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July 4th Weekend 2021 – PT 2 – Secret Montana Lookout

You can read pt 1 of this saga here.
The person who gifted us their reservation at this Montana lookout did ask that we not disclose where it was, and I will hold to that. So this will be referred to as the Secret Montana Lookout.

Once we left Little Guard, I, of course, hit rally driving mode again, coming down the mountain. But the next few hours aren’t very blog-worthy, mainly meeting up with some different friends, grabbing more ice for the cooler, and driving to Montana, so I will skip ahead until we pulled off the paved road in MT.

Once again, we are navigating hairpin turns on single-lane dirt roads as we climb the mountain grade. We have the added challenge of cattle using the road as their private thoroughfare this time, so I had to back off on the rally car driving, and it took about an hour to reach the parking spot.

This one was a hike-in, so we had to bear the scorching sun and 90+ degree weather for a short, straight uphill 1/2 mile hike to the lookout. We donned our bags and spent the next 30 minutes avoiding the cow pies as we hiked through this open range area to the lookout above.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking, but this is just kind of a tease. The hilltop we are ascending is not heavily treed, and we can gaze upon our final destination on the entire hike up. However, we do catch a glimpse of the resident bighorn sheep population along the way, though they wanted nothing to do with us and scampered off.

It was only a single flight of stairs up this tower, but there is always something about pulling up the trap door and stepping foot on the catwalk for the first time. In this case, it was incredibly windy up top, which instantly helped break the heat we had been sweating through for the last half hour.

The secret Montana lookout is definitely on some people’s radar. The lookout’s logbooks contained tremendous stories. From couples on their first trip together, family outings, a stop during a cross country adventure, to those escaping the hectic world for a few days of solitude. I read about bear sightings and other animal encounters, and crazy Montana storms that bring snow in July. This is part of why I love lookouts; this merging of breathtaking natural vistas, history, and wildlife is all connected by a shared human connection.

The sunset was brilliant. The sun exploded into millions of red and orange, and pink shades as it dropped below the mountains to the east. Behind us, the alpenglow cast pinks and purples across the western mountains. Our tower was sandwiched between two of the grandest displays of color I had ever seen.

Luckily, this show lasted for at least 30 minutes, giving plenty of time to breathe and enjoy the moment, but also to break out the cameras and drones and try and capture nature’s beautiful show. In fact, I captured the drone video on our home page during this immersive moment.

We took a dinner break which was just standard backpacking food, and got some of our gear together before the darkness crept in. We knew ahead of time that it was a new moon and a perfect night for shooting the Milkyway. So by headlamp, we started scrambling over the rocks and situating ourselves to shoot the second impressive show of the night!

I think we all got some shots we were happy with before we called it a night. Once again, I pulled my air-mattress and backpacking quilt out onto the catwalk, where I dozed off in the cool fresh air of the wilderness.

In the morning, I woke up to find I wasn’t alone on the catwalk. Karen awoke early and noticed that the bighorn sheep herd had bedded down close to the tower and was out on the catwalk with her camera taking photos.

After some morning photography, we ate and cleaned before bidding this tower farewell and hiking down the mountain. The cattle herd had also come through at some point, and the same trail we followed up was now littered with new cow pies to avoid, and they left a rather large one right next to my car door. I guess that is a small price to pay for another unique lookout experience.

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