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Rainbow Canyon, March 18th, 2018.

For this short hike, my family and I decided to investigate Rainbow Canyon based on a USGS map and a little GoogleMap investigating - what I gather now is a seldom visited colorful badlands area at the base of the Bighorn Mountains east of Lovell, WY. We'd previously visited several nearby somewhat-known spots nearby with Cottonwood Canyon and Five Springs Falls.

This time we were surprised not only by the colors and the steepness of the canyon but by the fact that it even really existed. The short hike to the rim gave no indication that there was any canyon at all with rather bland (could have been the overcast day) scenery and flat terrain. That all changed rather drastically with the knife-like cut of Rainbow Canyon.

We took a careful but still steep route down, skirting the muddy bottom, and were quite pleasantly surprised by a half dozen, palm-sized supersmooth glossy rocks found near the creek. They look and still feel as if someone had put them through a couple rounds of a polisher. The kids each have a favorite and quite often wander over to them by the window to handle them.

Short hike with many a likely repeat visits. Always fun to find something new
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5/17/18
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Bald Peak, October 15th, 2017.

I don't know what it was about this day, but I was bound and determined to make it to the top of this peak. It'd been on my list all summer and I kept putting it off since it is relatively close to Cody. The summer's destinations were primarily further away, needing the longer daylight of summer, so I figured I could do this in the fall.

Pulling up to the Hogan/Luce reservoir parking lot, the wind was shaking my vehicle rather significantly and the first time I tried to open my door it barely budged. I'm guessing easily over 70 mph gusts. When I finally worked up enough resolve, I literally had to sit on the console and leg press the door open and awkwardly get out. After I got my pack and camera stuff, I grabbed some of my spare winter gear, and attempted to cover all exposed flesh from the whipping dirt and cold. With a wind correction angle (sorry, pilot terminology), I couldn't help but laugh as the wind shifted and beat me up and down the trail. Needless to say the first mile was miserable.

After that, the wind didn't exactly quit but it didn't throw me around the trail at least. I wound with the trail until it petered out 1/4 of the way. After some searching, checking the map/gps, I decided on a game trail that headed in relatively the right direction. About 1/3 of the way, there's a beautiful clearing where the road from my previous Bald Ridge Road adventure from May met up. As steep as it was, it was a great deal shorter than that hike along the road.

The next section was steep and rather bleak with lots of dead trees. I was working so hard with the acclivity that, even with the chilly wind, I stripped off several layers. Despite the desolate look, I found some huge chunks of marine fossils (cockleshells & scallops). When I finally made it to the ridge that headed to the peak, I was quite beat but the vista energized me. The views of Clark's Fork Canyon to the west and north were amazing.

I'm glad I checked this one off the list and was stupid/obstinate enough not to let the wind decide the day for me.
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3/25/18
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McCullough Peaks, October 1st, 2017.

My family and I took a pleasant hike to the northwestern high point on McCullough Peaks east of town in Cody, WY. This is becoming one of my favored early/late season hikes, since the weather we have in town is pretty much what we'll expect on the peaks. The hike takes you through some interesting badlands and some fairly decent steep ascents/descents.

My 7-year-old and I tried it in early March which sounds crazy this year considering the snow still present. Nevertheless he and I made it about halfway and then the following weekend I was able to knock it out. We finally got around to having the whole family give it a go and the weather held up.

What's interesting about this hike is that the trail doesn't seem to have widened much since its inception based on what I would assume was a coyote/antelope trail; it's quite narrow and it follows the hillsides on some decent sidehills. I felt like the stormy weather really showed off some of the interesting colors.
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3/14/18
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Lower Shell Falls & Bucking Mule Falls, Bighorn Mountains, September 2nd & 3rd, 2017.

My wife and I had a belated anniversary set of hikes & overnight lined up in the Bighorn Mountains back in September. We first hiked down to the little known Lower Shell Falls up Shell Canyon. Upper Shell Falls is quite well known and can be easily seen via a turnout/rest area/info center. Last year, I made quite the adventurous hike/scramble down from the south having heard rumor of a larger falls downstream (Lower Shell Falls) and it was definitely not the best view nor the easiest way down. Having taken my son along the Upper Beef trail a few years ago, I thought we should try and find a way down on the North side of Shell Creek rather than from the South.

Although certainly not easy, it definitely beat the attempt from the South. After making our way back out, we followed HWY14 up to Burgess Junction and headed west then north to the Bucking Mule Falls THD. We accidentally left the stakes from our tent in a different bag from the pack trip this summer, so we slept out under the starts on top of the tent. It was quite peaceful and warm, and thankfully there aren't grizzlies in the Bighorns. We woke up the next day to hike to Bucking Mule Falls quite early and then doubled back to North Beaver Creek Falls which was actually quite busy due to Labor Day weekend. We ended up hiking a lot further downstream away from the crowd and explored the narrow canyon and stream. It was a surprisingly easy & relaxing trip.
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2/17/18
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East Fork of Wind River & Pass, 8-19-17.

As my wife, her parents, her aunt, and my own kiddos finished up a pack trip starting up the South Fork of the Shoshone and ending near the ghost town of Kirwin, WY, I made an attempt at meeting them. Granted that this was a bit audacious, considering they were trying to stay on schedule with a 14 day trip and mostly new country. I was hiking in, albeit rather unprepared as I atypically didn't have my sleeping bag/tent, to meet them along with my wife's uncle and head out that same day. He and I got off to a late start, and the trail was rather intense headed up to the East Fork pass. We tried to meet at the designated spot and both parties were off the intended location, so we never quite met up.

For whatever reason, I was ambitiously feeling like we'd have no problem meeting up, and had to spent the night sans a sleeping bag at 11,000', which was pretty awful with the temps dipping quite low for August. The views were terrific and the pass, though difficult, was quite rewarding. My family made it back down with no issue the following day, and I'm still feeling a tad sheepish about it as I definitely know better.
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1/28/18
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Enchantress Falls, Yellowstone NE, July 23, 2017.

My wife and I took a late July hike to see Enchantress Falls in the Northeast corner of Yellowstone. The fording of Soda Butte can be ugly in May/June, so I've always done such in July/August. Considering that drowning is the number one killer in national parks, I don't take fording, especially during peak snow melt, lightly.

This one has been on our list since I visited a few years back. Although it's a fairly short hike, I wouldn't say the route is obvious by any means. You can follow Beauty Creek for a ways until you hit Beauty Falls (2nd picture); I don't believe it has a technical name despite it's pretty 30' double falls. The tall log was still caught in the middle of the falls since my last trip. Once at the lower falls, you have to double-back to cut up the embankment and head through a lot of trees without a trail.

Although I'm still not entirely happy with how the photos turned out, it's well worth the return visit. I look forward to showing it to my kids when they can safely do the ford.
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1/14/18
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West Big Goose Creek Multi-Falls, July 21st, 2017.

This one has been on my list for more than a year now and I finally made it this summer in July, and in typical fashion it warrants quite a few more future visits. I tried heading this way mid-June via FR26, also known as the Red Grade road, and was shut out due to the snow.

Back in June, I managed to get myself stuck when the entire section of quasi-road I was on shifted and planted me in deep snow/mud - a pretty wicked combination even for 4-wheel-drive. Thankfully I was saved by some kind Forest Service Gentlemen who arrived about 15 minutes later and were able to easily pull me back onto dry road.

Thankfully, the road in July was fantastic and I was able to get to my section of road/trail relatively easily. The hike down was pretty intense considering I was traveling on a road. Once I made it down to the creek, there was a bridge to cross and then I followed the creek from well above. The creek makes a pleasant descent with multiple falls (visible from afar in photos 3, 4, &5) and then is joined by Walker Creek which itself makes a nice staircase/slide waterfall (photo 6). Further downstream West Big Goose Creek has a gorgeous double falls by low guesstimate about 20 feet apiece. The upper portion has a third step above that I couldn't find a way to shoot without an atrocious birdseye view.

The creek has another two larger plunges further downstream that I will work my way down to on my next visit. The butterflies and wildflowers were quite the treat; I even saw a bald-faced hornet snag a moth and drag it into its den (photo 12) as well as a hummingbird hawk-moth (photo 11).

Very much looking forward to next year's trip although it is a heck of a long day all considered.
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12/17/17
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Clay Butte, Beartooth Mountains, July 15th, 2017.

My family and I decided to head up for a short hike up in the Beartooth Mountains to visit Clay Butte. Clay Butte has a fire lookout tower and is open to the public for viewing. The drive up to the lookout tower is actually wider than one would expect and is quite scenic once you break out of the trees.

After looking around at the amazing views from the tower, we headed north for a hike on an old road that turned into a trail near the top of the first ridge. The wildflowers were different than I'd been seeing this summer and were a real treat (showy fleabane, sticky polemonium, & elegant camas). The views on this section were even better and we wanted to keep going, but the storm brewing to the south was not to be ignored.

Some time next summer, we plan on returning and seeing if we can continue on this section and perhaps wrap around to see the view from the top of Clay Butte. Certainly well worth the visit if you're in the area.

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12/3/17
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Sawtooth Lake & Falls, Beartooth Mtns, July 1st, 2017.

For this hike, I tried out a section of the Beartooth Mountains that's been on my list. I started near Long Lake, heading south on road 120, which is at the north end of the Morrison Jeep road. There was still plenty of snow at the start of the hike as I made my way over and around 3-4' tall drifts. I'm not sure how busy the road is later in the year, but I had the place all to myself other than apparently a bear or two.

I hiked a short distance over to see Rainbow Lake (pictures 1 & 3) and was surrounded by the white Water Buttercups shown (picture 2). I then headed further south to an open expanse of the Chain Lakes, SSE to pass between Dollar Lake and Duck Lake where I spotted a fresh bear track (picture 4 & my apologies for the gross sores on my hand - a recently discovered allergic reaction to a type of mosquito repellent), then followed Canyon Creek (picture 10) off-trail down to Sawtooth Falls (pictures 5 & 8). The track gave me pause as I tried to make out which species based off of claw marks in the mud and the "line" of the toes. Thankfully, I judged it as a black bear and continued on my way. As cute as they are, the last thing I ever want to meet is a grizzly cub with its mom certainly nearby.

Sawtooth Lake (pictures 6 & 7) & Sawtooth Falls were quite pretty. I had to talk myself out of heading up Sawtooth Mountain (picture 11) as it was getting a touch late. I plan on taking my family here some time for an overnight to summit Sawtooth and check out the southern end of the lake that plummets down via Canyon Creek to the Clark's Fork Canyon below. It's a spectacular sight from below in the canyon mid-Summer. I ended the day with a drive north over Beartooth Pass (pictures 12 & 13) for a few pictures before heading home.
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11/13/17
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Suspicion Creek, Yellowstone, June 22nd, 2017.

Finally! I finally made it to see this elusive seasonal falls at the right time during the right year. I've made the trip to see this falls on three separate occasions. The first time I went searching, I made my way up the wrong tributary of the stream - Suspicion Creek has three tributaries and I checked the wrong two forks.

My second trip was actually on June 5th two years ago now and, although I found the lower of the two falls still active (5th photo), the upper was barely a trickle. That same day I decided to make the best of it and made a long day out of hiking to the Phantom Fumarole up on the Pitchstone Plateau. I was delighted to see that I could actually see the location of the upper falls from here and made a mental note to make this steep hike next year to see if the falls were active - it was a "safer" approach in my estimation. When I was retracing my steps along Suspicion Creek down in the valley, I spooked a grizzly who had just settled down for a nap as I came around a 10' tall boulder, probably less than 30 feet away. Thankfully we were both spooked enough to travel in polar directions; I always carry bear spray on my hip and make plenty of noise. It was a pretty freaky encounter as I was traveling along the same route I'd entered into the valley; that's how I know he had to have just settled in less than 20 minutes prior.

The third trip was uneventful, which is great in terms of bear encounters but not so in seeing the falls - same trickle. That was last year in early June again.

So I swore I'd make it in as soon as possible this year and funnily enough the trailhead had at least 5' of snow on May 21st of this year. I crossed my fingers that this would portend well in giving the falls enough water to stay active. After a couple other hikes, I made my way back on the 22nd and finally lucked out. You can see the snow on the first leg of the Pitchstone Trail (2nd picture as well as the valley and a little falls in the 10th & 11th). The southwestern tributary was also active with a nice little plummet falls (4th picture). Premonition Falls was spectacular and unique. I plan on returning with my family one of these years.
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10/29/17
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