Saturday, January 09, 2016

Flashback to 1979

In the summer of 1979, after a year of careful planning, my good friend Steve and I climbed inside my 1976 Vega hatchback and headed to the West for two weeks of hiking and camping in the Bighorn Mountains.

Though we had planned extensively for this trip, things did not go as originally planned.

Our initial plan was to park our car to the South of Bighorn peak, just off of Hwy 16, then hitchhike about 40 miles to the Northeast. From there, we would hike back to our car using a preplanned route that took us through the Bighorn mountain range. The return trip would last about a week.

Something we hadn't planned for while including hitchhiking as a major component of our trip, was the possibility that we may not reach our destination. It turned out that there were three things we hadn't considered; First, most people don't pick up hitchhikers. Second, there isn't much traffic on Hwy 16, so the odds of getting picked up are that much more remote. And third, even if we did manage to get a ride, there was no guarantee the driver was going as far as we needed to go.

So, while sitting for hours along the road waiting for someone to pick us up, we had lots of time to goof around. One of the products of that goofing around was the picture below where I pretended to hitchhike with the knife I brought along just in case we encountered any grizzly bears:

We finally did get a ride, but that person only took us about 10 or so of the 40 miles we needed to go, and once again, we found ourselves hitchhiking alongside a very quiet and peaceful highway. It was at that location that things took another unplanned turn, which was a torrential downpour that lasted two days.

Once we realized the rain wasn't stopping anytime soon, and that nobody was going to pick up two soaking wet hitchhikers, we pitched our tent in a small clearing alongside the road. There we sat for two days waiting for the rain to subside.

When the rain finally let up, we talked it over, and decided to throw out the original plan, and instead just hitchhike back to the car. From there we could hike up into the mountains, find some midway point, then hike back.

This is a shot of Steve standing alongside the trail shortly after we began our hike towards the mountains that were looming off in the distance:

Steve and I set up our first camp at the Southern end of Lake Helen. We chose the spot because of the incredible view of the mountains off in the distance. It was stunning. The following picture captures a very small taste of what was an unbelievably beautiful view:

After the night at Lake Helen, we packed up and continued North. We couldn't wait to get to the base of those mountains.

We set up our next camp at Mistymoon Lake, which probably gets its name from the fact that it is very round, just like a moon crater. Once our camp was set up, we made a spur of the moment decision to climb one of the smaller mountains nearby. The next photo is a view from the top of that small mountain looking to the South. The lake that is further way is Lake Helen, and our previous night's camping spot was at the far end:

After getting the mountain climbing bug, we decided to take on Bomber Mountain, which is significantly bigger than the one I took the previous picture from. We were unaware of the reason behind the naming of the mountain, but it became obvious when we stumbled across the wreckage of a B-17 Flying Fortress that had hit the mountain in 1943, killing all 10 who were on board. As many had before us, we carved our names into the metal wreckage to leave our mark upon the mountain.

There were other day hikes after Bomber Mountain, but no more mountain climbing hikes. During one of our day trips, we were nearly run over by a deer that was running for cover during a hail storm. I don't know which was more startled, us or the deer.

All in all it was a fantastic trip, one that I'll never forget. Here's one final shot of Steve and I which was taken by some hikers we encountered shortly after a rain storm:

Glad our planning included the possibility of rain storms. I don't know what we would have done without our rain ponchos.