Fun Day Climbing in Mining District in the Judith Mountains
"I hear voices," Viki said as she turned her ear to across the lake. The rest of us heard it too, but it wasn't human. It was something in distress.
That incident came toward the end of our day, which started at 7 a.m. with a quick stop at Freezeout Lake to pick up Viki. But we couldn't find each other, so our two cars plus Viki continued on to Dupuyer for a meet up after a quick phone call. This time we found her. On a side note, we noticed the Bear Aware signs at the rest stop, which reminded us that a man had just been mauled here.
At 9:30 a.m. we arrived at the parking area (which was blue with numerous Jacob's ladder covering it) to find it had only two other vehicles, surprising on Memorial Day, but it's a strange year with the coronavirus. We expected a few more campers, but maybe most people had pull out already.
The day was a bit cloudy but warm with plenty of wind. We hoofed it up an uneven trail due to horse prints to the top of the cliff that reveals sweeping views across the lake and down on the dam itself. We explored a bit on the rocks, taking pictures, admiring the color of the water as well as the abundant wildflowers: shooting stars, pasque flowers, Yellowstone draba, douglasia, rock cress, Jacob's ladder.
After enjoying the top awhile--and the warm wind--, we continued down the trail that revealed different zones of wildflower color. In some areas, the penstemon cropped up; others magenta douglasia, others yet the yellow of glacier lilies contrasting with the black logs in the burn area. And the wind died down the rest of the way, once we entered first the trees and then the burned area.
After about a mile and half, we came to Hell Roaring Spring, a natural spring that pours over 200 gallons per minute right from the side of the trail. The water was so clear, the rapids pure white.
We went off trail in a few places to venture out on places that jutted into the lake so that we could get views down the length of the reservoir. On one of these places, we took a break for lunch before continuing to the confluence of South Birch creek near the head of the lake. We did have to go over the edge a bit to get out of the wind. While eating, we saw the only other hikers pass below us on the trail (we did see another party headed out as we neared the cars).
When we got to the South Birch Creek crossing, Susan said we should have brought water shoes, thinking we should continue on by wading the creek, but we figured a 6-7 mile hike was enough, so we turned around. When we did, Viki heard what she thought was voices coming from across the lake. We all listened and then knew that it was an animal in distress. We peered across the lake until we saw something by the water. Katie used her zoom lens to see it was a baby moose. She watched it hobble down the cliff side with a hurt, maybe broken, back leg, crying the whole way. We saw it enter the water, still crying. No sign of the mother around. We figured it was too injured to keep up with mama and away from predators, so mama had to abandon. Our spirits were so down at this point, pondering the cruelty, but also necessity, of nature.
Susan and Viki couldn't take the crying so they continued while Anita and Katie continued to watch as the calf tried to get into the very deep water, dipping a hoof in but changed its mind and walked back up the steep shore, still bawling. None of us wanted to see a predator come toward the cries, so we left in a very sad mood, knowing there was nothing we could do for this wee one.
As we headed back, we noticed fresh road apples. We really wondered how horses could have passed us on the way; Then we remembered the horse ford. Apparently, they must have gotten by us when we were at the Birch Creek crossing. Our last observation of the day was a dusky grouse female, leading us away from her next.
After getting back into the cars, we headed for the spillway waterfall, which was gushing this time of year, thundering over the stair-step wall into a deep turquoise pool. We tried to imagine what it was like during the flood of '64, which took out this dam, sending a huge wall of water downstream, which in turn, took out the dam on Lower Two Medicine Lake, killing 28 people. Read more here.
Then it was back to town. We said 'goodbye' to Viki as we wanted to head back via Conrad and the Interstate to avoid the weekend traffic from Missoula and other places on a two-lane road. Interestingly, the traffic usually non-existent on this road, we heavy going in the other direction; must have been coming back from Tiber.
We arrived back home at 5 p.m., earlier than expected.
Social Distancing in Effect for Trip to Falls Creek
We missed a whole month and a half of hiking and snowshoeing due to our governor's order to "stay inside" for the past month due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Currently, Montana is in Phase I of a three-phase plan to open the state back up, which includes outdoor recreation.
So three of us headed out at 7 a.m. to the Rocky Mountain Front out of Augusta to visit the newly opened Falls Creek area, a gift made possible by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation along with other donations. Our gals had taken a winter trip to see the frozen falls, so now we had the opportunity to see them in the spring.
Roni, Karen and Katie all drove separately to the trailhead, stopping at Augusta just to regroup and then Bean Lake to use the outhouse before hitting the trail. The gravel road was pretty good, except one section with very large, deep gravel, clearly marked "rough road." We also faced several detours for road construction between Simms and Augusta.
Only one other vehicle was at the trailhead, so we knew we wouldn't have a crowd. We got an early start just so we wouldn't run into many people. Plus, the weather looked a bit threatening in the direction of the mountains, which probably further discouraged a few from getting out on a Sunday.
As we walked toward the falls, we were treated to a few spring flowers: pasque flowers, buttercups, and shooting stars were the main attractions along with phlox and a clump or two of douglasia. As we came around the bend to the second meadow area, we spied the cairn making the place to head off trail to see the main waterfall. And it was spilling, even though some ice remained.
Then we continued upstream, hugging the creek and going off trail for views. looking down on argillite rock, similar to Glacier with its aqua and maroon hues. At one point, a road had been cut down to a crossing, a place created in the cliff for the cattle to drink as this land used to be part of a working cattle ranch. We followed the road down to the gorgeous stream that had a nice swimming or fishing hole in this area.
Then we climbed back up to the main trail until we got to the second falls, at which time it was really starting to sprinkle. We could have continued another half mile to the main crossing of the creek, but it would be too high water to cross at this time of year; with the weather moving in, Katie thought it best to turn around, so we did.
As we hiked, Roni told us the amazing, but frightening, story of how her husband survived heart attacks, stents to repair blockages, an air ambulance flight to better health care to repair major aortic tears and a three-and-a half week recovery to now be working full time again. (And how Roni and her family survived the stress and worry too). It brought tears to our eyes.
We arrived back at the cars around 11 and back home by 1:30, for a total of just under four miles.
Who went: Roni, Karen, Katie
Priest Butte Becomes Last Hike Before Statewide Shelter in Place
Social Distancing Forces GiG to Drive in Separate Cars to See Swans
Facemasks, Hand Sanitizer, Social Distancing Mix with Snowshoeing at Mary's Cabin
Mining District Bust Turns into Powerline Loop with Tour of Homes on the Side
Great Snow Year for Skiing
Another fun day at Showdown.
Several picked up their season passes good for the remainder of this season and all of next.
We were off the chair at 10:05. Snow conditions were well groomed after the 5” of show that had fallen since Sunday. There was a little bit of wind but not the gusts that we have had recently in GF :)
Steady skiing till lunch. Enjoyed sharing a table with other ladies from Great Falls. No lines in the morning but we had to wait a bit for the double chair for one run in the afternoon. Ha. Richard, the attendant of the double chair shared that this was his 19th season at Showdown. Thanks, Richard!
We all noticed our skis were sticking somewhat in the afternoon. Science teacher, Karen, gave us a brief lesson about pressure, weight and temperature (Karen please add if you wish)
We each made our way to the “Hole in the Wall” in the lodge to reflect on another terrific day of snow, some sun, and how great it is to take off our ski boots.
Those who went: Suzie and friend Sherri, Karen and friend Terri, Gail and Maria
No Snow or Rattlers, but Eagles, Snowgeese and Swans
Check our completed hikes in the archives below or upcoming on our calendar.
Girls in Glacier and Katie Kotynski