It's been 3 years since we've driven to Wyoming with Cooper to hike in the Bighorns. This was also our first backpacking trip in the past 2 years without our toddler Wes. He's good for about a mile on his own feet and is now too heavy to carry in the pack so sadly he's gonna miss out on the longer trips til he can build up his mileage. Powder River's dad Gary joined us once again on this trip. At 72 he's still going strong with backpacking at high elevation! Powder's folks live in Sheridan, WY at the base of the Bighorns, an impressive but often overlooked range for travelers. This is in our favor: we love hiking with no other people around and having such beautiful country to ourselves!
This trip we tried a new trailhead for us, Lower Paint Rock Lake. It was the longest drive we've done for a trailhead out from Sheridan- long mainly because we were on gravel road of variable conditions for 25miles. The total drive was 4 hours, the gravel section took us 1.5 hours.
From Lower Paint Rock Lake, we took trail no. 59 to Teepee Pole Flats. We made a base camp in the North Paint Rock Creek Valley, a bit beyond Teepee Pole Flats. We spent two nights camped there and day hiked on the second day to Cliff Lake using trail no. 38 and no. 60.
We initially thought we'd base camp at Cliff Lake and then day hike the trail no. 60 and 38 loop. After the long drive and a decent 5 mile uphill hike to Paint Rock Creek (breathing heavily and taking lots of rest stops since we were up at 9000ft but left town at 3700ft), we decided to pull up short and make camp. This made for a nice hike out on our third day to the closest cheeseburger. We started missing Wes pretty bad too so it was nice to catch him for a few hours before bedtime on our final hike day. Compared to other sections we've done in Cloud Peak, we really enjoyed the variety this trail had to offer. The first leg sadly meanders through a vast blow-down section of pines. The best we could figure is maybe a squall swept through- the trees here were not diseased at all, so maybe a fierce wind alone took them down in a somewhat straight swath. The trail maintenance was superb- the blow-downs were chainsawed through, making a nice wide path. Once we crossed into the wilderness area, we climbed through pristine pine forests dotted with wildflowers which then opened up to a vast park ("park" means meadow) called Sheep Creek Park. Compared to any meadow on the AT- for example, Grayson Highlands- this Sheep Creek Park is enormous. It's immense size is hard to fully take in- like looking out on a sea of grass. Cooper enjoyed rolling rolling rolling and we were happy to have clear skies on both the in and out traverse of this high alpine meadow. You surely would not want to cross it in a thunderstorm!
For parts of this hike we felt like we were in the Lord of the Rings when the fellowship is running from Orcs right before they take the shortcut to Rivendell. My favorite terrain in the Bighorns are the meadows around the high alpine lakes. Cliff Lake did not disappoint and we took note of how this was probably one of the best days of Cooper's life hiking and swimming!
We figured Cooper might be pretty stiff after this hike but he really surprised us and didn't act tired at all when we got back to Sheridan! He's almost 8 now and since he's got a toddler, his walks are limited to what Wes can do. We're so glad we made the drive so Cooper could come too. He is at his happiest in the wilderness and he was such a good boy on the hike. It helped that we didn't encounter many chipmunks, marmots or pika- actually we didn't see any marmots or pika, though we heard them from a distance. We also didn't see any elk or moose- but of course saw lots of poop. We leashed Cooper on large sections of our walk, especially in moosey looking spots like river marshes. We did encounter a pack of 4 horses with 2 riders, on their way to "pack out some kids." Not sure we met the kids or quite understood why they needed "packing out" but we suppose some folks go-heavy in the backcountry. The Bighorns aren't very well known to the ultralight backpacking community and the couple of hikers we did encounter all had huge external frame packs.
Cooper enjoyed wearing his Turtle Top Quilt on this trip- it did feel pretty chilly at night, probably in the upper 40s and we had rain the second night. I enjoyed not having to check on him in the middle of the night, to make sure his blanket was still on, because our Turtle TQ doesn't slide off- it stays on and fully drapes your dog all through the night, even when they get up to circle! We used a piece of a Thermarest Z-rest for his ground insulation.
The only downside of our trip was the bugs! Poor Cooper got eaten alive with black flies and had blood welts on his belly. We tried using Picardin on ourselves, but when it didn't cut-it after about an hour, we switched to our old standby, 100% deet. We were glad we had pre-treated our clothes with Permethrin. I sure regretted not bringing a pair of pants. I was going light with only my hiking dress and my wool long underwear. Man I missed the rainpants- they work great when there's biting flies around. Biting flies could care less if your legs are covered in 100% deet.
The best view of the hike was when we were on our way back to the truck and found this overlook. We had a view up a large canyon. Cooper was quite done with biting insects at this point and we realized the quilt helps protect him from getting bitten when we lays down while wearing it.
Thanks for reading! Please let your friends know about our Turtle TQ!
I realize Valentine's Day isn't a hugely popular "holiday." But we can probably all agree that celebrating love, whether Agape, Philia or Eros is important no matter what form that celebration takes. This year for us, it did not come in the form of Russel Stovers and flowers. (Although I do like getting flowers and prefer any chocolate but Russel Stovers!) I'm so glad our celebration came in the form of a night at Hogcamp Gap and a night at the fairly new Three Springs Hostel in Central VA on the Appalachian Trail (North of Rt 60/Buena Vista, South of the Tye River).
Our church had a sermon on "What is Love" (queue the Haddaway song) recently. There is no one definition! Because love is not easily definable, it must be other-worldly: out of this world! On Wed night as we were pitching our tent under a perfect blanket of vast cosmos, we were engulfed with this other-worldly LOVE. Seemingly so unreachable for some, and yet always SO near to ALL.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
You know us, love of course also comes in the form of a sweet black and white face, always so thankful for these trips to "the woods" as he calls it. We enjoyed some day hiking in the Mt. Pleasant/Hogcamp Gap area and let me tell you, it was nice to not carry a full pack!
Three Springs Hostel
Kathleen started speaking poetry as we climbed the Falls of Campbells Creek on the Mau-Har. She said "The Appalachians aren't about the mountains, but about the rivers. The rivers carved the mountains and placed the boulders." I never knew theses mountains are sandstone. You can tell because when the rock breaks it makes "play-dough" shapes instead of right angles. Also, sometimes I've seen sand on top of mountains and this explains why! I always new the Appalachians were ancient but if I knew how they were formed, I had forgotten. Thanks Kathleen!
Yeah, it took us about 3 hours to do the 3.8 miles from Harpers Creek Shelter to Maupin Field. I say that just to show how strenuous the Mau-Har Trail is. Quite worth it and we were looking for a good workout! The temperature dropped as we came back up to the Maupin Field Shelter and I put the camera away. The descent down Bee Mountain back to the car was so icy, I wish we had micro spikes!! No joke! We had to slide down on our butts and then skip the last bit and just walk on the Parkway to get back to the car. We immediately drove into Waynesboro and since Wheezies Diner (terrible name, I know) was closed, we ate at the Mexican restaurant across from the infamous Tastee-Freeze. Yum! I'm not sorry that I was too tired to make it to the Super Bowl party when I got home. We had a great weekend and I'm so glad we were able to break up the dreary urban winter that drags on and on here in Baltimore! It's much nicer to be out in the cold and moving than caged in a grey city. Thank God for healthy bodies and beautifully maintained trails through the most special parts of Creation!
Camera: on this trip we decided to leave our big three pound DSLR (Canon 6D) at home and instead took the small Panasonic LUMIX GX1. Very happy with how these photos turned out!
Bobwhite's winter sleep system and clothing pack list:
Photography: photos on our hikes are primarily taken by my husband Jeff, a.k.a. Powder River: www.jeffsellenrick.com
If and when we do a longer section hike around 100 miles, we will probably average 15 miles in Fall (fewer hours of daylight) and maybe 18+ miles in summer (more daylight). It is pretty funny how much night hiking we typically do. And we did a bit on this trip too! The frustration of it is always searching for the shelter/campsite and the nagging feeling that maybe you've missed it! Cooper stays on leash during night hikes- his senses are always alert and maybe more so at night when all the animals are out, and we would never want to risk him tracing a scent and then not being able to find us in the dark. Again and again, he proves to us that his night vision is no better than our own. Although his night footing is far superior to our own!
We eventually made it to Damascus and were glad to be warm. We stayed at a new hostel for us, Woodchuck's and enjoyed the company of many other hikers who were also glad to be warm and dry. The next morning, we woke up to snow! Sadly we didn't take any photos. We headed out of town with a hiker named Gumby who just so happened to need a ride to the exact place we planned as our next destination of our altered trip: Catawba, VA. We had a great two hour ride getting to know Gumby. We dropped him off at the hostel in Catawba where he planned to stay for a while and do work-for-stay. We then headed up to the trailhead for the A.T. and made our way up to camp at the most photographed place on the A.T., McAfee Knob. We had a nice 4 mile hike to the Catawba Mountain Shelter, where we camped for the night. We attempted to hike up to the knob, and did get very close that night, but darkness and cold wind sent us back down to our sleeping bags. The next morning we left our tents set up and hiked to the knob soon after sunrise.
We've met up with our trail friend Bigglesworth three different winters for snowshoeing. She's the one to go with! She lives west of Albany and has no power or running water in her little cabin. So when she finished her AT thru-hike in 2008, she ended up carrying on the lifestyle to some degree! Now she is on a quest to hike the 46 4,000 footers of the Adirondacks.
We stayed at T-Max and Topo's hostel in Lake Placid. David and Terri run the hostel. Terri was out of town but it was good to meet David. He has quite a resume of high peaks and trail miles. He certainly loves to entertain and host avid Adirondacks hikers. The hostel has a great industrial kitchen, dining area and living room. Each bed is named for one of the ADK high peaks. The resident old lady cat, Nervina, wears a "bikini" (diaper) and is still scooting around. Cooper was admitted because we had one of the 2 private rooms, but he was not allowed in to common area-- probably best for Nervina!
The night we arrived in Lake Placid it started to rain. Big unhappy face :( Most all of the snow covering the ground outside the hostel melted. And then directly following the warm spell was the infamous "polar vortex." So all the little streams running down the trails turned to shear ice. We only went out for a few short walks and rented MICROspikes from the High Peaks Information Center near the ADK Loj. It was zero degrees when we hiked from the HPICenter. Here's Biggles with her hair frozen from her breath:
Liquids and Solids (weird name we know, but has a very creative and tasty menu!)
Big Mountain Deli and Creperie (they have 46 crepes, all amazing!!)
Lake Placid Pub and Brewery
EMS (we've found some great gear on clearance!)
Henry's Woods and a great dog-friendly local trail. There is a nice overlook of Mirror Lake.
The John Brown Farm Nat. Historical site has a nice field with view of the Olympic high ski jump tower-- locals take their dogs here to run around.
We drove through Harriman State Park on our way back to Baltimore and enjoyed a quick walk beside Lake Skannatati. Cooper tried out ice dancing.
A.T. SOBO 2011
Appalachian Trail Thru Hike
A.T. In MD
A.T. In PA
A.T. In VA
Backpacking With A Dog
Best A.T. Overlooks
Cloud Peak Wilderness
Dog Hiking Pack
Green Mountain Boys
Hikes In WY
Hiking In Polar Vortex
Hiking With A Dog
Long Distance Hiking With A Dog
Minimal Elevation Gain Hike
Mountian Harbor Hostel
Teton Crest Trail
The Long Trail
Three Springs Hostel
Thru Hiking With A Dog
Tmax And Topo's Hostel
Winter Hiking With A Dog