Somehow, seven old friends (and one 13 year old) were able to coordinate enough time off to get together and hike an amazing loop in the Cabinets of Montana for 4 days. Here’s the breakdown and a bunch of photos.
Wednesday, July 17th
I picked up Healy after work and along with my dog we drive to the Baree Lake trailhead via Silver Butte Pass. We meet up with Stangle, his son, Garcia, Lunzer and Armstrong. There’s already a campfire going when Healy and I arrive. We have a couple beers and go to sleep.
Thursday, July 18th
We all get up early (except Lunzer), hike up to the lake and set up camp. Lunzer sleeps in and hikes up alone, hours later. There’s plenty of room for all of us. Fish jumping all day. Lots of mosquitos. The water is surprisingly warm. I swim several times. Catch and release a few fish.
The Legend of the Magnet Was Way Hardcore
Somehow, a very heavy industrial strength magnet made it’s way into little Stangel’s backpack. This thing weighed 2 or 3 lbs. Everyone knows that this magnet will be snuck into someone else’s pack for the hike to Bear Lakes.
Baker is supposed to meet us if he can get off work early enough. He and I have two-way radios so I check on it periodically. Finally, after dinner I hear my radio crack. It’s Baker and it looks like he’ll make it to the lake before dark.
Half of the group wants to stay at Baree Lake another day instead of hiking up to Bear Lakes. I decide that if we’re staying another day, that I’m hiking up to the peak that overlooks the lake. The Stangels and Garcia vow to go too.
Friday, July 19th
Stangel 1 & 2, Garcia and I get up not so early and hike up to the junction with the Cabinet Divide Trail. Baker hikes halfway just to check out the trail. We decide to hike a little ways up and down the Cabinet Divide Trail just to see what we’re in for tomorrow. After trail hiking a bit, we bushwack a little and hike up to the peak. Glorious views to be had. We eat lunch and hang out for a while before hiking back down.
The Legend of the Magnet Continues – On Top of Baree Peak
Nick carried the Magnet to the peak. The legend of the Magnet was way hardcore.
More swimming and fishing. Caught a frog. It’s amazing up here.
Saturday, July 20th
The Legend of the Magnet Continues – Garcia Gets Duped
I wake up super early and find the giant magnet. I hide it in my pack, waiting for my moment. Once everyone is nearly packed I plan on hiding it in some sucker’s backpack. Garcia leaves his pack unattended for a moment and I spring into action. It doesn’t work. Garcia sees me put the Magnet in his pack, so he takes it out and gives it back to the younger Stangel, then leaves his pack unattended again. Young Stangel immediately puts the Magnet back in Garcia’s pack. Garcia has no idea. Garcia teases him about carrying the Magnet the whole hike, not realizing he is the sucker.
“How does that Magnet feel in your pack?”
“Like it’s not even there!”
The Cabinet Divide Trail is awesome. Great views everywhere you look. Easy hiking along a high mountain ridge. It’s great.
We hit the junction to Bear Lakes and the views keep getting better. Eventually the trail drops down a series of switchbacks and we find our way to one of the Little Bear Lakes. Most of us really want to get to Big Bear Lake. I remembered reading that we needed make our way around the little lake on a talus slope. Big mistake. We did that, and had an epic bushwack down to Big Bear Lake. Sprained ankles, blisters etc. It was not the best route.
Big Bear Lake is incredibly beautiful. Stangel said he saw a cabin on a cliff overlooking the lake. After setting up camp a few of us go check it out. This cabin has the best view ever. It’s locked up, quite nice and there isn’t really a trail to it. We have no idea why it’s there.
I go swimming and take a nap. Some of the guys go cliff jumping into the lake. It’s a really beautiful place. A few fish are caught and we decide to cook them up. Delicious Alpine Lake Cutthroat Trout! After dinner, the moon comes out and we watch it for hours. I take a midnight dip in the moonlight and get a moontan. I’m definitely hiking back to this lake someday.
Sunday, July 21
We get up early to pack up and hike out. We find the trail out of Big Bear Lake. That’s definitely the way to go. Hiking out was fairly uneventful. Young Stangel carries the Magnet out. We all meet in Sandpoint for lunch and talk about the trip. The word “EPIC” keeps coming up. It really was.