08/24 - Day 7 started bright and early, drug myself out of bed at 6:20 and headed to the Elk View Inn for the Jamboree breakfast. I ate breakfast with two locals (Bob and Dick?) who were doing their first Jeep Jamboree. After breakfast we had our driver meeting and then took off for the trails.
I was signed up for one of the moderate difficulty trails today, the Woodchuck Trail (pink). The first half of the day was very boring, but we did have another moose sighting (cow) that brings my tally up to 7 sightings. Almost right up until lunch we basically drove on gravel and dirt roads at 10mph (in 2wd) that could have easily been driven closer to 40mph. At this point I was regretting being talked into an easier trail.
A pair of really cool Forest Ranger’s accompanied us on this trail in their white 4 door Jeep Rubicon and I learned quite a few things from them at lunch. They confirmed my suspicions from earlier in the week that I was certainly being hunted by a mountain lion in the black hills, and most certainly only survived do to my severe case awesomeness and modesty; mountain lions respect awesome modesty. Other things I learned included that the Big Horn Forest contains wolves, which have traveled from Yellowstone. You can basically camp anywhere in the forest (within 300 feet of a road) with a camper, RV, tent, etc for free, unless marked otherwise. You are limited to 14 days at one site; however, before you need to move. If you are going to camp in the back country you need to first register (it is free) before leaving to get a permit to carry with you. The sheep do not roam free, but are actually herded by shepherds. The cattle do roam free within various zones in the forest, ranchers purchase permits to have them graze within the forest.
After lunch, the trail went from boring to amazing. Instead of wasting time on gravel roads we started climbing over rocky and boulder-strewn terrain that included numerous water crossings. It wasn’t anything super technical, but it was what I expected for a moderate difficulty trail. This went on for a couple hours and then we reached a crossroads where it was put to a vote as to which direction to go. Our options were to go left, backtrack some of the lame trails we did earlier and return to the cabin or to go right through another water crossing and a little more rocks and then take some dusty gravel roads back. The other component to going right was that we would visit an old logging dam that would be used to dam up logs before they were flooded down to Dayton in the spring, back before logging trucks and workplace safety regulations. Along with that, our forest rangers offered to give us a talk and background on the dam. We unanimously chose to go right.
- Our trail guide Dave leading us along the Woodchuck trail.
- Forest Ranger explaining the logging dam
After visiting the dam we headed back to the lodge for dinner where I talked with two other Dave’s I met (Dave and his son, Dave and his wife) about the trails, the day ahead and travel.
Overall I would say the day was a good one, but I think the trail would have been better if we had just done the second half twice. The first half really seemed just to kill time. It’s going to take me a week to clean the dirt and dust out of the cabin though, but that’s not a first.