Not too shabby! This was my coldest night by far -- September 1 -- but the stars were something amazing on this clear and moonless night
This is the approach to Diamond Lake (~9600 ft, ~5 miles from Pipit Lake), where I made my final camp
Day 7 -- time to break base camp and head towards home. But I still have one more full day in the wilderness.
One of the most gorgeous sunsets I've seen, with clouds stretched thin and twisted by the wind
View of Pipit Lake as I returned to my base camp in the late afternoon
Day 6 started out rainy, but in the afternoon it turned briefly sunny and I hiked to the Rainbow Lakes area for some fantastic views
It was an evening of billowing cumulus clouds and dark thunderheads – quite dramatic at times
On the morning of Day 8, I hiked the remaining 9 miles -- all downhill for 3200 feet --
to my car. Another fun wilderness trip to the Beartooths comes to an end.
Later that afternoon, I went for a third day hike to the closest of the six Rainbow Lakes. What a gorgeous setting! I wish I had camped here too.
I jumped in and out of the c-c-c-cold water several times. It took me quite awhile to get warm again afterwards, but it was so worth it.
I couldn't resist -- I stripped down and dove in!
I enjoyed a picnic lunch at Lake Diaphanous. Pretty amazing to have so much beautiful countryside all to yourself for days at a time.
Another 100 feet above Owl Lake is Pipit Lake (~9600 ft, ~5½ miles from Jordan Lake), where I set up my base camp for the next several days
My campsite at Jordan Lake was a stone's throw away from the water's edge -- I could hear the fish jump. I went for a refreshing swim that afternoon.
On Day 4 I passed through some pretty countryside on the way to Jordan Pass (~9400 ft)
This adorable little pika hid in the rocks as soon as he saw me, but I drew him back out by whistling -- he was curious enough to take another look
Eventually I reached a broad meadow where I had lunch on a big rock. The Lake Plateau beckoned just ahead.
I climbed up to Owl Lake and began scouting around for a good site. I wanted to set up base camp, so picking the right spot was important.
Wounded Man Lake (9255 ft) is at the heart of the Lake Plateau. It's a large, beautiful lake with an island at one end and lovely mountains all around it.
On Day 5, I went on a day hike to Lake Pinchot, one of the biggest lakes on the Lake Plateau
My end point on Day 3 was Jordan Lake (5.2 mi, 8898 ft). It's a wonderful thing to have a lake this pretty all to yourself.
I also decided to hike up Trail #90 and pay a visit to Lake Diaphanous. As you can see, it was a gorgeous day for a hike.
Lake Diaphanous was the highlight of my day and probably the whole trip. It offered the perfect swimming rock, sloping gently into the water.
Flowers were at their most vibrant near the pass -- like this lovely patch of rose crown
From the top of the pass I could see Lake Favonius (to the right) and Lake Pentad (to the left)
Fresh legs got me to the top of Columbine Pass in no time (9850 ft)
Where We Be
Beartooth Wilderness, Montana
This was my first-ever solo backpack in the
Beartooth Wilderness. The Beartooths, located
in southwestern Montana (quite close to
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming), are my
old stomping grounds since college days, and I
know and love these mountains perhaps more
than any others. This time I hiked the Lake
Plateau region for a week in late August, and I
must say, being all by myself in the middle of a
vast wilderness area was an exhilarating and,
at times, unsettling experience. I found myself
thinking odd things like, "This would be a really
bad time to sprain an ankle," or "What if I get
lost off-trail?" But like most things we worry
about in life, none of this happened -- no
sprained ankles, no getting lost, no grizzlies.
Just a great time in a gorgeous wilderness area.

I hiked the Columbine Pass Loop, a 34-mile loop
trail shaped somewhat like a mushroom that
crosses over Columbine Pass and takes you to
the deservedly popular Lake Plateau region of
the Beartooths. My base was the small town of
Big Timber, MT, 48 miles north of the trailhead.
This is the 34.3-mile Columbine Loop Trail. I drove 48 miles from the town of Big Timber (to the north), parked at Upsidedown Trailhead, and
walked 1½ miles along the dirt road to Box Canyon Trailhead (6,675 ft), where I picked up the trail. The high point was Columbine Pass at 9,850 ft.
Beyond Pentad Lake, I crossed over Jordan Pass and into the beautiful Lake Plateau region near Wounded Man Lake (9,255 ft) and Rainbow Lakes.
This was my first campsite along the East Boulder River. This pleasant spot is 3½ miles from the trailhead (~7475 ft, ~800 ft elevation gain).
The small town of Big Timber, Montana, located along I-90, was my base. The trailhead is 48 miles south of town on a road that's half-paved, half-dirt.
I stayed at the Grand Hotel in Big Timber, where a big breakfast was included in the price -- just what you need before a week-long wilderness trek.
Lake reflection on a still morning (beginning of Day 3)
The wide-open panoramas near Lake Diaphanous are beautiful. This is Big Sky country!
The trail took me down 500 feet past Lake Pentad (9375 ft). I thought of stopping here but decided to press on.
A peaceful spot
Shallow tarn near Columbine Pass
Flowers were plentiful in places, even in late August / early September
Standing at the edge of Columbine Lake
Setting off the next morning, I passed through a lovely stretch of forest
Notice the upside-down sign for Upsidedown Trail. I parked my car at this trailhead (~6400 ft).
Ready to go! I used my camera's timer feature to take a few self-portraits along the way.
I hiked 1½ miles to Box Canyon Trailhead along this pleasant stretch of road
Box Canyon Trailhead is big -- it has plenty of room for cars and is much more heavily used than Upsidedown Creek Trailhead
Trail #27 begins here. All trail junctions are well-signed along the route. The shortest route to the Lake Plateau
is 12 miles, but the route over Columbine Pass takes a different approach and increases the distance.
It felt good to stop and relax for a few days. From Pipit Lake I had access to a whole slew of lakes on the Lake Plateau.
I only saw a handful of people during my week in the Beartooths. This lone horseman passed my base camp as I was making dinner that evening.
Any chance I get to visit the Beartooths, I take it!  (Robin was caring for
her mom in Maine, which is why she couldn't come along. She was missed!)
On Day 2 I hiked 5.8 miles and gained 1700 feet to reach Columbine Lake (9145 ft)