We had originally planned to do the Blacktail Plateau on our second day, but after my alarm failed and then starting out at the Petrified Tree Trail-head by mistake we decided to do the shorter (10.6 mile) Tower/Chittenden Road Loop XC ski. We parked at Tower Junction and skied onto the closed Rd to Tower Fall. This is the first time I did not see any Bison hanging out near Rainy Lake. The trail ascends gradually passing by Calicate Springs Lookout which displays a lovely view on the Yellowstone River, Black Canyon and hot springs steaming on the cliffs. From here the track passes under a massive rock wall. The ski track is on both sides of the road, stay on the left side to avoid rockfall. At 2.5 miles the road reaches Tower Fall. The waterfall was mostly frozen (some water still rain behind the ice. Damien and I contemplated how one could access the bottom of the falls to climb in before continuing on to the Chittenden Road section of the loop.

You can go either way around the loop. Beta suggests going up through the campground counter clockwise to avoid a steep downhill descent… but we wanted to do a fun fast descent so we went clockwise continuing on the Rd to Canyon. The day remained cloudy as we traveled the road. The trail was not freshly groomed, but the ski tracks were still visible as were tracks of 3 foxes using the road as a corridor. We followed the little paw prints in the snow slowly uphill. There was one section of track were the snow got very sticky on the skis and wax didn’t help. The problem went away though after .25  miles. About 2.75 miles from Tower Fall I spotted a large figure lounging under a tree beside the trail. A large male bison. We were a safe distance, but still backed away. He saw us and stood, glaring at us for disturbing his mid-afternoon rest. I think he was hoping we were just leave, but then a few other skiers showed up. He reluctantly crossed the road and moved on to graze a safe distance away.

We continued on taking the next right through an open gate where there is a little box labeled Carcass Log. The trail was indeed steep downhill, but not so much that you could loose control on the skis. We descended 2.6 miles in 30 minutes! It was a fun ride down!

We once again reached Tower Fall and headed back to Tower Junction which no further wildlife meetings.

 

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