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4 outdoors.msubretort.org Outdoors LIKE A HIKE: WOODBINE FALLS By TABBY MAUST outdoorsemsubretortorg S hadowed by towering pines swaying in the breeze, we moved slowly up the trail as a crowd. We weren't lagging behind because of the difficulty of the trail or because we were worn out from a long journey. No, we were taking it slow because we were simply enjoying each other's company! Yes, in the cover of Custer National Forest my mother, father, brother, aunt, grandfather, cousin, baby cousin, all our respective dogs and I laughed and chatted all the way up to Woodbine Falls, our jovial conversation ringing through the trees. Our family affair was perfectly at home and happy out on the slowly sloping mile and a half trail. Woodbine Falls is found branching off from Woodbine Campground in Custer National Forest close to the tiny town of Nye. Though our spring is slow- coming, it is simply too late in the season to cover snowshoeing and cross-country skiing routes and time to start looking forward to the sweet summer hiking months ahead! Thus if you and your family are looking for a perfect trek that places you in the middle of nature but doesn't require an entire- day road-trip to get there, Woodbine is the perfect place to go. Though this Like a Hike focuses on the family- friendly hike to Woodbine Falls, there are options in the area for more advanced hikers, such as the six mile trek to Sioux Charley Lake. But on that sunny summer day, the Maust clan found themselves picking their way across the wooden bridge that crosses Woodbine Creek. We allowed our canine friends to take a brief dip in the icy mountain creek (that they didn't seem to mind at all) before heading further down the trail. Though this trail ends up climbing 3/4 of a mile to get the absolute best view of the stunning Woodbine Falls, the switchbacks that lead up to it are not steep enough to deter beginning hikers or the youngest and oldest of our groups—tiny tot Teagan at two years old managed the majority of the way up and it wasn't a danger to be carried back down, and Grandpa Maust at 75 was able to make a slow but steady walk up to the top. During the hike we crossed into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness with its deep forests of pine, rocky outcropping perfect for kid's climbing ventures, and • • even a rolling meadow complete with wild sunflowers that attracted the immediate attention of our youngest hiker and the folly of our frolicking dogs. When our group got close to the top we had to cross over a tiny stream that flows across the trail. This is a fun little area that is perfect to get a drink for your dogs, a place to peel off your shoes and cool off in the shade of the mountain, and the perfect opportunity for a photo-op. Just beyond this little stream is the main event—Woodbine Falls free-falling down to the creek that flows into the Stillwater. This gorgeous waterfall in spring is a thunderous white beauty which calms somewhat during the later summer and fall. The viewing area for the waterfall is on a cliff but has a stone wall built between you and danger—perfect for taking dogs and young children along. Here one could easily have a picnic or stop for a scenic chat or take a picturesque group photo. From here, one can turn back down the trail to head back to camp, but that isn't necessarily the only option. Extending from the viewing area is a steep trail downward to Woodbine Creek that should only be attempted by more skilled hikers. Another fun option is to take the trail to The Outlook. While this trail is not maintained, another mile or so can be added to this hike for the more adventurous and skilled. It is still a frequent hike for those who are in the area, but it has none of the graces of the lower trail—there are no walls separating a hiker from the plunging cliff sides, the trail is challengingly steep, and loose rock and gravel abound. Here one must 11SP all of their caution as well as their good judgment to make sure each footfall is placed just right in oilier to avoid trouble. However, this is a delightfully adventurous hike that takes you through the deep and lovely woods to the very source of the waterfall. One can follow this trail up to the first part of the grand cascade or all the way up to the very creek that originates the falls. This thrilling hike is just what the outdoors person asked for, but should not be attempted by the whole family who may not be able to find proper footing or have the skill to scale the rocky trail. With options to take the whole family as well as for the experienced hiker, Woodbine Falls is sure to please as soon as you are able to hit the road and spend a sunny day in nature. The Nitty Gritty: Length: The basic Woodbine Falls trail is 1.5 miles round-trip but it is entirely possible to add another mile to this length by heading up to The Outlook. Difficulty: Easy to difficult. While the main well- maintained trail does have some incline, it is doable by nearly everyone in the family. However, those who wish to tackle the trek up to The Outlook are taking on a much more difficult trail that should be attempted only by the skilled hiker. Pets, Children: This trail is great for both pets and children as far as the basic trail is concerned. I would not recommend The Outlook trail for children, and a dog would have to be very well- trained to stay near their owner and away from any dangerous areas. Howto get there: From Billings, head toward Butte on 1-90 until you hit Columbus. From Columbus you will drive through the town onto MT 78 towards Al3sarokee. Again, drive through town past the towns of Fishtail and Nye. After you have passed Nye, continue on past the Stillwater Mine to Woodbine Campground. At the upper end of the campground you will find the trailhead ....