Visiting (Part of) the Lake District of Cloud Peak Wilderness

Curt

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Ever since @Scott Chandler made several posts about the Cloud Peak Wilderness a few years ago I've been looking at it for hiking trips. For a couple years I have been contemplating a 4 day loop that involves a 10 mile off-trail section across a ridge line above tree line. Last year, an old hiking buddy wanted to go backpacking. He only wanted to do an overnight so I suggested going out to do the first day of the loop. I thought that would give me an idea if there is an reasonable access to the top of the mountain for the off-trail part.

I had been thinking about trying to do the whole loop this year. Covid restrictions and work schedule was making choosing a time really difficult. I had just about decided to punt for this year considering how out-of-shape I have gotten because of Covid restrictions and everything else. But upon finishing a big deadline at work and having my 65th birthday looming I decided, on a lark, to take a week off and go for it. This all fell together really fast with a lot of changes along the way. I planned to leave for Wyoming 2 days after telling my boss that I was taking a week off. So, one day to put everything together. One day to drive to WY. Four to hike. One to drive back home. That plan lasted about an hour until I called my wife to tell her what I was doing. She said she wasn't going to miss celebrating my birthday with me and besides she wanted to go too but she wasn't going to cool her heels in Sheridan for more than a couple days by herself. I was actually relieved to hear that she wanted to go. It's always fun to make a road trip with her, and besides, I was concerned about the drive and my capability to make the hike. So automatically the hike went from 4 days to 2. She started to look at where else we might go on the way there and back, and I started looking at what I was going to do with my 2 days of hiking. The only hiking trip I've done any planning on was that loop so I started looking at doing the last day of it. Having Misty Moon Lake as a destination had some advantages. It's a typical kick off location for climbing Cloud Peak, the 4th highest peak in WY. It's also in the middle of a lot of lakes. So, I decided to check out the approach for Cloud Peak and the various lakes.

West Tensleep Lake. The trailhead is nearby.
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Lake Helen
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Lake Marion
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Misty Moon Lake. (Gotta be the coolest name ever for a lake). My tent is near the center of the picture.
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@b.stark has had to wait for me to get butterfly (and other insect) photos on some other hiking trips so he won't be surprised to see some butterfly photos. I saw a few butterflies that I haven't seen before. I haven't been able to identify the one below. If you know what it is please let me know.
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I'm not completely sure about the others but, I think this is a Bronze Copper.
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Pacific Fritillary
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Milbert's Tortoiseshell
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Aphrodite Fritillary
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Northern Checkerspot
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Back to the lakes, This is Florence Lake.
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On the left is Gunboat Lake. Just to the right of that is one of the Fortress Lakes.
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Moose! These guys were at the head of one of the Fortress Lakes. There was a guy fishing just to the left out of the picture. I yelled to him to ask if he'd seen the Moose. They seemed to be pretty close. He turned and looked and yelled back yelled back that he hadn't and thanked me for letting him know. And like that he disappeared and I didn't (nor did the Moose) see him again.
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Bloom where you're planted.
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Sunset back at Misty Moon
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Panorama after sunset. Cloud Peak is the high mountain on the left. Bomber Mountain rises above the lake. A bomber crashed in the mountain during WWII hence the name. The high peaks on the right are the Mather Peaks. My off-trail route runs right past them.
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Home for the night. Neighbors across the way.
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I had hoped to see Neowise either after sunset or before sunrise. It wasn't to be. Clouds were pouring in on the north west when the photo above was taken. The wind had begun to pick up. I checked the weather and the prediction was for 30% chance of thunderstorms in an hour. Bummer. I went to bed and it got really windy but no lightning or rain. I woke up at 1 a.m. and it was calm. I looked out the tent and there were a billion stars.
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The picture below is a photo experiment. The foreground is a 3 minute exposure and the sky is a 20 second exposure put together in Photoshop. This is looking at the north end of the Milky Way. The previous photo was taken looking at the more photogenic south end of the Milky Way. One thing I like about the north end is that you can see the galaxy Andomeda which showed up well in this picture. It's the blurred area just to the right of the center near the top of the picture.
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Misty Moon Lake, Bomber Mountain, the Moon, and Venus before sunrise - but no Neowise.
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Sunrise at Misty Moon.
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Lakeside bouquet.
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Glacial tarn on the way to Cloud Peak
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Lake Solitude
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This is where the trail for Cloud Peak leaves the main trail. It skirts across the alluvial plain near the right edge of the photo, across the stream, and up the far side of the canyon.
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Cloud Peak is in the center of the picture. This shows the route up to the Peak. The photo was taken about 1/4 - 1/2 mile down stream from the previous picture.
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Obligatory picture of a Marmot. It was hanging out near my tent. Had me a little worried that it would make a raid.
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Thanks for looking.
 
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Love the star shots - good stuff
 
What a beautiful share and awesome way to celebrate your birthday! Happy Birthday!

So many butterflies! Google seems to think that first butterfly is either a Scotch Argus, Woodland Ringlet, or Arran Brown. I am thinking a Woodland Ringlet out of the 3 options, however, it doesn't seem like any of the options should be in Wyoming..haha Mystery!!
 
Great TR- glad you got away on a trip. Fun intro and the star photos are amazing!!!
 
What a beautiful share and awesome way to celebrate your birthday! Happy Birthday!

So many butterflies! Google seems to think that first butterfly is either a Scotch Argus, Woodland Ringlet, or Arran Brown. I am thinking a Woodland Ringlet out of the 3 options, however, it doesn't seem like any of the options should be in Wyoming..haha Mystery!!
Thank you! I looked at all three and think you're right about the Woodland Ringlet being the closest. I see that all three kinds are European butterflies. Wyoming IS a little out of their range....
 
Nice job with your photo experiment, it doesn't look fake at all (unlike so many "blended" foreground/astro photos). I also like your Moon and Venus photo. Actually, I like all your photos, but those two were my favorites :)
 
I know! It is so curious!! I like really want to know what it is doing here or how it got here.
After doing a little more research I found out what this butterfly is. It's called a "Common Alpine". Thanks for your comment suggesting that it is a Ringlet. That led me to the correct sub-family of butterflies (Satyr). After looking through the registry for butterflies for that sub-family found in WY I found it. Thanks again.
 
I really need to quit driving past the Bighorns. They do look like a good range. Wish I could have tagged along Curt! I'm not sure I will do anything for backpacking this year-maybe an in-state overnighter or something. As usual your photography is excellent. And I don't mind waiting while you take pictures of bugs, the results are worth seeing.
 
I really need to quit driving past the Bighorns. They do look like a good range. Wish I could have tagged along Curt! I'm not sure I will do anything for backpacking this year-maybe an in-state overnighter or something. As usual your photography is excellent. And I don't mind waiting while you take pictures of bugs, the results are worth seeing.
I thought about you but figured one days notice wouldn't be enough for anyone and Sandy wanted it to be a 'me and her' road trip. So, I didn't call you.

I have some friends who want to go backpacking in the Badlands this fall. Everybody knows that I've done a loop through there. There will be at least one who has never been backpacking before. Might be another who has some backpacking experience but is in his 70's. Tough place to backpack cause you have to carry all of your water. We probably won't get too far. But, if you're interested, I'll definitely keep you in the loop. Right now I think it would just be an overnight - maybe 2. No more than that. Could be a day hike from a base camp situation. If it happens it will be in October, maybe early November when it's cooler.
 
I thought about you but figured one days notice wouldn't be enough for anyone and Sandy wanted it to be a 'me and her' road trip. So, I didn't call you.

I have some friends who want to go backpacking in the Badlands this fall. Everybody knows that I've done a loop through there. There will be at least one who has never been backpacking before. Might be another who has some backpacking experience but is in his 70's. Tough place to backpack cause you have to carry all of your water. We probably won't get too far. But, if you're interested, I'll definitely keep you in the loop. Right now I think it would just be an overnight - maybe 2. No more than that. Could be a day hike from a base camp situation. If it happens it will be in October, maybe early November when it's cooler.

Understood about your Bighorn trip. Let me know about the Badlands. I'd like to do some hiking there, be it backpacking or just plain hiking. No idea if it will fit my schedule or not but worth letting me know anyway.
 
Making me homesick...lived in the foothills of the Bighorns for 10 years until moving to be with family in England. The Cloud Peak Wilderness is one of my favorite places in the world...and the Solitude Loop Trail is well worth spending a week doing...even at only 65 miles (including the out and in from the TH) as there are so many places to fish
 
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