I should have been suspicious from the get-go. As we were driving up into the Beartooth Mountains, Will continued to talk up the hike we were going on and how easy it was. He had been on the trail about 2 years ago with my dad, uncle, and cousin, so he was overly excited to show us some beautiful scenery while he fished his way down the trail.
As soon as we stepped out of the truck, the mosquitos were everywhere. Looking up in the sky, you could see them like snowflakes falling. Except they landed on and bit you. So we doused ourselves in all the bug spray (the potent stuff for Will and me, the natural lemongrass stuff for Bird), and set off down the trail.
The goal of our hike was to make it to Flake Lake, which Will was certain was only a couple of miles in. We wanted to limit our hike to 4 miles again, because we had Daisy along and because we wanted to continue over Beartooth Pass and into Red Lodge, Montana in time for dinner.
Almost immediately, we encountered a stream crossing. This was not any stream crossing. This was more like “river” than “stream.” Now, when Will hiked this trail before, it was August, not mid-June, and let me tell you, there is definitely a difference in just 2 short months (based on his description). I watched Will cross the stream with Bird on his back and Daisy in 1 arm, and after you watch that, there is no turning back. So, I sucked it up and slowly made my way across, knowing full well we would have to do it again.
Much to my horror, upon successfully crossing the stream, Will announced that it was the first of 2 stream crossings. Say what?! I agreed to evaluate the next 1 when we got there, and we pressed on. (The second stream was hardly a trickle across the trail, so it was no big deal.)
For being a “walk through a meadow,” which is how this entire adventure was pitched to me, we encountered an awful lot of rocks, but let me tell you, the endless wildflowers made up for the slightly false advertising of the day.
Luckily, the mosquitos let up some when there was a breeze or if we kept moving, so while they were present, they did not bother us much.
Will stopped several times to cast a line and caught several, which was fun, especially when the few fishermen we passed were not having any luck. I love getting a glimpse into his adventures with Bird because I always wonder if she actually enjoys going fishing or if she is constantly whining to leave. It is times like these where I am reassured that she really does love watching her daddy fish and gets so excited when he catches 1 and holds it up for her to see.
As we continued making our way toward Flake Lake, we became less and less convinced that it was only 2 miles in. When the sky started getting dark, we made the decision to turn around. We were right at the 2-mile mark when we turned back and later found out we were so much closer than we thought. If only we would have gone another ¼ mile or so.
Once we turned back, Will fished a little more while Daisy and I meandered down the trail taking in all the flowers and beautiful lake. But once the mosquitos picked up again, we picked up our pace and made it back to the truck (with minimal whining from me when we reached the “stream”).
From the trailhead, we hopped in the truck and made our way up to the top of Beartooth Pass then down toward Red Lodge, Montana. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a couple of mountain goats near the top and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful views.
The only stop we really wanted to make in Red Lodge was to the Montana Candy Emporium, which is simply a delight. Bird was fascinated with the décor and luckily had no idea what was in the barrels she could not quite see into. I relished this first candy store visit knowing that there is little chance that she will be oblivious on any future candy store outings.
Even though it was a Sunday evening, the town of Red Lodge was alive and bustling. We ordered a pizza and made our way to a local park where we could sit, eat, and give the girls some time to run before heading back to Cody.
We were bummed when we realized how close we actually were to our planned destination during our hike, but it gives us a reason to go back—as long as it is later in the summer! Even with my complaints and whining, this hike was truly spectacular, and it was such a lovely day overall. It was so nice getting to experience the trail with Will after hearing him talk about it for almost 2 years. On top of that, pizza and a visit to the candy store can pretty much make any day better.