The Crazies, a rugged, rocky range of mountains outside Big Timber, are about a 90-mile drive from our home in Bozeman. Brad Coffey, with whom I do some guided hikes, suggested the Crazies because he knows how much I prefer a hike-with-a-waterfall.
As we're leaving home, heading over Jackson Creek Road, just to our right, on the ridge of a hillside, a herd of at least 200 elk are silhouetted against the sky. It's an unbelievably dazzling Montana sight.
U.S. Highway 191 North out of Big Timber takes us across wide open, rolling ranch lands that are nearly empty of anyone and anything. This vast area is so isolated it reminds me of a friend's father, a rancher, who continued living on his ranch out here after his wife died. His daughter told me how worried she was about her father's isolation and loneliness. When I see the emptiness of this limitless landscape I understand her concern.
The last 18 miles of Big Timber Canyon Road to the trailhead at the Half-Moom Campground in the National Forest is a rocky, dirt road that is thick with dust and is deeply pot-holed. This is seriously hard and slow driving that requires a sturdy, truck-like vehicle with a high wheel base. To make the driving even more tricky, there are many deer on the sides of the road and piles of identifiable bear scat--black with colorful berries--are visible in the road.
The first waterfall--Big Timber Falls--is an easy 3/4 mile hike from the parking lot. The vertical drop is a stunning 100 feet, and even though it's almost September, the cascading waterfall is still huge. For a waterfall junkie like myself, this is a shrine to waterfalls, and this is only the first one on the trail. I could stay here all day.