Our Lake Perfect Hike after Smoke and Heat of Last Few Weeks
Climbing Two Peaks in One Day Involves Berries, Bushwhacking
Perfect Evening for Ladies to Experience Crown Butte for First Time
The hike to the top of Crown Butte, though fairly easy, has many obstacles: a fence crossing, a steep incline, a section that requires a bit of a scramble, uneven tufted grasses and this year, fileds of grasshoppers on the approach.
We were prepared for snakes and kept an eye out, but we weren't prepared for all the hoppers, which were jumping right and left and all over us as we approached the butte. Luckily, they weren't on top,
But we mastered all the potential blips in our paths and made it to eat our quick dinners on the rim of the butte facing Simms and Highway 200 on a gorgeous evening with a slight breeze. Everyone was amazed that the butte wasn't flat on top. The undulating hills and valleys really could cause a person to get lost if she didn't orient off Birdtail Butte to find her way back. We didn't have enough time to make it to the Nature Conservancy plaque as the days are getting shorter and we wanted to get back home before dark.
Everyone marveled at the interesting rocks: the shonkinte of the butte with the black augite crystals; the sandstone outcroppings among the volcanic and the feeder tubes or dykes still visible from which the magma traveled. Read more about lacoliths
The biggest issue was going back down the steep incline; Desirae decided after falling that sliding down the last bit was easier than walking. Brenda said she fell three times; however, no one got hurt. And tall Noreen had a bit of an issue with the scambling section through the rocks just before summiting.
As we descended and arrived back on the flat and into the hoppers, the sun started coloring the hills, so we skeddaddled back to the cars, got out our cold drinks and then enjoyed the sunset all the way back to Great Falls, arriving around 9:15 p.m. We didn't quite make it back before dark. We had left town at 4 p.m., so just over five hours total.
Who went: Carol, Paula O, Brenda, Desirae, Noreen, Katie
All But Two Back Out; Flat Tire, Talus Scrambling Challenges Pair
Smashing, amazing, gorgeous--these adjectives don't begin to describe the colorful show the wildflowers provided as we made the 11-mile Lewis and Clark Pass-Alice Creek Loop.
We knew it was going to be a hot one, so we left town at 5:15 a.m. This adventure was a hike to get Susan W back on her game after being ill with a bug that affected her lungs and stamina. We were all determined that she would make this hike after not having the energy a few days before. And on Amber's advice, she had drunk a quart of water the night before to hydrate.
So we hit the trail around 7:15 when it was still a cool 47 degrees; but with the sun shining down, it did feel hotter. This section of trail was full of tall, bright magenta fireweed under the burnt trees from the 2017 Allice Creek Fire and purple harebells.
We slowly made our way to Lewis and Clark pass, as Katie decided going counterclockwise would be easier, with more flat spots on the uphill than the other direction that we had just done. After the pass, we turned left onto the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) where the rocks turn granitic, with crystallin sand and many rocks on the trail that are hard on the feet. This type of rock lasted almost until the top of Red Mountain, at which point, the rocks went from igneous to sedimentary. This area is very interesting for rock formations. Just across the pass on Green mountain, the rocks are full of blue-green tarnished copper.
Most of us were happy to tag another peak and then the scenic ridge walk began: the cliffs so stark with their drop offs and layers of mudstone. After the ridge walk, we entered a section of trees that had not been burned. Under these trees was a beautiful meadow full of bright red Indian paintbrush among other flowers. We must have seen around 100 different varieties on this magnificent loop hike.
The last uphill section before we got off the CDT and headed down the last four miles to our cars was a bit taxing on Susan, but she did well. Then it was down, down, down, with stops at the springs to dip in our neck coolers for an "ah" moment of relief as the sun was really beating down at this point. Still the temperatures were in the 70s as opposed to the 90s we were having in Great Falls. We felt lucky to have this entire hike to ourselves and live so close to these opportunities.
We arrived back to our cars around 2 p.m. Mission accomplished; Susan did well and felt fine. She is back on trail with us now!
Who went: Beth, Amber, Nora, Susan, Katie
Group Splits: Some Go Green Mountain; Some Do Red Mountain Loop
Finding State Flower Bitterroot Makes for Evening Magic
Wildflowers and Water Combine for Great GiG Trip on Warm Day
Three hikes, three orchids, three grouse, one coyote, one bear
Three small hikes plus some orchid hunting made a nice daylong event for three of the GiG. We started at 7 a.m. and headed to Hannan Gulch for our first of several adventures.
The first hike was to the Hogback Cliff, or what we call the "Crago" cliff in honor of Ellen and Mary N whose cabin is nearby. Ellen was the one who showed us this special place that overlooks the Sun Canyon. We did the bushwhack from the back and made a loop coming down the trail by the forest service cabin, stopping by the memorial to the Mercy Flight that crashed in 1987. Read more here.
When we started along the river, we ran into a coyote on the trail, which slinked away from us as we approached. The wind was pleasant as we made our way to the top, with a bit of bushwhacking and views of Gibson Dam. But the views were outstanding. Then it was down the regular trail, a forested walk to the road.
Then since we had so much planned for the day, we drove our vehicles to Wagner Basin trailhead, with the goal to find the giant helleborine orchids, which we did. We also found fields of owl's clover, water hemlock rimming the swampy area, and two hides of bighorn sheep that met their end, probably to wolves, but no live sheep. We also stopped by the skull tree as Josy had never seen it. Here, we had our lunch at the picnic table and enjoyed the views of Castle Reef and Sawtooth mountains. On this part, Nora recognized several bird calls, including a yellow throat.
Then it was on to show Josy the pictographs as she hadn't seen them. From there, we got on the Beaver-Willow road to continue on our last hike to McCarty Hill but we took a quick stop at the fen to see the round-leaved orchis, a small dotted pink beauty among the boggy areas.
Once on the road, a grouse crossed the road slowly and went under Katie's car. She abruptly stopped and got out. Sure enough, mama was under the car in the shade, not wanting to move. Katie was able to clap and make noise to flush her out.
Then, Katie, in the lead, bypassed the parking area for our next hike and almost reached Scoutana before she found a turnaround. This stretch of road was unbelievably bad, with sharp rocks poking out, but, luckily, no one got a flat tire. Her mess up, caused us to go back over the rough area and then go it again on the way home. Sigh.
So we backtracked to the trailhead and had a nice time climbing McCarty Hill, something none of us had done yet. The flowers were amazing: buckwheat, blanket flowers (Indian blanket) and lupine in particular. But the trail wasn't too easy to follow, so we were on this game trail and that, walking through grasses to get to the top.
On top were several limber pines with male and female cones. The female were bright green, very pretty, but buzzing with wasps. We wondered if they were a special wasp to pollinate these trees.
On the way down, we heard some clucking. Katie wondered if it were grouse. But then the call faded. But then right in front of Josy, a dusky grouse flew out and into a tree limb, frightening us. Her babies ran for cover too. Following this event, we looked downhill and Katie said, "A mountain lion" as she saw an animal run from some willows below us, across the meadow into some brush and trees. But we looked again as it ran and realized it was a bear, a light cinnamon color. What we took from this: bears hide in the willow areas and you can't see them--make noise when going into such areas. The human voice scares the bears--since social distancing, we have to raise our voices, which is a good thing, apparently, in bear country.
In this section, we got off trail a bit but Josy led us down to the road a short distance from our cars.
Thus ended our three-hike day, a total of 7 miles on the day. We made a loop back home, having to travel through Fairfield since the highway to Augusta is closed due to construction.
Who went: Nora, Josy, Katie
Girls in Glacier and Katie Kotynski