Hiking Beehive Basin
by Doyle Ranstrom on Aug 5, 2019
"Where are the pubic bathrooms?" The lady who asked me this question was hiking Beehive Basin in Big Sky, MT as part of two families with young children.
Beehive Basin is a premier hike in Big Sky, MT. It is a beautiful six-mile hike with the reward at the top being a small mountain lake surrounded by an awe-inspiring view of the mountains. In fact, the entire hike is awe-inspiring but it is not an easy hike. I would describe it as moderate plus starting at about 7,900 feet of elevation and topping out at about 9,300 feet at the lake. For people, who are used to low elevations, it is not uncommon to see beginning hikers' minds write checks their bodies cannot cash.
In addition to doing this hike with my wife normally once a summer, the past couple of years, I try and do it once a week beginning the end of June. In addition to the beauty and physical activity, I really enjoy watching the landscape change as the calendar moves from early summer to late summer. I get there early and often have the place to myself going up and am able to have some solo meditative time at the top. Coming down, especially in July, the traffic going up can be like major city interstate at rush hour. Following are some of the questions or encounters I have enjoyed coming down.
- Bathrooms: I told the woman who asked about the bathrooms, "they are all over, they are called tees". She said "that's disgusting", this is a National Park". Me: "no ma'am, it's not. It's a National Forest". She then said, "well, they should still have bathrooms". Me, "ok then".
- Water: A few yards later, I met one of the husbands of this group carrying an empty 16 oz plastic water bottle. He asked if it was ok to drink the water out of the stream we had just crossed. I said I would not do so, lots of parasites. He said, "don't you think it would be fine just once". I said, "you can do what you want, but if you do, you may spend the rest of your vacation in the bathroom".
- Deliverance: I was walking down watching a steady stream of hikers coming up. Two hikers, a man, and a woman caught my eye. The man was carrying a hatchet in one hand and a six-pack of beer in the other. Neither was carrying anything else. Me, "hi". Man, "ugh". Me, "have a wonderful day". It is important to be very polite in these types of situations.
- Wildlife: Women hiking up with two children on a busy day, "will we see any wildlife". Me, "no this is their day off". Ok, I actually said very unlikely with all the traffic.
- Close: Male hiker, "am I close to the lake". Me, "walk another ten yards and you're there."
- Baby: Man caring very small baby in a front pack with his wife behind him. Me, "wow, that's impressive". The man, "yeah and it's only been 2 1/2 months". Me, "the baby or your wife". The wife thought I was very funny.
- Bears: Women hiker asking me if there are bears in the area. Her husband immediately said, "I doubt if there would be any bears up here". Me, "tell it to the bears and the people I know who have seen a bear on the trail".
- Flowers: A number of hikers ask, "do you know what type of flowers these are"? Me, "yep, red, yellow and blue". I got two C's in college and one was in botany. I am doing the best I can.
- Fitbit: I had just started down from the top and I ran into a woman and her adult son. The son asked how much farther. I said about a half a mile. The woman starting yelling at me, "that's wrong, it said 3 miles to the top and my Fitbit said I've gone 4 1/2 miles". I said, "ma'am, your Fitbit is wrong". She was about to yell at me again when I decided to keep going.
- Trail runners: I often meet trail runners, especially going up, as they are coming down having been to the top already. Though these women and men are amazing athletes, frankly, it is a little depressing to have one come charging by on the trail, not breathing hard and carrying a ten-ounce water bottle, half full. I am using hiking poles and they are hopping like two-legged mountain goats from one rock to the next.
- Happily ever after: I was close to the top early one morning when I heard and then could see three people coming down, a woman and two men. As they got closer, the woman looked to be wearing a nice dress. It was a beautiful wedding dress. She and her now-husband and along with a photographer had hiked to the top to take pictures at sunrise. The groom was wearing a type of tux. I said to the woman, you are the best-dressed hiker I have ever seen, and she was. They were moving fast, literally skipping down the trail and she was wearing sandals. I am sure they were excited to get to breakfast. Very very cool.
When I see all the people using this trail, especially tourists, I do hope they are considering the funding of public lands when voting in National Elections. The reality is the usage of public lands for recreation is increasing. A recent study estimated nearly half of all Americans recreate outdoors and outdoor recreation accounted for over $400 Billion of GDP in 2016. However, the percentage of the National budget spent on recreational resources has been decreasing. Much of our public lands used for recreation are under-staffed, have substantial deferred maintenance issues, and are not adequately managed for the public's benefit, now and for generations to come. I believe this is due to a combination of short-sightedness and ignorance by many members of Congress and other Nationally elected leaders. One of Congress's and the Administration's responsibilities is to manage these wonderful National resources for the public's benefit and their efforts have been sorely lacking
We do not need public bathrooms in National Forests or drinking fountains on trails, but investing in outdoor recreation as part of the National Budget is important for the enjoyment of public resources, public health, quality of life, economic growth, and most important, long term preservation for generations to come.