Granite Peak Hiking Adventure 2015!


in a nutshell: 

This hike (or climb) is strictly for experienced, well-conditioned hikers.  
Starting point & elevation: West Rosebud Lake, Mystic Lake Trailhead. Elev. 6,000'ft.
We hiked about 12miles the first day, gaining over 5,000ft in elevation. Once we hiked to Mystic Lake, we took the Phantom Creek Trail 17 — (3.5 miles to this junction from starting point). From there we hiked UP the mountain side, we counted 27 switchbacks going up. It's an intense climb, but really beautiful.

Upon reaching Froze-To-Death-Plateau, you have hiked about 5.5 miles from the starting point. The elevation is now over 10,000'ft. Once on the plateau - you have to hike about 5 more miles to the base camp. You will hike / scramble / hop over boulder fields & marshy tundra, following a scattered trail of rock cairns.

Destination: a rocky boulder field, with man-stacked rock walls on the west edge of Tempest Mountain, elevation 11,700ft. (Or thereabouts. We camped further away from Tempest, nestled up against some large boulders that provided more shelter..)

You can set up camp at whatever spot appeals to you, and hope the weather holds through the night — so that you can summit Granite the next morning. Granite Peak is about 1.6 miles from the base camp. The elevation of Granite Peak, the highest point in Montana is 12,799'ft.

Boulder fields on the plateau … covered by hail.
My field-notes & observations: 

MYSELF: & two friends went on this hiking trip.
Afoot & lighthearted, we set to the open road — at 6:20am, arriving to the trail-head at 7:45am. I personally would not attempt something like this solo. While we were hiking up, we were the only souls on the mountain.

WHEN TO GO: The best time to hike Granite is August — early September.
We went on Thursday-Friday, September 3-4. Hiking down on Friday afternoon, we passed 10 or 11 other random hikers (some in little groups), Granite bound. I would totally recommend hiking DURING the week. All those hikers would have a not-so-fun time figuring out where all they would want to pitch their tents. The wind shelters were kinda limited.. but there were many. Some were just better then others…. We got the best. Other then boulders & ground-level rock, there is no privacy on the plateau. (Camp site: see photo directly below)
The last mile of the hike — you are clambering over some serious rock! 

HIKING UP: Total time took us 9hrs of uphill hiking… covering over 12 miles. (see cairns below)
Phantom Creek Trail we were wearing tanks & shorts. It was hot climbing. We drank a lot of water. My backpack weighed a bit over 30lbs. I had a 2 person tent, my climbing harness, climbing gear etc,… plus 2 large water bottles, extra clothes, sleeping mat, bag (my sleeping bag is good down to 21'F degrees, it kept me warm during the crazy storm-filled night). Pack as light as possible. I realized later, I overpacked a little bit. (Packed mostly too much food!) Ever ounce makes a huge difference! 

ELEVATION GAIN: I have done a lot of hiking at 10,000ft or higher, so I am very used to thin air.
My fellow hikers (while being avid hikers, & climbers, had not done much high elevation hiking). They got some altitude sickness, upon reaching elevations around & over 10,500ft. Upset stomachs & light nausea…. no fun for them. We only gained about 5,500ft total. Our highest elevation point was like 11,700ft. If you reach Granite, you will gain over 6,000ft from the starting elevation.

CAIRNS: At times the rock cairns are small & hard to spot.
We took "scenic route" to our base camp site, and added about a mile to the hike, because we missed a cairn. Total ascending time took 9hrs. (including many breaks, lunch too.) But overall, wasn't too bad. The plateau seemed to drag on more then the switchbacks did…

WATER: Top off your water bottles at Mystic Lake before climbing up to the Plateau.
There was one small stream that you walk over during the lowest sets of switchbacks. Also, there are several small & shallow water courses (nearly submerged snow-melt springs) on the Plateau — when hiking you can't miss them, but they are hard to see — You will have to hop over the narrow springs or skirt around the marshy-swamp like places while hiking on the Plateau. Also - where you camp there is NO water. 

WEATHER PROBLEMS: You WILL get rained on while hiking no matter what…
While hiking across Froze-To-Death-Plateau, thunderstorms brought sleet, rain & large hail… The temperature held steady at 40 degrees. It was very windy. Bring proper rain-gear, for yourself & your backpack. 

TENTS: Alllllllll during the night while camping, it stormed.
Crazy wind, an inch of snow & icy stuff was coating everything in the morning. It got down to 29'F degrees. We didn't sleep much. It felt (sounded?) like our tents would flap away, even though they were properly anchored, & we were inside holding them down…. make sure you have a good dry-wind-proof tent!

STARS: Are tiny holes in the floor of heaven, or so it seemed. They were so very bright & beautiful… We got to stargaze for about 45min… then clouds started moving in. We ate supper at about 8:30pm, & it got dark enough to see stars just after 9pm.

PLANT LIFE: Hiking to Mystic, & along the switchbacks theres an abundance of plant life & trees. Once on the plateau, there is nothing but  hardy grasses & lichens growing. I did, however, see some flowers blooming on the plateau at around 10,400ft. I identified it as the late blooming tundra-loving-cold-weather flower: the Arctic Gentian.  

SUMMIT: We didn't make it to the summit, due to more bad weather that was rolling in.
But we were in view of it, & just over a mile away from it. We had a summiting plan, a route picked out - I talked to several people I know who have summited Granite, to get some good ideas of what works best. I had reference photos, & notes about the climb to the top. We had climbing gear, a harness, ropes, etc. Though we mostly planned to "free climb" to the top. 

RETURNING: Hiking down the next day took 4.5hrs.
We went about 11mi, & fortunately hiked below & missed most of the bad weather… (the hikers we passed going up got pounded; the sky was getting very dark (cloudy) by about 12am, & it was starting to sprinkle rain as we were leaving the Plateau.) 

TOTALLY WORTH IT: Every step of this hike was totally worth it, regardless of summiting or not. The views are AMAZING, & your awe & respect for the mountains will deepen, the beauty of God's creation will blow your mind! I can't wait to try again next summer!! 

Below are photos from the hike.. Let me know if ya have any questions! I can try my best to answer!  

Mystic Lake, seen from about the half-way point, while hiking up to the Plateau. There is a nice trail.

One of many cairns…
Cold winds, thunder, largish hail and very slick boulder-fields on Froze-To-Death-Plateau. 
False summit. But at the "top" of where we were camping. 

I was standing atop large rocks to get an "aerial" view of camp. See how rugged & barren the land is? Nothing but pikas, some mountain goats & hardy lichens live in this rocky place. No grass.
At 5am it was 29 degrees, & there was an inch of snow & icy stuff on everything, that made the rocks very slick. It didn't get light outside till just after 6am. (When I took the pic, & ventured out of the tent into calmer 35mph winds.) 

"but these are the days we will dream about when the sunlight paints us gold"
Mystic Lake obscured by cloud, view from atop Froze-To-Death-Plateau.

Froze-To-Death Lake down below. Storms coming in the distance. 

Descending the mountain, on the return trip, we hiked into a thick fog-like cloud. 

"LIFE is getting up an hour early, 
      to LIVE an hour more" 


When you consider things like mountains & stars, human affairs & worries don't seem to matter very much… Being on top of Froze-To-Death-Plateau was an incredible experience. The mountains were huge & the stars were awesome… I felt so alone, so free, so alive, so light, so high, so small! God is so good, huge & powerful - His creation is amazing. Wow. 

When I go anywhere, or do anything, I try to be enthusiastic about LIFE! Even when your just at home, or at work, or wherever — You are alive & that is amazing! I think it's important to enthusiastic, no matter what you or doing, or where ya are. Living in the moment… is being aware of the moment we are in. If our minds are in the past or future, we are not truly alive in the present. 

While hiking, I found myself increasingly living "in the moment". Hiking is so care-free & exhilarating. The world is such an interesting place - I'm really, really, really, really thankful for good heath, & immensely blessed by friends who like to explore with me.

"Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done." -C.S.Lewis 

No matter what I'm doing, I'm always trying to rely solely on God: Start with Jesus, stay with Jesus, finish with Jesus, each day. Grow in Him, love Him, serve Him, do all things for His glory.… 
Keep the wonder. 

He much become greater, I must become less. (John 3:30)
Happy Hiking,

open in new window to view larger. ^^ 
Guided summit climbs to Granite with http://www.beartoothguides.com 
^I'm acquainted with a couple of the guides - they are really good at what they do!! Check them out.

The "AFALCON Guide"  book for the hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness has insightful information on hiking Granite (& countless other hikes) is within its many pages… 

Additional info can be found by stopping by & talking to people at the Sylvyn Peak Store.
Sylvan Peak, Ent. 
9 South Broadway 
P.C. Box 463 
Red Lodge, MT 59068 


Smokey August •

There are wildfires raging throughout the western states… Montana, Idaho, Washington, California, etc. In MT we've had bad fires close to home, & lots of smelly smoke from Idaho has been blowing in - it's been obscuring the mountain views for days…

Tonight I took a drive (with visiting family) up into the Beartooth Mountains to try & escape the smoke - it turns out it's just as thick at 10,000'ft as it is down in the valley. Normally (as I'm sure you've noticed if you've even been in high country) mountain air is the coolest, purest & clearest there is. So it was disappointing that there was so much smoke in the atmosphere… . but it made the sunset look pretty awesome.

If you haven't driven over the Beartooth Highway - you NEED to put it on your bucket list! It's been dubbed "America's most scenic highway" - & I vouch  for it 100%. I've driven the highway 7 or 8 times this summer, & will probably be up a few more times before it closes for the season, usually in October, when the snow starts falling…

'alpen, glo/
"the rosy light of the setting or rising sun seen on high mountains" 

Pictured above left: feeding the chipmunks! On the way up to the top, there is a lovely vista point / road side pull off - & there are LOTS of greedy little rodents who beg for food. right: my 6yr old cousin, & my 11yr old brother dancing (on the edge of a cliff). Love these weirdos.

I had fun exploring — I'm up in these mountains so often, but I always talk lots of pictures whenever I'm there. It was extra special tonight, because my family went! We spent the afternoon in Red Lodge, ate a Bogarts, drove the Beartooth Highway, stopped at Beartooth Basin, went to the "top of the world" store & visited the fire tower… From the firepower we could see Pilot & Index peaks & a herd of elk down below… The views are AMAZING. I'm so thankful for & blessed by family. Thankful that we can talk, laugh, live & explore together for a few days.

ALSO - very thankful that "my" mountains aren't burning up, that the smoke is from elsewhere - & very thankful for all the hard working firemen & women who have fought hard, & are still fighting to preserve our wild lands!


Glacier Lake, Beartooth Mountains, MT

Today I hiked a moderately strenuous, but short hike to Glacier Lake! Total roundtrip was about 5 miles. The trailhead elevation is 8,680ft & the lake is at 9,702ft, but the hiking trail actually climbs more then the difference (1,022ft) in the 2ish miles to Glacier Lake. There's a ridge in the middle thats about 800ft higher then the lake. So at the peak of the hike the elevation is about 10,500ft, then you descend to the lake from that point.

Hiking was a breeze, & the landscape was beautiful. You could almost always hear the sound of Moon Creek gushing in the drainage to your left as you hike up to the lake. There is also a nice bridge about 1/2 mile into the trail where you cross over the creek. Once at Glacier Lake, you inevitably will cross over the state line of Montana into Wyoming. This sorta "no man's land" I (& other locals) like to call Wymont.  

The hardest part of this hike & getting to this lake, is actually getting to the trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle (truck or jeep) is needed. The 7.6 mile dirt road is very rough. I wasn't keeping track of time, but I'm guessing it took us about 50min to drive it. A long, slow, bumpy drive, but totally worth it.

Even though the lake sits at 9,702ft (above the timberline), there are some large trees along the shoreline, & around the trials near & below the lake. There were large wind-blown dead trees, & some very hardy pines. When we hiked, we veered off the trail & explored quite a bit of the surrounding areas just before reaching the lake. There are amazing views & vista points along the way. It's totally worth it to hike off trail once you are at the high point & boulder field. 

The mosquitoes were not bad, but be sure to take bug repellent just in case!
There were many pools of still water along the trail closer to the lake.  
Ok, now that you've read & looked at the pictures, take another look at the top picture. On the island, there is a human! My friend SWAM out to the island. This would not be recommended for everyone to do. The tempature of the water is around 43ºf. I took of my shoes & dipped my feet in the lake & nearly froze. I can't imagine making the long (55 yards) swim out to the island. Go look at the pic! Small human standing on the right side, atop a rock. ^^ 

This would be a fairly easy trail for kids. We passed a couple hiking with kiddos in backpacks. My 11 year old brother had a blast hiking up to the lake. He is not an experienced hiker, & did have to take a few little "breather" breaks along the way, but overall did great. 

Allllllrighty! Summer is gonna be over soon. In the past 2ish weeks, I've hiked 40+ miles in the Beartooth Mountains - The Beaten Path, Mystic Lake, & Glacier Lake. It's been super fun & I'm hoping to pack in the miles before school starts later this month.  Mountains are awesome & summer is going by too fast!!!!!! Wanna go hiking with me?! 


The Beaten Path, Montana, 2015

Elk Lake, elevation 6800'ft. 

Busy is a choice. Stress is a choice. Joy is a choice. Choose well. 

It has become a yearly tradition to hike "The Beaten Path" once every summer. I hiked it last year - you can read a detailed post about that experience here. 

AHHHHH! I love hiking - getting up into the mountains & total wilderness — feeling like a little ant walking on the earth — the size of these rocks is awesome! Creation is amazing, & God is good. I'm super blessed & thankful to have the health & life that I have. I'm trying to make the most of summer while it lasts!

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16 

This year I hiked The Beaten Path with 2 friends - We started at the Clarks Fork Trailhead, just past the Chief Joseph Campground on July 16th & finished on the 18th at East Rosebud Lake.

This hike is "approximately" 26 miles long, not counting any side trips off trail. It is a strenuous hike, but not technically difficult or dangerous. It is also a well-traveled path, & perhaps the best way to experience the diversity & beauty of the Beartooths.

If starting at the Clarks Fork trailhead the elevation is 8000'ft - the peak elevation on the trail is just over 10000'ft, & finishing elevation is 6000'ft. You get more downhill hiking starting on the side we did. You hike uphill 90% of the first 10 miles, then from there its like 85% downhill  for the remaining 16 miles. (As opposed to starting at East Rosebud, where you hike a steep long uphill for the first 16 miles.)

In a nutshell: We hiked The Beaten Path in 3 days, 2 nights. The first day (starting at  the Clarks Fork Trailhead, 9:40am), it took us about 9 hours to hike 12 miles to Dewey Lake, our camp site for the night. (10 of the 12 miles were uphill. We hiked about 2mph the first 7 miles, & also took numerous little breaks along the way. Stopped at Russell Lake for about 30min too.) The next morning, it was an easy  7 miles downhill (9am-1pm) to Rainbow Lake & our camp site. The 3rd day we hiked 7 more downhill miles, finishing the hike by 12pm at East Rosebud Lake. We rested for about 40min at Elk Lake on the way.

Impasse Falls - around 300ft tall. 
When hiking the Beaten Path -you will get rained on, no matter what the forecast says. The forecast is hard to predict in the mountains. Two of the 3 days I was hiking were supposed to be "50% chance of rain"; but both those days were sunny. The "20% chance of morning rain" day turned into a wild afternoon thunder storm… The last 2 of the 12 miles we hiked the first day, we were hiking in a hail/sleet thunderstorm. The temperature dropped from mid 60s to low 40s.

Honestly, no one likes hiking in the rain, things get slick! Bring good rain gear so you stay dry & warm! Also, make sure you know what to do if caught on the plateau in a storm. Don't make yourself a lighting target! 

The mosquitoes are bad. Take strong bug repellent.  I brought repellent that was 25% deet, it seemed to work ok, but I still got more bites then I liked. The bugs are blood thirsty up there! They only seemed worse on the higher lakes, near the plateau. The lower we got, towards Rainbow Lake, the fewer they become. (At least during this time of year.)

All around the trailhead (Cooke City side) the bugs were bad. East Rosebud side, no bugs.

Obviously is grizzly country - proper food storage, bear spray & guns are a really good idea, & safety precaution. When I hike, I'm packing a .357 & bear spray. (Better to be safe then sorry!!!) I hang my food at night too.

Last year when I hiked in July - there were still HUGE snow drifts we had to hike over. This year there wasn't ANY snow we had to hike over. (Dryer winter….) Having a walking pole could be helpful for some people. There are 3 major water crossings, & depending on the snowmelt, the water could be over knee deep or you could "rock-hop" across with shoes left on. Hiking in "convertible" short/pants works great, & keeps you dry.

This year water levels were very low, so nothing was very hard to get across. Last year however, the water was almost thigh deep in places, so it was much harder getting across the "rivers" as the current was swift. 

I found it interesting when reading about The Beaten Path in hiking books, "river/lake" crossings were NOT mentioned…. Make sure you pack some water shoes!

There are countless beautiful lakes, several note-worthy waterfalls, endless views & wildflowers galore on this trail. I would suggest taking a longer time to hike The Beaten Path - & setting a camp somewhere near Fossil Lake - from there, there are numerous day hikes & other lakes to hike to.

Here are some pics for you to enjoy!
The trail between Elk Lake & East Rosebud - 3 miles from the finish.
Ouzel Lake, elevation 9445'ft. 
Twin Outlets Lake, elevation 9200'ft.

A well-traveled trail — Saw a good number of other hikers throughout the entire trail, & two horses & some mules along the way. The Beaten Path is a very popular trail, but everyone spreads out on it, so you seldom see other hikers, even though there could be dozens of hikers on the trail. 
My hiking buddies JohnRoss & Jessica! 
Hiking on the beautiful plateau, just past Fossil Lake (elev. 10,000+ft) 

- With storm clouds chasing us! We got stormed on (thunder / hail / rain / sleet) the last 2mi of the 12 miles we hiked the first day. The temperature got down to 42'F. 

Camp site 2nd night at Rainbow Lake.
 We hung our damp clothes out to dry at our camp site.  The storm soaked us pretty good the night before. There are many great camp sites by Rainbow Lake. 

Rainbow Lake, elevation 7700'ft. 
Rainbow lake displays a beautiful blue-green color (often called "glacier milk") indicative of a glacier-fed lake. The water felt wonderful on my tired feet & sore knee. :) 

Hiking around Fossil Lake, elevation 10000'ft. 

If ya have any questions, lemme know in comments below & I'll do my best to answer! 

Some good resources for hiking in or around the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness:

Happy hiking,


En Plein Air


For the past 3 days I've been in Red Lodge, MT - participating in a painting workshop! I learned some, but mostly reviewed what I knew - & got some good painting hours in! Lately I've been SO busy with LIFE - that I haven't done any painting… This workshop was really good for me. It was refreshing to get out 'en plein air' & be challenged to study the ever-changing light, values, & compositions of landscapes.

It was fun workshop… Each day we met at 9am at Montana Gallery, on Main Street in Red Lodge. From there we'd drive out to the painting location & paint for a few hours, then break for lunch, & resume in the afternoon, & paint till the light faded. There were 7 artists (myself included) attending the workshop that was headed up & taught by Tyler Murphy. I loved meeting the other artists, it was inspiring for me to see other people's views on art & life — I met a lady (& her sweet dog, Panda Bear) who were from Texas. Another man & woman from Billings MT,  a lady from the Bitterroot Valley, & a lady from up state New York. Then there was myself (basically a local) & a guy from Joliet. 

Make sure you check out Montana Gallery — there is some crazy good art there. If you ever find yourself in Red Lodge, make sure you stop by! There's good art, good vibes & good people to be found at Montana Gallery. I've known Tyler for a few years, & have taken painting classes from him several times. They never disappoint, & are always lots of fun! 

Below are some pictures of my painting endeavors —

Quick studies of Mount Maurice, a flower, & distant Beartooth Mountains — 
This is me — painting a view of a distant Red Lodge Mountain. 
9x12 oil "Where The Creek Goes" …I was happy with this picture.

"Artist At Work" 9x12 oil on linen. 

A quick sketch at 10,000'ft atop the Beartooth Highway
The ever-changing lighting made it difficult to capture the colors…


watercolor eye

WIDE OPEN. Slightly dramatized sketch of my eye…

Boy eyes are soooooo amazing. The depth, colors, & details are all so intricate, precise, delicate… Go look in a mirror at your eyes. Seriously. Really look, don't just glance. Check out the different flecks of color, the pupil, the blood vessels in the sclera, & the tiny muscles embedded in the iris. Eyes are so crazy awesome!! I'm thankful for the gift of sight, & the ability to see, & create art. ;)



garden 406

RADISHES - my hand, & my brother's hand. 
Gardening is about enjoying the smell 
of things growing in the soil,
marveling at God's creation & preservation of young plants,
about patience; working hard, being eaten by mosquitoes & getting dirty — 
feeling the sun's warmth on your bent back,
& generally taking the time to 
soak up a little peace & serenity. 

( go, dig in the dirt, it'll do you good )


j u s t • w o r d s —

how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see. 

Let love & 
never leave you;
bind them
around your neck,
write them
on the tablet
of your heart.
Proverbs 3:3 

(WOW. Think about that.)


You may not see it today or tomorrow, 
but you will look back in a few years and be
absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little
thing added up and brought you somewhere 
wonderful - or where you always wanted to be. 
You will be grateful that things didn't work out 
the way you once wanted them to.

I admire people 
who choose 
to shine
even after
all the storms
they've been through. 
To pray is to let go & let God take over. 
Rest in Jesus, 
trust in His unfailing love.