September 19, 2017.
Hoping the rain would stop, we all stayed in bed until 8:30am. Or at least, that's why I stayed in bed - I'd later realize that 9am was the general wake-up time. Once again, morning provided a clearer view of our campsite as the rain let up slightly I headed out to take a look and get started on breakfast.
Next to the creek, everyone was dry in their tent - but Zane was clearly in need of a new rain fly.
Once again breakfast was sausage, eggs, and strawberries but on this morning I had the bright idea to cut down on dishes by cooking the sausage in the egg pan, and then scrambling the eggs in the sausage fat (rather than using butter).
It was a disaster. The sausage cooked just fine, but there wasn't enough fat, and scrabling the eggs in the buterless pan just meant that the (sticky-from-protein) egg whites could stick to the pan before the yolks were mixed in.
Tastiness was reduced, and dishwashing time was at least doubled - which meant that by the time I was done, everyone else was up and had finished (or nearly) their breakfast. Smarter than me, they had no dishes to wash.
And then, the rain started turning to snow.
At first it was relatively light snow, but it was enough to get us all moving with the tents. They'd go away wet, but wet was better than snow-covered.
Within minutes, the snow picked up. By the time we pulled out of camp and got back on the road, it was thick and sticking. Monte's warning in the prep-post was definitely coming true - it was gonna be cold!
Out of the woods, we headed for Roscoe where we'd air up and evaluate our next move.
While airing up, we decided that our best bet would be to head into Red Lodge, where we'd planned to eat lunch anyway at Mas Taco, in order to get a new battery for Monte, some propane for the fire, and of course food for our bellies.
Mas Taco was good (more 'meh taco' when your bar is California), but food and propane were all we could find - there were no batteries for Frank. So, after a bit more discussion, we decided that the best plan was to head south - to Powell, WY - where we could regroup and repair before heading out again.
Knowing we had a few hours of driving in front of us, we settled in for the haul by turning up our radios and setting our cruise control (at least, I set mine).
That of course meant it was time for a pit stop! We checked out the view of-and-around the Smith Mine, a ghost town/mine the result of the worst coal mining disaster in Montana (74 people killed in 1973).
From there, it was back on the road, where the tunes and cruise control were put to good use. By early afternoon, we arrived in sunny (to our joy) Powell where we all immediately unfurled our tents in front of Monte's house to dry them out.
Then, Monte, Zane, and Mike got to work on various repairs - a battery for Frank, a fix to the camp table on the Red Head's swingout, and a new taillight for the grey truck.
But I had the hardest job of all (eventually shared by Monte) - talking to the neighbor (character!) across the street.
At 3:45, Mike stopped laughing long enough (from across the street - he was smarter than to actually engage) to excuse us from the neighbor so we could pack up our tents and get back on the road - still eager to "stay on schedule," which - unbeknownst to us - we were just about to scrap entirely! Destination: Cooke City and Goose Lake.
As we drove up the Bear Tooth Highway, we headed up and over Dead Indian Pass, where we got an amazing view of the road down to the valley below
Little did we know that we'd be back relatively soon, for one of the most memorable moments of the trip!
From there, we headed on to Cooke City for fuel, and up to the Lulu Pass road and Goose Lake, hoping that the snow in Cooke City wasn't an indication of what we were about to run into - a thousand feet higher in elevation!
Of course, we had no such luck. Not only did the snow get deeper, but as we reached the trailhead, it was clear that we'd be breaking trail. It was time for a pow-wow.
Monte of course wanted to continue - afterall, Ben (@m3bassman) and Kristen were to meet us after midnight at our camp near Lulu Pass - but Mike, Zane, and I reminded him that he was on 35's and we weren't. In the end, given the time (6:30pm), we decided that the smart move was to head back to Sunlight Basin and text Ben the new location - we might arrive after dark, but at least it would be warmer and dry.
At least we were right about the arriving after dark part.
As we drove up Sunlight Basin, we once again realized that the weather wasn't on our side - what had been dry a couple hours earlier was already covered in snow - beautiful, but wet.
We thanked the weather gods as we pulled into camp that while it was dark, it wasn't snowing. And, since we were now in Wyoming, it meant we could have a real fire! Monte got on it right away, and within minutes had cleared a spot from the snow and built one of his trademark log-cabin fires.
The rest of us made our dinners.
The weather gods giggled, and let loose the snow.
Determined, we tried - for a good 15 minutes - to keep the fire going, but the snow got heavier and heavier, and in the end it was clear that even if Monte kept the fire alive, no one was going to stay out in the snow to enjoy it. We all wrapped up our dinners and dishes and buttoned down the hatches.
By 9:30 it'd been snowing for an hour and we'd gotten 2+ inches of fresh powder. That was enough for Zane, Devin and I to called it quits - we were ready to get warm and dry and we retired to our tents. Monte and Mike stayed up for another 15 minutes or so discussing the plans for the following day - should we attempt Goose Lake or not? - and it was at this point that Mike titled the trip "Weather." Then they too were ready to get out of the snowstorm.
Monte's last two acts of the night were to sweep the snow off everyone's tents, and leave a sign for Ben in the snow on the main road - both of which would be completely undone by the snow that would continue to fall throughout the night and into the early morning hours!
But Ben and Kristen would still find us. It would be 2:38am, and they would have driven several extra hours through white-out conditions, but they would.