Several weeks ago I went on a trip to Newlan Reservoir. After that trip we decided to swing by Glaston Lake. The lakes left something to be desired. However, during that drive we had an amazing view of the Crazy Mountains. It was then that we decided we wanted to take our first ever trip into the Crazies and see how they were. I find it incredible that in all the years I have been exploring the great outdoors, I had not yet explored these amazing mountains.
Unfortunately, the summer gets filled up pretty quickly, and although I wanted to get right back out there and enjoy the mountains, I had to wait for a few weeks. This gave me time to collaborate with my brother, who had been to the area before, and to develop a plan of when and where we would go.
Finally the time came to make our voyage. We left Billings around noon and headed into Big Timber. The drive there was nice and peaceful, and we arrived at Iron Star Pizza after the lunch crowd was gone. In other words one group was just finishing up their food, and we soon had the restaurant to ourselves. After leisurely enjoying a meat lover’s pizza and a beer, we made a quick stop at the IGA to pick up some supplies that we had forgotten. Soon we were on the road north toward Big Timber Canyon Road.
Just 11 miles north of Big Timber there is a National Forest Access sign. Turning onto a well maintained dirt road took us straight toward the majestic peaks of the Crazy Mountains. Shortly we saw a sign that told us it is 15 miles of dusty road until we were to reach Halfmoon Camp Ground and the trailhead. The area is pretty popular, and the road winds its way through the foothills that are dotted with ranch houses and expensive looking homes. The further along the road we traveled the bumpier it got until we finally passed by the Lazy K Bar ranch and for the next few miles we had to be careful to avoid larger rocks and potholes. A car could make it, but we were glad to be in a Subaru and a Rav4.
Arriving at the campground we noticed there were a lot of people already there. We slowly circled through all the camp sites quickly learning that every single one of them was filled with people who had the same idea we did. We discussed our options, and decided that we would poach a picnic site. There were other people who had done the same thing, and since we were only staying for one night we didn’t see the harm in camping in a spot that was technically not for overnight use.
I set up the tent and got things ready as my wife and brother entertained the baby. We found a nice shady spot to place our camp chairs only to discover it was on a large hive of very angry ants. Fortunately there are plenty of trees around and finding a new spot for shade was not difficult.
After camp was set up we hiked a few hundred yards to Big Timber Creek to check it out. Along the way we filled our water with the hand pump in the campground. The creek is a short ways down the path from the edge of the campground and very easy to find. Large rocks made for easy sitting to watch the bubbling water flow past. I loaded my fishing rod with a pink Mr. Twister, and within a matter of minutes I had a medium sized rainbow trout hooked.
Fishing soon gave way to a hike up the trail, which soon gave way to a growling stomach. Back at camp I started cooking bratwursts as my brother mixed me up a gin and tonic. A leisurely dinner led into a night filled with camp fires and cribbage. My brother was humbled as I beat him for the first time ever.
The night was a nice one, but having a baby in the tent and a dog that would rather chase mice than sleep makes for one tired morning. However, the sun finally did come up, breakfast was made and quickly eaten, and the camp was soon dismantled and back into the trunk of the car. We all sunscreened up, got our hiking boots tightened, and by 9am Holden was in his backpack and we were heading up the Big Timber Creek trail.
The hike has a gradual uphill slope the entire distance we traveled it. Although uphill it was not so bad as to wear us completely out. We followed the creek passing through about a mile of private land that has a sign telling us to stay on the trail. We arrived at the turn off to Granite and Blue lakes before we knew it, and stopped to discuss which direction we would go. Granite and Blue lakes were closer, but the path was an uphill battle. So we settled on staying in the canyon and making our destination a mere mile and a half away at Twin Lakes. Just a couple short hours after starting the hike, we were at the first of the twins and digging into the packs to get out our lunch.
We ate our fill, and grabbed our fishing poles. We scanned the lake only to discover it is very shallow. We tried a few casts into a deep pool near where the creek flows in but didn’t have any luck. We decided that we needed to get to the far side of the lake, and the only way to get there was to cross the creek. Since the weather was warm, the water was shallow, and we were heading home later that evening I just plunged right in with my shoes on. We started our way around the lake fishing as we went along even though the water was only a few feet deep. Before long we were hooking into the same size trout I had caught the night before. There really wasn’t a better spot on the lake to fish, but rather the whole thing was decent. The fish were nothing huge, but they were aggressive and did not like our golden lures flashing past them.
We got to where the creek flowed out of the lake, and decide that three fish each was enough. Grabbing a quick snack, we hydrated and got the fish cleaned out. By 1:30 we were on our way back down the trail toward the car. The hike went quickly; however, Holden didn’t want to sit in his backpack for a good portion of the way. Fortunately, he is big enough to hold himself up and he rode comfortably on my shoulders for over a mile.
Back at the car everyone kicked off their shoes and sat in the shade enjoying cold Gatorade and snacks. Ruby (our 3.5 year old Scottie) was exhausted having gotten up at 3:30 that morning to chase mice not realizing she had 10 miles of hiking to do later in the day. We loaded the car, and headed back down the dusty road toward civilization.
We got to Big Timber and stopped at the Fort to pick up Cold Smoke Scotch Ale. It is hard to come by in Billings, so every time we are out that way we grab a four pack. An iced coffee later we were back on the road and heading back toward Billings with some great memories of our first time in the Crazy Mountains firmly etched into our minds.