A few years ago (wow, I really can’t believe it’s that long ago already) I travelled to Montana in the USA to visit a good friend of mine who lives right on the Western foothills of the Rockies. I was only there for 10 days but wow, what an awesome time and place. I’d highly recommend anyone who loves the great outdoors to check it out.
Part of my “itinerary” that my mate had organised for me was an overnight hike on the Eastern side of the Rockies to a gorgeous lake named Our Lake perched at about 2800m above sea level, here’s a Google Maps link: http://goo.gl/maps/GJ4SJ
We rose early, dropped into the local supermarket for some snacks and coffee for the four hour trip and off we went, I was extremely excited, if not a little apprehensive, about my first hike and overnight camp in bear country! After a very scenic drive east through the Rockies then out onto the vast Montanan prairie which actually is typical of the vast majority of the state, we turn and head north for a bit before heading west back into the Rockies. The eastern ranges are vastly different to the west, much drier and more barren that the lush green western side, but simply beautiful in their own right.
The road turns to gravel as we start meandering into the foothills, the odd farmhouse here and there. We round a bend and there, right in front of us is a Black Bear, so awesome! We stop the car and I get out to take a few pics
Soon enough we’re at the small car park that is the starting point of our hike and I’m grabbing my pack out of the boot, attaching bear spray to my belt and holstering a fully loaded .45 ACP Glock, this aint like any gear for any other hike I’ve ever been on! Those of you that know anything about guns will probably have wondered what the .45 Glock was for, did I want to seriously piss-off an already cranky Grizzly Bear by trying to shoot it with a Glock? No, there were also mountain lions and smaller Black Bears. My mate told me it would also be useful for making sure he ran slower than me in the event of a Grizzly Bear chasing us, that is if he didn’t shoot me in the leg first! (He was joking, I hope!)
Anyhow, we set off from the hot dry car park and soon enough are enveloped in a lovely cool forest as we follow the well worn trail.
The trail is not overly long, I think only about two miles but climbs about 400m in altitude to the lake (from memory) and took us about 2 hours. A great hike indeed. About half way there we cross a some scree and a cool looking gnarled old tree
Then on to the last steeper section that takes you up to the lake. On the way there I came across these beautiful little red flowers called Indian Paintbrush. I took a photo, then noticed the awesome backdrop of the cliff face directly below the lake, so got down on my belly to get the Indian Paintbrush in the foreground with the cliff face backdrop. I was only packing a cheap “point and shoot” and the focus is not quite right but I love this photo
Not too much further along and I crest the edge of the basin that holds the lake, and my jaw drops… wow. Simply gorgeous. I sit down and just suck it all in. I felt so good.
We set up camp on the far edge of the lake, and I must say that as the sun sets, after having already seen a Mountain Lion not far from camp, I start getting more and more nervous about the Grizzlies.
That night was the first time I’ve ever slept with a loaded (bit not cocked) firearm on my chest! There was an anxious moment some time in the middle of the night when we both heard twigs crunching and we cocked the pistols and grabbed the bear spray before switching on the torch! I ended up sleeping a whole lot more than I expected, and this is what was to great us in the morning
And a shot with our tiny bear proof (not!) tent in the foreground
I highly recommend a hike to Our Lake to anyone lucky enough to find themselves in Montana.