An amazing coincidence

BT Map with markersThe Beartooth Mountains are part of a large wilderness complex formed in 1978, formerly known as a “primitive area,” since known as the “Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness*,” or “AB.” It sits north and northeast of Yellowstone National Park, and for most of my life has been my preferred destination over the Park. It offers solitude, miles of trails, and often enough, a private lake for backpackers. (There are 944 lakes in the complex. Many have fish in them, not my concern, but an added attraction.)

Montana MapFor reference, the AB is the circled area in the Montana map to the left. From the image above you can grasp the enormity of the area, and the number of lakes. From a hiking standpoint, the Beartooth Mountains are an “uplift” forming a high ice plateau. This creates many drainages and basins in which lakes naturally form. While forested, it is not heavily so. Hikers only rarely get lost, as the landscape usually shows the way out – just follow a drainage. But trails are abundant. However, leaving a trial is not in any way dangerous, as the landscape usually offers a good sense of where you are.

A person could spend his whole life just exploring the AB. It offers many entrance points from both Wyoming and Montana. My favorite is Island Lake, circled in red above. I like it because the lake itself is beautiful, offers a campground, and rests at 9,000 feet elevation, meaning that a hiker starts high and has less climbing to do than from other access points.

When I met my wife in 1995, we instantly hit it off because we both loved the outdoors and hiking, true to this day. I took great joy in showing her the AB, and over the years we have made many trips there, including on our recent 25th anniversary trip. This post, however, has to do with what I regard as an amazing coincidence, and also a tribute to what a sharp eye my wife has.

Island lake

In 1997 we entered the AB at Island lake, shown above, and carried packs to Albino lake, about six miles in from there. Albino sits near the base of Lonesome Mountain, the prominent peak seen in the photo above. (See the circle and the arrow on the very top map for orientation.) We set up camp, and then did day hike up and over a pass and down to and beyond Golden and Jasper lakes, onto what are called the Cloverleaf lakes. The map below is a scaled down look at the area. We were in the area right under the word “Beartooth” in lower center. We were in search of Arrowhead Lake for some reason, and I am not sure we ever found it.

BT Focused map_000004

As you can see, we were two days into this vast area, which is why I think what follows is an amazing coincidence.

Goofy guy pointing

I do not know what I am pointing at in this photo (what I think is Arrowhead?), but we are near the Cloverleafs. In the map above, I have drawn a green circle around the lake that I think we were near, which (on the map anyway) is unnamed. You can see the northern tip of it in the lower left of the photo. This was taken in July of 1997.

Weeks later my wife was leaving a grocery store and noticed that Montana Magazine was available on the news stand, dated September of 1997. She is very good at this stuff, and thought she recognized the place where the cover photo was taken.

Montana Mag_000003

Take a look at the ridge line in both photos, the one of me and the Montana Magazine cover. The photographers were standing in almost the same spot. You can see not only the ridge line, but the northern tip of the unnamed lake are the same. I have no idea when the Montana Magazine photo was taken, but the shape of the snow fields on the horizon suggest perhaps the same time, maybe even same year.

Given the vastness of the area and the fact that the site of the photos is a two-day journey into the complex, I think it an amazing coincidence that both photos were of the same place, and that my wife spotted it. No way would I have noticed.

Lsake at Falls[By the way, the photos show a stark landscape, no trees visible. That is because of the elevation – it is too high for trees to grow. Rest assured at lower elevations the AB offers forests and spectacular scenery. Image to the left, one of my favorite spots, nine miles in, name withheld.]

Anyway, if you are young and fit, or even just young at heart and fit, you could do worse than to head for the AB. I have described but a small scintilla of a massive complex. Take a look here too, a list of wilderness areas in our land. What a privilege to have had people before us who saw the need to preserve these areas. The AB, at 1,474 square miles, is exceeded in size (in the lower 48) only by the Bob Marshall complex, also in Montana, the Selway Bitterroot in Montana and Idaho and Death Valley in  California.

There are not enough lifetimes to begin to explore all that is available to us. I’ve only described those areas in the lower 48. Alaska is off the charts.

Get going!

*From the text of the 1964 Wilderness Act, the first of several: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” 

6 thoughts on “An amazing coincidence

  1. @mark
    yes, let’s get going, before agenda 21 puts all “wilderness” land off limits for humans.

    thanks for going off the beaten path the last couple of days. in the spirit of cedar waxwings cavorting for bugs (i have also seen them gorging on berries, as they are supposed to), i offer a few of my own pics. mostly plants, a few birds and other things, using a variety of old lenses for effects that i enjoy.

    some of the pics look quite good seen full screen on a pc or laptop.


  2. Those are some very nice photos!

    In Bozeman we would get Waxwings, and in the fall they would eat the berries from the mountain ash trees. They would then shit and the poop was said to be damaging to auto finishes, so we had to hurry to get it off. But I did not remember if those were Cedar or Bohemian Waxwings. If I recall, we got both at various times of year.

    Funny you use the words “Beaten Path,” which is a once well-used 26-mile hike through the heart of the Beartooths. It follows the East Rosebud River, and offers some glorious scenery. I’ve done it numerous times, and the first time, at one of the lakes, we had to move a half mile away to camp as it was so crowded. The last time I did it, we saw only one other person the entire trip, a forest ranger. My sense is that millennials are not into hiking, by and large.


  3. Apologies, off topic: looks to me like Owen Wilson is Dennis Hopper’s son (or somehow related. Look at a young Hopper and you should see the similarities. Wilson also has the same mannered speaking style.

    Note too Wilson’s official father is listed on his mom’s wiki page, unlinked. But on his own wiki page, he’s said to be a gay man with no spouse or children. So they’re not really trying to hide it very much.

    I’m not the first to notice, if you search the two together there’s an image comparison of both young, and some speculation in forum comments.

    Also interesting if you listen to the audio commentary to Bottlerocket, early Wilson and Wes Anderson collaboration, they’re fairly open about how favored and helped along they were. Not that they aren’t talented, but that only goes so far…


    1. I’m getting back to work here very soon, my first task to do some facial work woh Ted Bundy. I am yet to work on it, but in my mind, it is promising. I’ve made notes of other things brought to my attention. I have them in a file.


    1. A guy made a list of coincidences that had to be in place for the famous Naudet video of the first (not second) twin tower being hit in 2001. He came up with a lot of them, I forget the number, not the least of which was that the guy with the camera had to be outdoors. At any given time, most New Yorkers are indoors. Then he had to have a view of the tower, highly unlikely there in the canyons. Then he had to move on sound, which travels slowly, in time to catch the explosion. And on and on. Conclusion … too many coincidences. It was staged.

      In this case there is only one coincidence … that we and the film crew selected the same location out of a vast wilderness area, us just wandering around, them looking for a cover. Add one more coincidence … the area is not scenic. It is rocks and ice. It is not photogenic.

      Now that was a real coincidence, not a fake one.


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