Tuesday, June 1, 2010

East Fork Sage Creek - Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, Montana, USA

Mike and I along with Coda and Jax dogs drove into Paradise Valley and up Mill Creek road to the East Fork Sage Creek trailhead on the afternoon of Sunday, May 30th. We planned to hike up river until we hit the snowline and then find a suitable place to camp. This ended up being about eight miles in at elevation 7,500 ft.


Our map showed a landmark called Crystal Cave which we found and explored before wandering around on a hillside for 30 minutes trying to find a place flat enough, dry enough, and suitable enough to pitch our tarps.

Mike at the mouth of Crystal Cave

We found a nice flat spot fifty or so meters off trail, pitched the tarps, laid out our bags/quilts and then headed into the woods aways off to find a suitable place for cooking, eating, and hanging our food. Upon finding a nice place I set about cooking some dehydrated chicken, beans, and rice left over from what Mike had prepared for a trip the previous fall. While I was cooking Mike set about building a nicely done "Leave No Trace" fire.

Cooking over the woodfire

We enjoyed some working man's whisky and conversation around the fire while the dogs napped until about 23:00 when it was time to put on the headlamps and navigate back to our tarps. It's always fun climbing over wet, downed logs in the dark after you've had a couple fingers of mediocre whisky.

Coda and some Early Times

Morning arrived with temps hovering around freezing (34 deg F / 1 deg C) and clear skies. With no schedule to keep we slept in 'til around 07:45 or 08:00, arose, made coffee and breakfast and were out of camp by around 09:45. The hike back to the car was lovely with Jax dog scaring up plenty of deer as well as getting a face full of porcupine quills. We arrived at the car around 13:00, enjoyed a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and had a chat with the ranch owner (or caretaker, not sure which) of the Big Snowy Ranch located at the trailhead.

East Fork Sage Creek - Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, Montana, USA at EveryTrail


  1. Nice little trip Sam. I think sticking a cookpot into the embers of a small fire is my favourite way to boil up some water for dinner. There is something very simple and almost 'cowboy' about it.

  2. Sounds like a great foray into the mountains! What were the elements of Mike's fire that prevented it leaving a trace?

  3. I too love setting a pot directly into the fire. We were cooking over an isobutane stove but put the pot into the fire to warm up water for mixing with our whiskey.

    Note that I put "Leave No Trace" in quotes because it definitely left a trace, albeit a barely visible one. He dug down to the mineral soil and set the duff aside, built the fire and then we put it out that evening using snow.

    The next morning we scattered the leftover half-burned fuel, smoothed out the coals, put the forest duff back atop the coals stirring them together and then finally placed more duff atop it all. Here is a photo of our firepit the next morning:


  4. Sam - groovy. Seems like a great way to make a minimal trace fire, anyway. Better than chewing the charcoal as toothpaste, anyhow. :)