Author Archives: chris

Heather Lake and Emerald Lake- Gallatin Range

Heather Lake and Emerald Lake- Gallatin Range

Heather Lake

Heather Lake and Emerald Lake are two beautiful subalpine lakes that lie between Mount Chisolm and Overlook Mountain. These lakes are popular attractions in Hyalite Canyon, making the trail busy most of the year. Mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders, and even dirt bike riders enjoy the East Fork Hyalite Creek Trail during its peak season (July 15th-September 4th). The crowd on the trail shouldn’t distract you too much along this scenic trail, the waterfalls and towering geological wonders will pull your attention to the trail and force you to take a break. Starting at the trailhead, you are soon rewarded by one of these marvels.

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28 Jul 2018

History Rock Trail- Gallatin Range

History Rock Trail- Gallatin Range

History Rock, located in Hyalite Canyon

History Rock Trail is one of the few places where someone leaving a trace behind is acceptable. Settlers, old timers, and even a scout for George Custer all left their marks on this large outcropping, and it stands as a historical “guest book” of sorts, storing the names and dates of those who have passed along this trail. Located in Bozeman’s busy Hyalite Canyon, History Rock is a short 2.5-mile hike that is a perfect way to stretch your legs. Make sure to bring a camera along this hike– not only is the scenery beautiful, but the soft sandstone on History Rock won’t be along forever. This last reason alone should tell you that you should stop and hike along the quick trail to History Rock.

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23 Jul 2018

Communication While Backpacking

Communication in the wilderness is possible, and there are several good options.

Communicating while backpacking might seem like the last thing that you would want to do. After all, we leave technology behind to embrace the wilderness and to focus on nature. Technology can interfere with this– there’s no better feeling than being completely “off the grid” for a week, completely disconnected from the outside world. However, there are exceptions to this- you may be backpacking alone, have health problems, or have family that needs checking on. In these circumstances, communication while camping in a remote location is not only a good idea, but a need. Thankfully, there is more than just one option when it comes to backcountry communication, and the price tag on one of the options will work with almost any budget. Continue reading “Communication While Backpacking” »

17 Feb 2018

Gardner Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Gardner Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Gardner Lake

If you’re traveling along Highway 212 (The Beartooth Highway), and need a quick stop to stretch your legs, stop by Gardner Lake. This trailhead is one of the highest in the Beartooths, at 10,550 ft above sea level, so be prepared to be winded on this short trail. In addition to the altitude taking your breath away, the view certainly will as well. Gardner Lake sits at the bottom of a bowl, and the hike down to the lake allows you to see Tibbs Butte and Littlerock Creek. The scenery is beautiful any time of the year, but it’s wise to hike to Gardner Lake in the late summer, due to the rampant mosquitoes. Leaving the trailhead, and hiking straight down, your quick hike to Gardner Lake begins.

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12 Feb 2018

Fan Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Fan Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Fawn Pass Trailhead

Fan Creek is possibly the most popular hike along the Yellowstone National Park boundary. With the trailhead located just off of Highway 191, Fan Creek is a quick drive from West Yellowstone and Bozeman. It’s also an easy hike, gaining only 50 feet in the 1.2 miles to the junction with Fan Creek Trail. The fishing along Fan Creek is great any time of the year. The scenery certainly won’t disappoint, either. Since Fan Creek is this accessible and beautiful, it’s easy to see why Fan Creek is popular in the summer and winter.

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09 Feb 2018

Hiking with Ham Radio

In this remote alpine setting, ham radio communication is still possible.

One of the biggest challenges with amateur radio, or ham radio, is communicating over mountainous terrain in remote regions. Natural obstacles, lack of other nearby repeaters, and logistical limitations make backpacking or hiking while operating a ham radio difficult. For someone who is new to ham radio these technical challenges can be daunting. There is plenty of information on radio specifications, repeater frequencies, and ways to overcome natural barriers on the Internet. However, the majority of resources are spread out, requiring a new ham radio operator to spend dozens of hours on research before deciding if they should bring a ham radio on a backpacking trip. This article will discuss the different ways you can overcome the many challenges that hiking with a ham radio brings. First, I’m going to cover the most important step to operating a ham radio- licensing.

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07 Feb 2018

Using Cross Band Repeat While Backpacking

Narrow canyon walls can make operating a ham radio difficult.

Cross band repeat is a nice feature that many ham radios have– it gives the ability to transmit on one band to a more powerful radio and then, in turn, send that transmission from the more powerful radio on another band. Cross band repeat is typically used for a handheld radio to communicate with a more powerful radio, and to expand the communication range of that handheld radio. This is important when backpacking- if you can transmit using 5-8 watts to your vehicle at the trailhead, the radio in your vehicle can easily re-transmit the same message at 50-75 watts. You’ll need to do your homework with this solution, but it will easily enable you to communicate while backpacking.

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04 Feb 2018

Backpacking with APRS

APRS Position and Course Data

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) was developed in 1992 with the purpose of giving ham radio operators a way to transmit their location, allowing them to view the locations of other ham users, and send messages to each other. APRS is a mature technology, which is widely implemented in the ham community. Odds are good that there is a digipeater within range of your home. For backpackers, APRS presents an easy way to keep in touch with loved ones, while camping and hiking in the wilderness. Although APRS might sound like a hard system to operate, modern enhancements have made communicating via APRS an easy solution.

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04 Feb 2018

Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (2 of 2)

<– If you haven’t read part 1, click here to read Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (1 of 2)

My Raspberry Pi

A computer with a sound card interfaces to your radio via two 3.5 mm audio cables. An interface cable will be required for this, which you can either make yourself or order one from Clifford Wareham ( Once you have your interface, you will need to determine what hardware (computer) and what software (the APRS digipeating software) you will use. For my setup, I went with a Raspberry Pi 3– a well documented and reliable miniature computer that runs Linux. The Raspberry Pi 3 does need a USB sound card in order to work as a digipeater, since the Pi only natively supports audio out. The Pi 3 and a USB sound card should cost no more than $50.

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29 Jan 2018

Mobile Digipeating: Increasing APRS Reception While Backpacking (1 of 2)

My handheld radio, running APRS thanks to the Mobilinkd Bluetooth adapter.

At times, you may find yourself unable to reliably use APRS while backpacking. Broken terrain and natural barriers can degrade your APRS transmission just enough to result in the total loss of packet information. Since APRS does not have a way to detect or recover dropped packets, some hikers get frustrated when they cannot use APRS on a backpacking trip. One way around this limitation is to setup a dedicated APRS digipeater that is located at the trailhead. This way, your weaker handheld radio can transmit an APRS message to a more powerful radio in your vehicle, which then transmits your original message at approximately ten times the power of your handheld. If you’re willing to invest a little money and time, this is not only an effective solution, but it’s also fairly easy to setup.

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29 Jan 2018

Red Lodge Creek Trail- Beartooth Mountains

Red Lodge Creek Trail- Beartooth Mountains

Red Lodge Creek Trail #14

Red Lodge Creek Trail #14 is a quick day hike through a mature forest. This hike is mostly traveled by local residents, so the traffic is usually lighter than other day hikes near Red Lodge. The trail traffic is exceptionally light in the late fall (where about half of the upper trail is inaccessible), which makes Red Lodge Creek Trail a nice late season or early season day hiking trail. If you’re looking for the possibility of an uninterrupted day in the mountains, Red Lodge Creek Trail might have what you’re looking for.

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10 Nov 2017

Keyser Brown Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Keyser Brown Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Keyser Brown Lake

Keyser Brown Lake is a beautiful mountain lake that is easily accessible from Lake Fork Trail #1, in the Beartooth Mountains. This forested lake is at 8,700 feet, making it one of the easiest to access lakes along the Lake Fork Trail. The trail to Keyser Brown Lake only climbs 1,600 feet along the seven mile trail, which is what makes this lake so easy to reach. Keyser Brown Lake also excels as a base camp, supports a good brook trout fishery, and will help you escape the busy crowds on their way to Lost Lake. Leaving the paved parking lot, and crossing a sturdy bridge over the Lake Fork of Rock Creek, your trip to Keyser Brown Lake begins.

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27 Jul 2017

Grotto Falls- Gallatin Range

Grotto Falls- Gallatin Range

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls, located in Bozeman’s scenic Hyalite Canyon, is a beautiful waterfall that can be reached within a half hour. Although the waterfall isn’t particularly tall, Grotto Falls makes up for that by its sheer volume. Hyalite Creek gushes over the falls into the pools below, creating perfect swimming holes to relax in after a hot day. Access to the falls is excellent, with the trail well groomed, and highly trafficked. Simply put, Grotto Falls should be on your must-see list if you are hiking towards Hyalite Lake, or even just in Hyalite Canyon for a day.

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02 Jul 2017

Palisade Falls- Gallatin Range

Palisade Falls- Gallatin Range

Palisade Falls

There are many hikes on this site that can last for days, test your physical strength, and require navigational skills to reach your intended destination. Fortunately, Palisade Falls is not one of those hikes. The hike to Palisade Falls is quite possibly the easiest hike I’ve ever written about. You don’t need a water bottle or a backpack for this hike, and you don’t even need hiking boots for this hike. Instead, Palisade Falls offers something that few trails do- accessibility for everyone. This short 1-mile out-and-back hike can be explored by toddlers, the elderly, and even people who require wheelchairs or crutches. Simply put, this is the easiest hike you’ll ever take, but don’t let this dissuade you from hiking the Palisade Falls Trail. The natural beauty that Palisade Falls provides will still awe you, even if the hike won’t.

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01 Jul 2017

Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail- Gallatin Range

Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail- Gallatin Range

Petrified Wood on the Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail

If you’re interested in the geological forces that shaped the mountains outside of Yellowstone National Park, or simply enjoy viewing petrified wood and semi-precious gems, the Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail is an amazing trail. Although this trail is short, it gains 625 feet of elevation along the way (most of it during the last half mile). This gives a great calf stretch on the way to Yellowstone National Park, and is an excellent introduction to Yellowstone’s unique geology. Once you’re ready to hike this beautiful interpretive trail, drive down Tom Miner Rd for a dusty 11 miles, and begin your quick geologic adventure.

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28 Jun 2017

Rat Lake- Gallatin Range

Rat Lake- Gallatin Range

Rat Lake

Rat Lake, located just outside of Bozeman, MT, is a day hike that attracts many hikers, anglers, and tourists. The quick hike, combined with the close proximity to Yellowstone, Bozeman, and Big Sky, draw in many locals and tourists each year. The high traffic on this hike shouldn’t discourage you, though. Anglers will appreciate the trout fishing, hikers will be encouraged to hike further down the trail, and tourists will love the quick chance to stretch their legs. This trail even offers a chance to stay overnight in a US Forest cabin- Rat Lake Trail #416 offers everyone a quick trip into the Gallatin Range.

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12 Jun 2017

Bacon Rind Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Bacon Rind Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Bacon Rind Creek

If you’re looking for a quick day hike near West Yellowstone with beautiful scenery, look no further than Bacon Rind Creek. This short hike is great for small kids and adults alike, since the trail gains only a little over 300 feet in 2 ½ miles. Hikers looking for an adventure shouldn’t be worried about the trail’s easy grade– just because this is an easy hike it shouldn’t turn you away from Bacon Rind Creek, this grassy valley harbors some of Yellowstone’s famous wildlife; bears, moose, and rainbow trout all thrive in this valley. Once you’ve found the trailhead (refer to the directions below), you can begin this quick hike.

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20 Dec 2016

Tepee Pass- Yellowstone National Park

Tepee Pass- Yellowstone National Park

Tepee Pass

Tepee Pass is a scenic day hike that is located just barely outside of Yellowstone National Park, and although the trail isn’t technically in the park, you can still see vistas of the park and the surrounding mountain ranges. Tepee Pass provides one of those rare moments when you can see two mountain ranges in all of their glory- the Gallatin Range to your left and right, and the Madison Range in front of you. While you’re on this hike, you also have the opportunity to see some of Yellowstone’s famous wildlife- bears, moose, and deer. If you’re not afraid of hiking up a large hill, the hike up to Tepee Pass is worth your time.

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29 Nov 2016

Pioneer Falls- Madison Range

Pioneer Falls

Pioneer Falls

Tumbling 40 feet into a narrow gorge, Falls Creek creates the dramatic display that is known as Pioneer Falls. Pioneer Falls is mesmerizing to watch, as gallon upon gallon of pristine water tumbles its way towards the southern fork of Spanish Creek. Standing here, you have to appreciate the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, and the need for wilderness areas in this country. To be humbled by nature’s creation, you only have to hike a few miles from civilization. Many trail guides list this hike as a 7.5 mile hike, but that is not correct- the hike to the falls is only 3 miles, making the total trip length 6 miles.

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07 Nov 2016

Little Elk Creek Trail- Black Hills

Little Elk Creek Trail- Black Hills

Little Elk Creek Trail

Conveniently located just 20 minutes from Rapid City, South Dakota, Little Elk Creek Trail offers the ability to quickly hop on a scenic trail, and start exploring the woods. This easy trail is a quick detour from I-90, and is close enough to Rapid City for a quick walk in the woods after work. Little Elk Creek Trail is 6 miles long, and gains only 500 feet in the first three miles, making it an easy trail for kids and older adults. Mountain bikers will enjoy the easy trail grade, and will especially appreciate the few boulders on the trail. If you’ve got a few hours to spare, head towards interstate exit 44, and the Black Hills.

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22 Oct 2016