9.10.2016

Completing the Trifecta - Exploring Three Random Lakes in the Southern Madison Range

The days of summer are dwindling and I'm glad to say that I've gotten out on numerous adventures so far. One great thing about having seven mountain ranges within an easy day's drive of home is that you can live here for a while and still have new places to explore. Thus is the case with a series of random lakes in the southern Madison range. 
Cameron Lake, Madison Range, MT
Cameron Lake
In July and August, Mike and I, and an assortment of friends visited Cameron, Alp and No Man Lakes in three outings - one day trip and two backpacking trips. Each was beautiful and had an off-the-beaten-path feel. Pair that with great company and these adventures were the perfect trifecta for the outdoor enthusiast.

Cameron Lake
This is the lake that started things off. It was Adam's suggestion, and Mike  Amy, and I rounded out the hiking group that day. It was a straight-forward hike to the lake followed by a steep hike up a near-by nubbin, which provided views of some of the higher peaks off in the distance.

Cameron Lake was an unexpected surprise. Adam saw it on the map and since he likes exploring lakes, he decided we should check it out. I had never heard of it either and I was really pleased to find that it was a great place to visit. That got me wondering about what other hiking trails exist that I  had never heard of. Mike and I began looking at maps and found two other lakes, Alp and No Man, also in the southern Madison range. We set a goal to hike to them and like Cameron Lake, those were also delightful trips.

Lounging at Cameron Lake, Southern Madison Range, MT
Quite contemplation at Cameron Lake
Nubbin about Cameron Lake, Montanan
Hiking to the Nubbin above the lake

Ice cream (& a very large picnic table) in Ennis
Ice cream (& a very large picnic table) in Ennis afterwards

Alp Lake area from above, Taylor Fork, Big Sky, Montana
Various lakes as seen from the ridge line.
Alp Lake
This was my favorite of the outings.  Dave Dolph joined Mike, Amy and I for this one night backpacking trip.  There are a series of lakes in the vicinity and the open nature of the terrain made bushwhacking from one lake to another really easy and fun. 

On the morning of day two, we hiked above our campsite to a ridge-line that offered excellent views of Hilgard Basin and the big peaks in the southern Madison range. Views extended off in all directions and the Tetons were faintly visible in the far horizon. It was here that we first had a look at the No Man Lake area, which we hiked to a few weeks later.

Ann Vinciguerra's Birthday at Alp Lake, Montana
Thanks to Amy for bringing the birthday sign!

In addition the the great scenery and fun hike, the trip was made more special by the fact that it was my birthday that weekend. Amy brought yummy cookies and Dave brought brie and crackers which all felt quite luxurious to have along on a backpacking trip. While we tried to stay up late to watch the Perseid meteors, sleep won out in the long run and we went to be early.
Alp Lake area, Montana
Lounging rock in the Alp Lake area
Alp Lake area, Montana
Near our campsite at Alp Lake
Crocs for backpacking
Crocs are perfect for creek crossings & lounging in camp!
No Man Lake
This was the last lake to be explored and it was our biggest adventure. We should have known something was up when a web search for No Man Lake revealed absolutely nothing.

Amy, Mike and I backpacked there for the night, and while we weren't expecting to see too many people, we weren't expecting so many downed trees! It was crazy. Some sort of micro-burst or high-altitude tornado must have come through the area as we estimated it to be one to two miles of constant downed tree to navigate. So tht's why few people visit No Man Lake!

It started off with just a few "regular" downed trees to step over and the escalated into stacks of trees to climb up, over and around. While that part of the trail wasn't too steep, navigating this area with an overnight pack was a slow-moving proposition. Hiking down the trail the next morning was easier but still far from being pleasant. Amy made a game out of counting the trees that crossed the trail on the way down and came up with approximately 300! You should have seen the scratches on our legs after this trip, it was not pretty!

Downed trees aside, No Man Lake was a great place to visit and I'm glad we persevered through the trees to camp there for the night. Steep rock walls rose straight up from the small basin and we found a pleasant spot to camp at in the trees. A few remnants of a dam and some mining activity littered the area and got us thinking about what might have gone on there and when. The next morning brought exploration above the lake before the arduous trip back to the car followed by a hearty meal at the Blue Moon Cafe in Cameron.

Trifecta completed!

Update: I just discovered this post. It looks like this party was at No Man Lake shortly after we were. The funny thing is that they had exactly the same questions/thoughts as we did:
No Man Falls, Madison Range, Montana
No Man Falls

Mining remnants near No Man Lake
Mining remnants near No Man Lake
1) Hmmm....I wonder why we can't find out any beta on the No Man Lake trail?

2) Wow! Look at all these downed trees. I wonder how that happened?

3) It really shouldn't have take us that long to hike 9.5 miles. I wonder how long it would have taken if we didn't have to climb up, over and around all of those damn trees?

4) Hmmm...there's an old dam and signs of mining activity up at the lake. I wonder when that was going on?
Downed trees on the No Man Lake trail
The read adventure begins!