Everyone wore running shoes. No one got a blister. I sprained my shoulder and everyone got a small cut or two. One cut got infected and the Scout had to go to the ER a day after coming home for IV antibiotic treatment. Spooky.
We encountered rain, hail, wind, sun, snow, talus, scree, river crossings, and mosquitoes - with no small amount of each!
Scouts carried three ULA Circuit Packs, one GoLite Jam pack, one frameless Lowe Alpine rucksack, and one Bozeman-vintage Dana pack with a light load in it (this one was carried by our 17 year old).
We caught, and ate, trout.
We bagged a remote peak.
The Scouts did their own navigation. We followed.
We ended our trek by hiking Highway 212 right into the Beartooth Cafe in Cooke City during the middle of the Beartooth Motorcycle Rally, when $5 Million worth of Harley Davidson's congregate in Cooke City. We stuck out like sore thumbs, walking downtown with our packs on. It was fun.
So -- more soon. Here are a few teasers.
Ambling on Tundra
Chase, 12, walks up the Sierra Creek valley en route to Castle Lake on a day hike from Green Lake.
I've been reviewing, and comparing, interesting ultralight options for the past few months - the Lightheart Solo (and Duo) and the custom cousin of the Solo pictured here. For this version, I specified a Cuben Fiber rain fly, dual zip doors, and one side of the fly set up as a porch for cooking and views. The dual doors let me stow gear on one side and cook and enter/exit on the other, and allow the whole thing to be completely unzipped with the fly rolled up when neither weather nor insects threaten.
I took this new 19 ounce shelter into the Great Bear Wilderness last week but didn't have time to seal the seams, and we got 2 1/2 inches of rain on the trip in 48 hours.
So I had puddles in my tent, but the views were great. I was using a synthetic quilt, so the puddles didn't do anything terribly threatening once I wrang out my sleeping bag, and I still slept warm. This is where the advantage of synthetic gear, and duplicity in insulation (quilt + insulating jacket and pants made from high loft synthetic insulation) really comes in handy.
Earlier I lamented about having too many tents but once I seal the seams on this one I think it will rapidly become something I use more, at least on short trips when I don't mind the extra weight of a tent, especially as bug season beckons.
The view from Apgar would look like this today if not for the rain and fog.
This photo was taken a few evenings ago when there were just enough clouds to add character and just enough ripple on the lake to give it a little bit of texture.
Today we leave here and trek into the upper reaches of the Middle Fork Flathead River, back in the Great Bear Wilderness, where we'll see fewer tourists, no tire tracks, and no wooden viewing platforms over the rapids of the river.
Patrol Leader's Council Meeting, Glacier National Park
LEICA M9, ZEISS BIOGON 35/2.8C, JUNE 2010
The Patrol Method, and Leadership Development, are the two Methods of Scouting that are sometimes the hardest to implement because parents' instincts are to foster an environment where these methods are hijacked.
This is one of the big reasons why Scouting has evolved into a retraining organization rather than an organization that reinforces what's already going on in the home: there's a lot that has to be undone in order to even reach a foundation from which the Patrol Method and Leadership Development can be implemented.
When an 11- or 12-year old is given the chance to lead a group of peers, and when that group of peers has both responsibility and accountability, they can do great things as kids and become the right types of leaders as adults: leaders that serve, not bark.
Both responsibility and accountability have to be real, however, not contrived - and this is the primary difference between how responsibility and accountability is implemented in the contemporary American Home vs. the Traditional Baden-Powell-esque Scout Patrol.
That's why today, I'm handing the boys a new map, and asking them which trailhead they'd like us to drive them to tomorrow, and which trails they'd like us to follow them on, and which camps they'd like us to pitch our shelters near.
Great Bear Wilderness Trip Planning, Glacier National Park
Bridger Mountains and the Gallatin Valley, Montana
Leica M9, Zeiss 35/2.8C
How do you train a boy to walk a 50-Miler?
In Bozeman, you do it by walking up and down and across the satellite ridges of the Bridger Mountains, where the trails are steep and the mountains have size, and there are enough views so you can forget how much your feet hurt.
The photo shows the Flesh Eating Tick patrol lighter on their feet because the view is good and the 3,000 foot climb is now behind them.
They have warm food in their bellies too, from cooking over fire, which also warms the soul of a boy with cheer.
They get double points for doing it in the rain down in a dark, wet, mossy forest.
Pointedtip Mariposa Lily (Calochortus apiculatus), Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana
Sigma DP2, ISO 50, f/2.8, 1/160 sec.
This post is dedicated to my wife Stephanie because her favorite types of photos that I bring back from my trips are those of wildflowers, and the lily is unique because of its ability to retain its beauty in spite of having to grow in the harsh conditions of an arid, rocky forest. The Mariposa Lily is also known as the Madonna of the Rocks, after da Vinci's famous painting depicting the maternal care of the human race in the midst of earthly turmoil.
The Pointedtip Mariposa (some lazier flower guys call them "Pointed Mariposas" and Patterson may even classify this one as a Cat's Ear) is one of the most beautiful flowers in Montana because the season in which they look really good is pretty short, only a couple of weeks in late June and early July (no relationship here to my wife, FYI, her growing/beauty season is longer). They're mostly found in drier, forested valleys that see a bit of sunshine to the forest floor. I've seen them only in NW Montana - in the Bob Marshall Complex and the Swan Range, along with the Sawtooths in Idaho and the Pasayten in Washington.
Don't let those little dark spots scare you off - they're not bugs, but the nectar glands.
The bulbs are edible, meaty, and probably pretty nutritious. They're OK raw, and taste like a potato. They're awfully good when they are briefly boiled, and exceptional stuffed into the belly cavity of a cutthroat trout caught in the same stream that flows below the higher banks where you'll find the flowers in partial shade of conifers. They're even better soaked in salt, then roasted in tin foil in the coals of a wilderness cookfire. The petals are less flavorful but make for pretty salads, and the flowerbuds are sweet, and wonderful, like an avalanche lily but more filling. Eat them in mid-June, before the flowers open up.