Between the frequent rain drops, we did manage three nice hikes during our week long stay in Lander. Our first outing was a short but steep hike called the Lower Climbing Buttress just inside Sinks Canyon State Park. This trail starts across from Sawmill Campground and climbs to the top of the Tensleep sandstone cliffs on the south facing slope. It’s a short (a bit over a mile round trip) and steep hike up the side of the canyon and back.
As we approached our lunch spot we could hear footsteps behind us (over the noise of our breathing). A single runner came bounding up the trail, said hello, and continued up the steep slope. Soon he appeared along the ridge far above us. The little dot on the ridge line indicated by the arrow is him.
After enjoying our lunch we began heading carefully back down the trail. As we descended we spotted that runner going down a nearby alternate path. We could soon see him in the parking area below us as he entered a vehicle, took a drink from a container, ran across the road to the rest room, and took off running back up the trail again. We had initially thought we were quite the strong hikers when we got up to our lunch spot (after catching our breath) but this mountain goat quickly dispelled that feeling!
The next day we drove through the state park to a trail leading up to the PoPo Agie Falls (locals say “PoPo A Gee”, park info says “PoPo Shia”). This is a beautiful hike up to a series of scenic water falls. The road up through Sinks Canyon State Park runs for about three miles before entering Shoshone National Forest. At that point it takes a sharp turn and heads steeply up into the mountains. But during our visit the road was closed due to heavy snow at the higher elevations. We drove right to the gate closing the road and parked in what’s called Bruce’s Parking Area. We walked across the road and took the footbridge across the river to the trailhead kiosk.
From there it is 1.8 miles up to the falls. For the first half of the hike the trail runs right along the river.
In some spots it leaves the river and goes through a cool boulder field.
Returning to the river, the trail went by a series of small falls.
About the half way point the trail begins to go up a bit more steeply.
As it went up, the views of the river below became more interesting.
After a bit we came to a fork in the road (and we took it, Yogi!). Go left and the falls are about a quarter mile away. Go right and you can hike for many, many miles into the national forest. We turned left.
Just after crossing the little bridge the trail rose up and over an area of slick rock. As we looked back we had a nice view of the trail behind us.
As we crested the slick rock the series of water falls came into view.
We continued down the trail, crossing a fairly new wooden bridge over a wet area, and came to the end of the trail at a nice bench with a great view of the lower falls.
Many colorful flowers brightened the trail as we hiked.
Our final hike in Lander was on a trail called The Bus Loop. To get to the trailhead you go north on Main Street. Just past the Safeway turn west on to Baldwin Creek Road. Drive 4.2 miles and park in a small pull-off on the right side of the road. The trail begins across the road from there.
The bus loop is a series of hiking/biking/riding trails on BLM land. The trails are unmarked so you need to check your route on a map before you head out. The trail is named for the remains of a small bus lying in a wash along one of the trails. Who knows how that thing got to were it is.
Just a few yards from the bus is the remains of an old Dodge that provided someone with a good shooting target.
We hiked past the “junk yard” to a fork in the trail. One of the paths lead up into some rocks that looked interesting, so we went that way. We found that it lead up into a large area of slick rock.
We climbed up to the top of the rocks in hopes of getting a nice view of the valley below.
While we sat eating our lunch and looking at the blue sky, we heard a rumble of thunder. We then turned around to see the dark clouds forming over the mountains to our south. The thunder and storm clouds made us reconsider our hike. We quickly made our way back down the rocks and headed for the Jeep.
Of course, no rain ever fell. But the slick rock was the highlight of the trails, so we don’t think we missed much by cutting the hike short.
That concludes our stay in Lander. Although the rain curtailed our activities all too often, we did get to complete the hikes at the top of our list. Deep snow up in the high country also prevented us from some adventures, so a return visit may be in our future. Next up is a visit to Red Lodge, MT.
More on that later . . .