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Home » Adventures » Beartooth Wilderness » Up Mount Balk Knob

Day 4 — Up, Up, and Away

We woke up the next morning after sleeping relatively well, considering my sleeping bag did not have any padding underneath it. I had woken up a few times during the night though, but I was semi-conscious just long enough to turn over before falling asleep again. It also rained a little bit during the night, but the ground was not very wet by the time we woke.

We prepared quite an ambitious breakfast of pancakes and bacon. Making gourmet food in the middle of the mountains though required a lot of work. The food we brought with us was actually a lot nicer than I expected. I figured we would eat mainly dry food which would be light and very easy to cook. I preferred this higher class food though, because although it required more time to cook and there were more things to carry, it tasted a heck of a lot better. Anyway, back to this breakfast. Our pan could only hold a single pancake, so it was quite an arduous and time consuming process to make enough pancakes for all of us. Even though it took a lot of work, the pancakes actually did taste very good.

After breakfast, there were not any activities planned so I went to explore the surrounding areas some. Directly adjacent to our camp was a hill about a couple hundred feet tall, so I decided be a monkey (or maybe a mountain goat) and climb it. The hill was not that steep, but being me, I took a pretty stupid route to the top, making it a much more difficult climb than it should have been. There were a couple of times where I did not have the best grips and scared myself. Nothing like frightening yourself for a little enjoyment though. I was not really afraid of heights, but I do not particularly like them, especially when I am near edges. I always seem to remember this only after I get myself into a stupid situation though.

Our campground from up above

Our campground from up above

I was rewarded for my trip up though with some better views of the surrounding area. To the north I had a very nice shot of the mountains arising before me. Even though it was August, many of the peaks were covered with snow. It truly was an awesome site and made me want to become a crazy mountain man living in shack in the middle surrounded by the beauty of woods and mountains. Not quite ready to do that, but give me a couple of years working behind a desk and we shall see. I also got a bird’s eye view of our campsite. On my way down the hill, I actually took the correct route (the one I should have taken going up) so it was very easy decent. But what fun would it have been to do things the easy way.

Back at camp I actually relaxed for a while. It was amazing to have no stress. I had finished working for the summer so a job was not a problem; school would not start for a couple of weeks; no rushing activities of the surrounding world; and finally, no women around to antagonize me. Hmm…guess this is more evidence that I need to live in my shack. I took my boots off and just soaked my feet in the cold water of Bald Knob Lake. After the long hike the previous day and its couple of resulting blisters, the cool water swarming around my feet felt great.

On Top of Mount Bald Knob…All Covered with Me

Beautiful view from on top of Mount Bald Knob

Beautiful view from on top of Mount Bald Knob

After my short relaxation, a couple of guys decided to climb to the top of Mount Bald Knob. This peak was quite a bit taller than my morning climb, with the summit being about 800 feet above our campsite. Despite having scared myself climbing that morning, I jumped at the chance to go along.

Our route to the top started by Ouzel Lake and took us up a rock slide. It was not too steep, and all the rocks actually made a pretty good natural staircase. After getting about three quarters of the way to the top, however, we ran into some difficulties. We swerved off the rock slide in order to take a more direct route to the summit. Our course correction though, led us into some pretty difficult terrain. After searching around for quite a while, we only found a couple of ways to get through. These really were not viable options though, as Garrett was able to scamper up them, but me and Jason were not. Rather than scare myself to death climbing a rock face I was not confident about, we elected to try and find a different route to the summit. Even if all of us were able to scale the rock face, we were not totally sure that the trail ahead would still have been passable.

We backtracked some and eventually found the correct route, which was just following our original rock slide a little further up the mountain. It wound around the back of the mountain, a little longer route, but it never became steep or difficult to traverse. It was actually a relatively easy climb once we found the right way to the top.

For all our work, we were definitely rewarded after we got to the summit of Bald Knob. We had a 360° view of the surrounding mountains all to ourselves. It put my view from that morning to shame. Everywhere we looked there were lakes, trees, and mountains. We were not the first people ever up there though, because we found a rock pile at the highest point, marking someone else’s accomplishment. We scampered around the peak for about an hour, exploring all over. As I said before, I really dislike edges, so while the other played near the edges and admired the drops, I hung back some. I must really dislike edges for me to back down in front of all these guys and peer pressure to stay back from the edge.

Wildflowers with mountains and blue sky in the background

Picture perfect scene

We could see our campsite from the top, and called the people still there over our radios. After some fumbled communications they were able to spot us, although we looked like specks to them.

Brian’s GPS told us that the peak was 10,139ft. We were not quite the highest thing around but pretty close to it. The only peaks higher than us that were visible were a couple of miles away. I guess that gives them a different challenge for another year’s trip.

After enjoying the views for quite a while, we figured it was time to start heading back to camp. Rather than take the same trail back, we opted to climb down the opposite side of Bald Knob from which we came up. Going down that way, we stumbled across a scene that was designed for pictures. In front of us laid a field of colorful flowers in full bloom, with a backdrop of snow covered peaks reaching into a sky dotted with clouds. If a lake or stream could have been thrown in somehow, the scene would have been absolutely perfect, although it was not like it was bad how it was.

Beyond our awe inspiring field, we spotted a lake with what appeared to be white dots zipping across it. This phenomenon, of course, needed further investigation. As we approached the lake, the white dots slowly transformed themselves into birds. The birds must have been looking for food in this lake, because they were constantly moving around, ducking their heads underneath the water. Even though this lake was small, they also seemed to travel in groups around it. We thought it was unfortunate that Rev. Wierschke was not there, because he would have loved to observe this odd species of birds.

Myself standing atop the mountain

Proving I was actually on top of the mountain

Also by this lake we found a patch of snow that at our elevation had not yet melted. It was in a slight depression, which had protected it just enough from the warming sun. Garrett took off his shirt and made a snow angle. He paid for it though with a very cold and dirty back.

We continued our descent and ended up having to traverse a different rock slide to get back to camp. Going down the rock slide was a lot more fun that climbing it because, well, we were going down and not up. Also, I could try hurrying down the incline and see just how fast I could push myself and still not trip and tumble down the hill. Everyone made it down and back to camp safely though.

Back at Camp

Since we had been on top of Bald Knob most of the day, we did not each lunch and our stomachs were now growling. For dinner we had some pasta and a nice treat of fish, which Mitchell caught while we had been climbing. They were too small to fillet, so we instead just chopped off their head, gutted them, and stuck the remains in boiling water. That culinary technique actually worked out pretty well, especially in the middle of the woods. The fish were a welcomed addition to the pasta, although there was not enough for them to be their own meal.

For desert we made some popcorn. We had been too dumb, however, to buy the popcorn packs which are designed to be cooked over fires and instead just had loose kernels and oil. We were therefore forced to improvise a technique to heat the pan over our burner while simultaneously not burning the popped kernels. Although in a kitchen this may be easy, doing it over an unsteady burner in pots with detachable handles was pretty difficult. Somehow, though, Garrett was able to manage it well and made unburnt popcorn.

I must also say, that so far, the weather had just been great. (Knock on wood). The sky had been partly cloudy, but still warm and bright enough. Also, the temperature was cool enough so we did not die of heat exhaustion, but still only needed a flannel shirt to stay warm. The only rain we had was a little during the night, which did not affect us. I only hoped that the weather would continue to hold out for us.

One complaint I did have though, was with my lips. I forgot that when I did not shave and was outside for an extended period I get horribly chapped lips. I had been trying to keep water on them to help the situation, but that did not improve things much. I had not brought chapstick, and no one else had either. There was not a Walgreens anywhere close though, so I did not have any choice but to suck it up till we got back to civilization.

Swimming in a cold mountain lake

Mitchell deciding to take a swim

Back to the days activities though. For the rest of that night we did not do a whole lot. Just hung around camp some. Mitchell did, however, try swimming in Bald Knob Lake. It was pretty nice out and the water was not really that cold to just put your feet in. Mitchell mentioned going swimming, and even though we knew it would be cold, prodded him on to take a dip. Of course, when he did finally jump in, the water was pretty cold. He wisely got out of the lake after only a short excursion. The sun was also still up so he was able to dry off without too much trouble.

As the sun set, we were treated to a heavenly spectacle. No, there were not any meteors or alien invasions, but the sky was clear and there were not any lights around us. This zero light pollution meant that I could see more stars above me than I had in a long time. The sky was littered with countless stars. Rev. Matthews knew constellations pretty well and pointed several out to us. I, on the other hand, consider it a good day when I find the Big Dipper. We were actually able too see the “milk” in the sky, which gives our galaxy its name. I was also surprised at how much light stars actually emit. With stars our only light source (the moon was not out), we were still able to see fairly well and make our way around. Living in suburbia or the city made me forget these things. It really is sad when this “ordinary” view of the sky was so amazing to us.

With this great canopy of stars above us, we had evening devotions and headed to bed happy people.