July 31, 2014

Big Timber, Montana, Blue Lake

     Mike and Janna Clark and Larry and Geri Gustafson, rode to Blue Lake. Leaving Big Timber, MT, going south on Boulder River Road. You will pass one private campground close to town, and several national service campgrounds with no services, some have pit toilets. It is a very scenic drive and you will pass the Natural Bridge, it is quite a sight to see, the Boulder River drops 90 ft, creating a waterfall, there is manmade bridge to get to the other side and walk around so you can view the waterfall from a different angle.

window view Begin of river
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  We camped a one of the first camps, Beaver camp, no fee, at mile marker 8.  There are 8 more further down the road, but some are small sites. Hines Camp near the end of the road have some larger sights, but remember, it is on a first come basis.  Our camp was right along the river, with the sound of the rushing river, nice picnic table and fire rings. You can find a forest service map for this area. There are several trailheads for hiking or horseback.  The main road and path to the top  is the only motorized area.

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  We left camp at 8:30am, taking a lunch, raingear, bug spray and a camera. Mike led the way and pointed out interesting places on long the way.  There are several church camps and private homes and guest ranches along this gravel road.  You are traveling near the Boulder River, the name explains it! Up a valley with mountains of mature trees, rock slides and grassy meadows.  Be aware, this is bear country, Bears and their scat have been seen here. You may like to check out the campgrounds along the way, most are for tents or short campers. We stopped at several bridges for pictures takings.  You will find kiosk along the way with maps for the area. We made it to Box Canyon, where there is a small Forest Service cabin and a parking area also. The day we were here there were several horse trailers, this is a popular are for pack trips to mountain lakes for trout fishing. At this point we used 4 wheel drive, because you will be doing some rock climbing, not dangerous, just tricky.
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  Along the way we crossed some large puddles, creeks, looked at some old buildings like the ones in the old gold camp town of Independence. In the 1880's this was a bustling town of 60 buildings and 600 miners looking for gold. Further up in elevation, you will see places where the winter avalanches have come down the mountain pushing rocks and trees out of the way. Mountain wild flowers were blooming, white, yellow, blues, including the red  Indian paint brush and a pale yellow columbine. At the top of the summit, looking to the south you will see two peaks, these are in Yellowstone National Park 15 miles away.  We had a short distance to go and saw the Blue Lake, which is down in a hole, where it is filled with winter snow melt. As of July 31, there was glaciers on the mountain side feeding the lake.  Look at the glacier and you will see pink snow, it is a fungus on the old glacier snow. It is a sight to behold, this is where we had our picnic lunch break of an hour .  It took us 4 hours up, 24 miles and a few stops to enjoy the view. There was a pickup truck with benches in the box for the Dude Ranch guest, so they can ride up and see the lake, that must be some bouncy ride. On the way down, it is just as spectacular,
3 1/2 hours down, total ride 48 miles, 1/2 or 3/4 tank of gas in our ATV's.
Other rides in this area, Down East Boulder Road to Moccasin Lake, and more

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4 pack train Janna and cows