We spent 5 days and 4 nights on this trip and logged 32 unique miles of trail on the big loop, one of the nights was car camping near the trailhead. We started and ended at the Swift Creek Trailhead in the Yellowstone drainage. We made a big loop by heading up through Swift Creek, over Bluebell Pass, a night at Milk Lake and then the long hike along Yellowstone Creek to get back to the Swift Creek Trailhead.
The first day was tough. We car camped nearby which happened to be my then youngest dog, Patina’s first camping trip. She kept us up all night long obsessed with all of the noises around. Add to that that the fact that we would be putting down about 9 very rugged miles and gaining 3000 feet and it was a tough day.
Here is a very approximate map of our route. I didn’t save GPS tracks so this is just me drawing a line on Google Maps. Do not use this for navigation.
View Milk Lake Loop – BCP in a larger map
In the morning we discovered that some of Patina’s paws had blown out a bit on the long hike in. She was not very happy and spent most of the morning sitting by the shore acting very sad and picked on. We almost pulled the plug and turned around here but we decided that I would carry her food and see how she hiked with just an empty backpack. I eventually ended up carrying her backpack too.
We ran into a group of cowboys on horses as we were hiking up the pass. Hate to say it because I know there are some really respectful horse people out there but these ones fit the stereotype, not friendly whatsoever, acted like we were on their land or something. And to top it off they didn’t even share any of the beer they were drinking as they went past.
The rain would come and go so we kept hiking but eventually the trail dissipated and we were route finding. After an hour or so of hiding under ledges and bushwhacking we finally found the correct route and were on our way back uphill towards Milk Lake.
After a very long stretch with no water we took a much needed break at a spring. On the map it looks like the trail is right next to the river but in reality you’re up on a ledge 50-100 feet above the river for miles on end. Typically I would expect a lot of little creeks and such to intersect the trail but there was nothing. By this point it was hard work just to get my poor dog up and moving again after stopping.
We camped that night at a nice site above the river. In the morning we figured we would have about 3 miles left. After a couple of miles the trail finally made it down to the same level as the river. Sonny was desperate for a drink here and fell in while trying to scale down the big rock.
View the full set of photos on Flickr.
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