TRAIN LIKE AN ATHLETE
An interesting trend has emerged at local gyms and fitness facilities here in Sheridan County in recent months. When the COVID pandemic struck in March, such businesses were forced to change how they did business, for a time – some began offering online classes, others one-on-one virtual training sessions. Others decided that they would assist folks looking to get more out of their outdoor experiences here in Bighorn Mountain Country, thus kickstarting the hunt like an athlete phenomenon.
Gyms like Cloud Peak CrossFit, PURENERGY Fitness, the Body Shop, Kula Space Yoga Studio, as well as others, are offering programs tailor-made to encourage their members to get in the best shape possible to get outside. It’s a novel concept, and it has been well-received by experienced hunters through to first-time backpackers.
Our crew decided to give the experience a whirl. Salvatore Brown, Film & Digital Production Coordinator for Sheridan County Travel & Tourism, drew his first ever elk tag for hunting in the Bighorns this fall. Salvatore, or Max, as he’s also known, is a fit fella – but we’ve heard that hunting is an entirely different beast. To that end, we went out to train with Seth Larson, owner of Cloud Peak CrossFit, an experienced backcountry hunter himself.
Let me say that these fitness programs are no joke – they’re designed to push you to your physical limit to prepare you to hike for many miles with a heavy pack at altitudes most of us are not used to hiking; to push your legs, and your lungs, to the point that they ache – and then push through the pain. I’m not a hunter, but I do spend as much time as I can hiking, backpacking, and exploring the Bighorns, and these programs are a spectacular way to train for grand adventures.
And a grand adventure we had!
After a grueling workout, we set our sights on a training hike in the Bighorn Mountains. We loaded up our packs, and set out into the southern part of the mountain, with a goal of catching an epic sunset over spectacular Elk Lake, a pristine body of water just beyond the National Forest boundary in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. While we were not able to film at the lake or in the mountains in the wilderness – there are strict restrictions on filming in these areas – we were able to film within the forest itself, and provide a glimpse at some of the stunning scenery the Bighorn National Forest has to offer, as well as the terrain hunters, hikers, and others enjoy when they explore The Backyard.
We’ll follow up with Max after his hunt – perhaps he’ll even allow us to come along on the adventure – and we will find out how training to hunt like an athlete helped him on his quest.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Elk Lake Trail – #219
This steep, rugged trail begins in Triangle Park. Climbs the flanks of Ant Hill, ending in the Cloud Peak Wilderness at Elk Lake on the Solitude Loop Trail – #038. The best way to reach the trailhead from Sheridan County is to drive through the town of Buffalo, follow US Highway 16, and get off at Hunter Creek Road 19. If you have a reliable 4×4, high-clearance vehicle, you can continue driving on to Soldier Park, and then Triangle Park; however, this driving here is demanding. Expect rocks, hills, blind corners. We recommend parking at Hunter Campground and hiking along the road.
Note that commercial filming is not allowed within the Cloud Peak Wilderness, and therefore, all of our filming for this episode of The Backyard took place outside of the wilderness boundary, in the Bighorn National Forest. Please remember to practice good leave no trace principles, and leave the wilderness, as well as the forest, in the same condition you found it, so that those who come next may experience it the same way you did.
Once you are at Elk Lake, Wilderness regulations apply. Click here for more information.
ENJOY NATURAL PLACES RESPONSIBILITY
WHEN TO GO:
You should drive the road to Triangle Park only in dry weather. There is serious risk of getting stuck when rain or snow is present. Summer and early fall is the best time to visit Elk Lake; passes at higher elevations will still have snow in the spring and possibly early in the summer season.
We recommend Ken Keffer’s Hiking Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, an outstanding guide to area hikes. We also recommend the National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps. Both are available from local bookshops, outfitters and outdoor shops in Sheridan County.
Consider gearing up at one of our local shops or outfitters to keep Sheridan County’s outdoor industry thriving. Local outposts include Rocky Mountain Discount Sports, The Sports Stop, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Shipton’s, Tractor Supply Co., and Big Horn Trading.
WHERE TO STAY:
Not keen on spending a night in the woods? Consider one of the fantastic lodging options available in Sheridan County, and make a long day trip out of your Elk Lake Trail hike.
For our full album of photos from this trip, visit our archive here.
For all of our short films, videos, and other film-related content, follow us on YouTube by clicking here.
STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY:
At this time, there are no health and safety restrictions related to COVID-19 along this route. But please note that some retailers in Sheridan have implemented mask requirements (those that do offer masks for guests at the entrance). Observe Forest Service regulations when exploring the Bighorn National Forest. Bars and restaurants currently have limited seating indoors. Click here for up-to-date COVID-19 information and resources.