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September 10-16, 2005 Ė Backpacking trip in the Pioneer Mountains










This is an overview map of the general area where our trip took place.Saturday morning we got up bright and early to make the 3-hour drive to Wise River, MT. The weather was nice even though snow was predicted above 5000 ft. elevation.




This is a more detailed map of our route.We soon discovered that some of the trails had been changed since the last revision had been made of the map.Some of the trails were well maintained and some were no longer there.We had originally planned to do a loop continuing on past Odell Lake and down through Skull Creek.Unfortunately the trail connecting to Skull Cr. Was one of the non-maintained no longer findable trails so rather than create our own trail we chose to reverse our path and go back the way we had come.



Day One:

Saturday afternoon we left the trailhead in freshly fallen snow.About 30 minutes into our walk we saw 3 elk.


This is the first view of Upper Bobcat Lake you get as you approach from the main trail.


We stopped here and set up camp for the evening. This is the main view of the lake from our camp site


Bobcat Lake has a good population of Grayling.While none of them are very big they are fun to catch and make a nice

addition to your planned dinner. With

plenty of firewood nearby it was easy to

keep warm throughout the day though that evening we discovered that it would have

been better to bring the winter sleeping bag rather than the lightweight summer bags.Brrrrrrrr.


As dinnertime approached the clouds came in low over the mountain and the steam from the lake was swirling in the increasing wind.Itís hard to tell from the picture here but it really did feel like something out of a scary movie.Within about 15 minutes you couldnít see the lake at all and 10 minutes after that the whole thing blew over with no additional snow or rain.


Day 2:

This is Middle Bobcat Lake.It is just a 10-minute walk from our previous campsite.We took some time to explore around the lake before continuing on.Another 10 minutes and we were at Lower Bobcat Lake.Rather than continue on to the next lake we decided to make camp and spend the rest of the day exploring the area.


This is the view of Lower Bobcat Lake from the top of Bobcat Mountain.If you look closely you can see Upper Bobcat Lake in the picture too.Itís to the right of the tree trunk.







Below are more pictures from our day hike up Bobcat Mountain.










Day 3:

This is Grassy Lake.The trail through this area alternated between being in thick timber and natural meadow areas.It was quite obvious that there had been a number of elk in the area recently.In addition to seeing hoof prints along the ground you could actually smell them.We decided to stop here for lunch. Shortly after leaving Grassy Lake we saw an elk cross the trail and disappear into the woods.






This is the view of Baldy lake as you approach it from the trail.From the looks of the area it is a popular place for snowmobiles in the winter and horse packers in the Fall.It is also the furthest in that motorized vehicles are allowed to go.However the trail is quite rough and it doesnít look like too many motorcyclists get up this far.The yellow sign says Avalanche Survival Pack.We looked around the area and all we found were a bunch of poles that can be used as probes to help locate someone if they happen to get buried.











While Chris scouted around for the perfect

place to set up camp I wandered around and

took some pictures.This was one of the

largest (second only to Odell) lakes we stayed

at during our trip and it was also the highest in

elevation (around 8000 ft.) It is supposed to

have some nice sized Rainbow Trout.We didnít

do much fishing here as the weather got a bit

blustery and it snowed off and on the

whole time we were here.















Campsite on Baldy Lake.The tent is hidden in the small group of trees.




This evening we stayed much warmer.The addition of a couple of hot rocks from the fire ring to the sleeping bag sure makes a big difference.




During the night we could hear a herd of elk passing through.We could not only hear their calls to one another but their footsteps as well.





Day 4:

Below is the view of the lake from camp. The swirling fog in the background is steam rising from the lake and Chris is getting coffee ready for breakfast.









A boardwalk on the trail to help protect the meadow areas.




This is Schwinegar Lake.We thought this would be a good place to have lunch and spendsome time exploring because there were supposed to be some old mines (we think either coal or gold but we arenít sure).






We walked around to the other side of the lake and found the remnants of an old cabin.My pack is leaning up against what is left of one of the walls.





While Chris decided to go fishing I chose to wander around and take some pictures.This lake, like Bobcat Lake had a good population of Grayling.None of them were very big but they were fun to catch and release after keeping a couple to add to dinner.











Here are some different views of the lake.







You canít really tell from the picture (it just looks like a heap of junk) but this is one of the old mine entrances.It has since been blown shut so no one can enter.But you can still see the original timbers that made up supporting walls as well as the foundation of some structure.There are parts of an old iron stove and other paraphernalia scattered about.Chris found two more entrances further up on the hill.One of which still had the rails for the ore carts running into the side of the mountain.These entrances were also sealed closed.





Above is an old mine cart and to the right looks like a rear axel to an old car.


Here are the remains of what looks like an old coral or holding pen probably for livestock or horses.


We also found an old teapot, a couple of wells and the garbage dump.According to the one date on the can we could read the potatoes are from 1963.Not sure if it qualifies for antiques or not but I thought it made a cool picture.


And of course no outfit would be complete

Without proper facilities.










We spent so much time exploring the area we just decided to camp here for the night.The old cabin is just down the hill below the tent; the mine entrance is out of the picture but the left and the outhouse also out of the picture is down the other side of the hill below the tent.





Below is a picture of the view of the lake from our campsite.








Day 5:

About a half-mile down the trail from Schwinegar Lake we found the rest of the car that used to be attached to the axel I found earlier.









Even though we had a mechanic handy we couldnít take advantage of our new find so continued ahead on foot.

















Our next stop was the Lake of the Woods.Unlike the previous lakes, which contained Grayling, there were Rainbow Trout living here.While we didnít catch as many fish at this lake the ones we caught were quite nice.




Thatís Chris behind the tree catching a fish.




Below is dinner.We each caught one, which worked out perfectly.





Getting camp set up and preparing dinner.



Something about fresh fish cooked over an open fire really hits the spot.














That evening the moon was almost full.






Day 6:

Leaving Lake of the Woods









First view of Odell Lake below through the trees from the trail.









Odell Lake was the largest lake we stayed at during our trip.It was surrounded by both forest and open meadows.








Like most of the lakes in this area Odell had a large population of Grayling.







I hope youíre Hungry!







Hanging out at Camp.



View of the lake from the tent.



Getting pretty good at this cooking thing.










Day 7:


Time to go home.One last look at the lake before the long hike back out to the car.On the way home we sae a mule deer buck and a couple of moose (a large bull and a cow) .What huge animals they are and what a grand way to end our vacation.