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  • Wyoming Expedition - Morrison Jeep Trail, Goose, Shoshone & Christina Lake - July 18-25, 2014

    July 18-25, 2014 - Montana & Wyoming - Morrison Jeep Trail, Goose, Shoshone & Christina Lake
    Attendees: Venturer (Peter), expeditionnw (Joe & Karen), NW Wheeler (Nate)

    8 days
    5 States
    2,300 miles
    183.95 gallons of gas ($737)
    Highest Elevation ~ 11,000 ft

    Morrison Jeep Trail
    Goose Lake
    Lake of the Woods
    Christina Lake
    Shoshone Lake
    Craters of the Moon

    Day 1 : We met up in Hood River for some coffee and breakfast then began the journey to Montana. Our day was filled with driving, driving and more driving. In total we spent about 14 hours in the seat that day. The destination was Pigeon Creek Campground: 45.80036, -112.3965. This was a wonderful, free remote campground about 20 minutes off paved roads on a rough dirt track with many cows crowding the road. We rolled into camp at dusk and prepared a quick meal then hit the bed. It wasn't until morning that we fully appreciated our beautiful campsite on the creek.

    Day 2 : Our goal was to drive the Morrison Jeep Road: 44.857344,-109.293002. Joe decided that the Rover wasn't ready for the challenge so we planned to have Joe & Karen drive an alternate route and meet us near the end of the trail at one of the remote lakes. However, that would later prove impossible... Nate and I proceeded to the trail head then took a short break for lunch and airing down the tires. It was HOT and windy at the bottom of the canyon along the river and shade was in short supply. The track along the valley floor proved to be rough as water had flooded the road there were also a couple moderate stream crossings before reaching the base of the trail.

    The Morrison Jeep Trail has something like 27 switchbacks. The entrance to the trail is sandy and then it turns rocky and progressively steeper. It seems that the first few switchbacks were easy then they became progressively tighter and more difficult to navigate. We later learned that 5-6 of the switchbacks are meant to be driven backwards which makes it much, much easier. Another factor to keep in mind is the elevation gain. It starts around 4,500 ft and climbs to nearly 8,500 ft. My Montero fuel evac system couldn't handle the quick pressure change. It would be wise to not top off your gas tank and plan to run the trail 3/4 full or so. You'll also want to ensure your cooling system is top notch as it will be tested to the limit.

    As the Morrison Road climbed in elevation the views became incredible.

    After reaching the top we were greeted with this "road closed sign". This presented several issues as we were supposed to meet Joe & Karen at the end of the trail and it would also mean driving back down the switchbacks which I wasn't excited about. We decided to hike up the road for a mile to find out why the road was closed and attempt to find cell signal to call Joe. We couldn't find any snow or other reason for the road to be closed. Thankfully, we got enough cell service to leave Joe a voice mail and headed back to the truck to setup camp and eat dinner.

    Day 3 : In the morning we were greeted by the sound of a war film military Jeep. Sure enough, a 1945 Willys CJ Jeep crested the hill. The first available civilian Jeep ever produced driven by none other than Ken Morrison. He was heading out to camp with his dog which is impressive for someone in his 80s! His grandfather homesteaded the ranch at the top of the road and built the Morrison Trail. He was full of stories about their property, the road and history. What a treat!

    We learned several secrets like backing up the short switchbacks which made the drive down much easier. Ken had flown his plane over the day before and said the top elevation (over 10,000 ft) was covered in 15ft snow drifts. It had been a record year for snow fall. Turning around and driving down the trail was our only choice.

    Today was clearly the day for surprises... What did we see as we traveled the canyon after descending the trail? Yes, blue smoke! Nate could spot it from a mile away. It was Joe & Karen!! We thought there was no chance in finding them yet sure enough they had driven 2 hours to come find us. Our group was back together and it was time for the next destination.

    Goose Lake Trail: 45.117267, -109.913921 - We drove the long route over Lolo pass and enjoyed some breathtaking views. The mountain colors are so vibrant and I can never get enough of the fresh mountain air.

    At the top of the pass we encountered a forest service truck stuck in a snow drift. His recovery efforts using branches and logs wasn't working and he was progressively sliding further off the road. I offered to give him a tug with the Viking Recovery Rope. This rope is ideal for recovering stuck vehicles as it can stretch up to 30% and provides massive amounts of dynamic kinetic energy that's transferred smoothly to extract stuck vehicles. It worked flawlessly.

    Of course, we never pass up opportunities to explore old mines and ruins. It's fun figuring out what the equipment was and how it was used.

    We continued up the trail to Goose Lake. It is moderately technical trail that provides access to numerous remote lakes. We must have passed 5-6 lakes along the road to Goose Lake. Unfortunately, a large snow drift on the final hill climb made us turn around and settle for the adjacent lake. Joe brought out his kayak and I had the opportunity to paddle around the lake and enjoy a secret hidden waterfall on the back side. We had a relaxing evening and cooked up some tasty food on the grille. It was the end to a day full of surprises and magnificent beauty.

    Day 4 : We had a relaxing morning, well except for Joe and Karen who had a restless night due to the midnight rainstorm flooding their tent. Nevertheless, it was a new day and time to explore. We had spent too much time driving and it was time to hike; our destination Goose Lake.

    Words can't describe the awe-inspiring beauty of this rugged landscape. The sheer magnitude of the mountains and solitude of the surroundings made the experience feel surreal. Reality was quickly realized as the wind picked up and pending rain storm commenced.

    We being crazy adventurers proceeded forward and hiked around the back of Goose Lake. There we found an abandoned mine shaft and the remains of a once luxury travel trailer which I'm sure took nothing short of a miracle to yard up the mountain. We decide to turn back as the storm worsened and rain being blow sideways had saturated our sunny day hiking apparel.

    It was time to drive! We had a short 8 hour cruise ahead to our next destination, Lake of The Woods: 43.481213, -109.897521. Our route took us through Yellowstone National Park which besides the ridiculously slow travel speeds... the photo addicted Asian tourists would stop for so much as a squirrel sighting. Needless to say, this was Joe's favorite destination and the affordable $25 fee for driving through the park (note we were not saying there) was such a bargain deal. I'd pay so much more to wait in traffic behind zombie minded nature deprived tourists.

    Day 5 : We awoke to an incredible campsite! We had arrived after dark the night before and had no idea what the lake looked like (see two above pictures). Yet again, we had the entire lake to ourselves. There were no other campers or humans for miles around. We showered, ate breakfast and took a short hike around part of the lake before heading to our next destination, Christina Lake Trail: 42.586145,-108.939823.

    We felt somewhat inadequate as the trail head signs clearly indicated the trail was for Jeeps. That has never stopped us before so we continued forward. The initial 9 miles of trail was entertaining with banked sandy corners and twisty terrain with the occasional stream crossing.

    The final couple of miles were nothing short of rock crawling with plenty of opportunity to test clearance and bash plates. I had a blast and took as many optional lines as the Montero would allow.

    We arrived at the lake in the mid afternoon and enjoyed a slow paced evening. Joe cut wood for a campfire and put the kayak in for some fishing. Nate and I tested new methods for ridding our vehicles of mosquitoes before turning in for the night.

    Day 6 : It was a big day with the most amount of trail driving of the entire trip. Our plan was to drive out from Christina lake then cruise forest service roads to Lander and off road to the final lake, Shoshone Lake: 42.780710, -109.024260. Upon exiting the Christina Lake, Nate said goodbye and headed for home feeling that the Land Cruiser had seen enough rocks for one adventure.

    The first several miles of the Shoshone Lake trail were rough and rocky but not technical; they were the type of rocks that made you drive slow and beat your suspension as you passed over. The rock size progressively increased in size as elevation was gained. Upon cresting nearly 10,000 ft in elevation the trail descended to the lake and the real rock crawling began. This was the most technical driving of the trip and required careful line selection to avoid damage.

    We setup camp in the late afternoon and got the first taste of the evening storm as wind gusts blew apart the awnings. After dinner we hiked and explored around the lake before calling it a day. That night was the most sleepless as the winds easily exceeded 80 mph and lightning lit up the sky.

    Day 7 : This was a driving day. We spent the first half of the day four wheeling out of Shoshone lake then after a tasty burger from a local diner we drove to our final destination, Craters of the Moon. It was a bit over 7 hours of road time and included some scenic driving climbing the mountain pass out of Jackson Hole. We rolled into camp about dusk and turned in for the night.

    Day 8 : Moon Craters? Hmm... Someone may have thought the creative name would bring tourists from all over the world. However, that is not the case. Most of the few tourists here were passing through on their way to or from Yellowstone. However, the park grounds were immaculate and rangers were exceedingly helpful which made this tourist stop tolerable. We went on a short hike and realized there was no need to see any more of the 750,000 acres of desolate rocky landscape. So we headed for the caves. The first two were a joke and barely worth the time to walk into. The last cave redeemed the entire experience and we had a blast exploring it.

    Afterwards, Joe and Karen decided to take a slow paced adventure route through Idaho while I chose the direct concrete expressway for home. I made it home late that night while Joe and Karen extended their trip another couple days. This was a memorable, adventure packed expedition which left me wanting more.

    - By: Peter Stewart

    More pictures here:

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Wyoming Expedition - Morrison Jeep Trail, Goose, Shoshone & Christina Lake - 2014! started by venturer View original post