Finally, a Nice Day for Getting Out
We couldn't have predicted such a nice day as we shivered in the 4B's parking lot before heading up to King's Hill pass for a snowshoe. It had been three weeks of nothing but bitter cold, wind and snow drifts so we all felt a bit cooped up and ready for some exercise in the sun, which we got--with no wind! Amazing day.
After a quick stop at Silver Crest to drop off one car, we headed to the top of pass--Kuntzie didn't have her third seat up, so Katie road in the way back on top of the gear for the short two-mile ride to the top of the pass. After gearing up, we headed uphill, the only uphill of the day. Luckily, the pass hadn't gotten very much new snow and a snowshoer had already been down the trail so we didn't have to break until the trail split at the O'Brien Creek/Silver Crest crossing. Then Sue handled all of it, breaking the whole way until we hit the flats at the bottom of the hill, where we took a snack break.
We were at the bottom by 11:20 a.m., record time. After our break, Susan took over and led the way to the snowmobile trail and back to the cars. Unfortunately there were quite a few machines out, so we had to watch for travel and swallow a few fumes on this stretch.
At Silver Crest, we all got to try out June's new car, a Highlander with a third seat. She drove us all to the top of the pass to get Kuntzie's car and head to Bob's for lunch. Kuntzie asked Tony if he sold the place yet, and he told her no.
Although the drives were uneventful, there were a few icy patches and some deer looking to cross the highway, not too far from Maria's accident, so that was a bit scary. Right out of Great Falls, our drivers faced a bit of blowing snow.
Overall, a beautiful, warm, fun day.
Wrong Trails Causes Mega Elevation Gain, Extra Mile of Walking
Katie did it. She got the GiG lost. Well, not really lost but on the wrong trail that would have ended up in a 10-mile snowshoe, ending in the dark had we not turned around. And we had a newbie with us, so it wasn't the best impression for her. However, she said she was a good one to have it happen to. She wasn't phased much at all.
After a drive to the top of Kings Hill pass at 8 a.m., we started out on the trail that takes one up to the top of Porphyry Peak. After a brief break to use the bathrooms and have a snack on top, we dropped over the side on the Ranch Creek trailhead. However, Katie missed the turn off point. She started wondering why so many people had traveled the usually sparsely used 747 trail and why it was so well marked. She figured Jasmine had come and put up blue diamonds, so it was nice not to have to rely on old marking tape to indicate the trail. The day, despite being predicted to have snow, was gorgeous and sunny with little wind. We really rejoiced in the beautiful day and discussed how it was good we went to the trailhead instead of cancelling.
However, after the downhill, the trail went back up, another clue that we weren't on 747. We went a bit farther until we came out on a large open area, what must be a beautiful meadow in spring. Then the trail continued up and looked to be the Mizpah Bowl area, and in fact it was. We turned around, Katie thinking we were on the Ranch Creek trail. A pair of skiers came by and confirmed that we were on Ranch Creek and would have at least five more miles to go before dropping down to the road. And if we did continue, we would get out late and have to hitchhike back to our cars. It was lucky we had decided to go back. But then, we had to face climbing Porphyry Peak again. If we had been on 747, we would have had only a bit of uphill at the end, not a reclimb of a mountain. This had a few of us discouraged, feeling tired. One had knee pain.
So three of the gals went ahead to warn the ski patrol at Top Rock Cafe that we has some who were struggling who may need a ride the rest of the way. Luckily, no one actually needed the ski patrol as we muscled our way to the top within 20 minutes of the other group.
After meeting at the top, some had coffee and sandwiches in the Top Rock Cafe, while others decided just to head down to the car. We all met together before the end of the trail, feeling lucky to get off our feet.
Then it was off to Cougar Cafe for some drinks: hot chocolate and a few a bit harder than that, before heading home. We arrived home around 6 pm., an hour later than we anticipated, but then we also climbed 800 more feet and went a mile longer than expected too.
Who went: Mary, Susan, Paula, Dedre, Sara, Katie
Windy Pass Gives Way to Sunny Hike, Sculpture Garden Walk
Sunny Day Gives Reprieve from Below Zero Days
Four Snow Angel Memorials Mark Sunny Day of Snowshoeing
Whoever hikes Jefferson Creek next will come upon four snow angels along the trail, one for Chrissie, one for Colette, one for Dan (Sooz's husband) and one for Julie (Sue's daughter). After a tough year of losses, it is hard to hit the trail at times without remembering our dear friends and relatives who are no longer with us except in our memories. So two of us took the plunge into the snow to commemorate our loved ones. Luckily, there were quite a few others who could help us up!
We actually started the day with a quick trip up to take a look at Memorial Falls, a three-quarter mile, slightly uphill climb to see the frozen cascade with water still running behind the crystalized falls. This canyon holds usually holds inversions that chill us, and today was no exception. It also has an ice hazard from the spring that seeps from a large rock. There is no way to avoid the ice as it abuts the creek. But with careful foot placement, we picked our way without any slips this time.
Then we headed up the road less than a quarter mile to hike up Jefferson Creek. The sun was shining and the creek gorgeous with the snow covering parts of it, resembling fluffy floating marshmallows.
After about two miles of hiking, we turned around and headed to see Tony at Bob's bar for a late lunch before going back to Great Falls.
Who went: Jeanne, Sue, Susan, Sooz, Maria, Mary N, Katie, Roni
First Hike of the Year, a Quiet, Frosty, Peaceful One
Just Katie and Susan ventured out on a warm (30+ degrees) day with no wind. On the drive, we came across a host of birds, including a huge bald eagle, feeding on a deer by the side of the road. They all flew a ways off as we approached, but it was a sight to see.
Our first stop was for a quick trek without snowshoes to see the frozen Memorial Falls. The parking lot hadn't been plowed, but Susan's truck handled the deep snow well, even getting us over the berm without goosing it. On the hike, what really surprised us was the frost on the rocks. The creekbed really held an inversion, which made us a bit chilly.
Then it was a short drive to the Jefferson Creek parking area, where we took a 1.5 mile hike up the road along the snowed-in camping sites. The creek held a lot of snow, but it was running and broke through the snow and ice in places, revealing sparkling crystals and gorgeous ice formations. Before we turned around, flakes started coming down, but not enough to worry about.
We got back to the car and ate our lunch before driving home.
Katie had to get back to town, so we didn't stop for anything to eat.
Three Gals Enjoy Solitude along Crawford Creek
The hike was full, then people started dropping like flies. Too bad they missed this gorgeous hike, out of the wind, on a gorgeous day.
We parked at the Belt Creek Ranger Station for our hike up this beautiful creek. We went about 1.5 mile up the hill before turning around at the last livestock gate, right before we broke into the open area. We decided it wouldn't be very good to get out in the open as we would be exposed to the wind that had been dropping blizzards of snow from the trees at intervals, causing us to cover our faces until it stopped.
Otherwise, the hike was magical, taking us through old growth forest, covered in fresh powder. The snow wasn't deep at all,making us think we could have been fine in ice cleats or yaktrax instead of the heavier, bulkier snowshoes.
Kuntzie did a marvelous job of trail finding since no one else except rabbits, a coyote and a few deer had traveled up this coulee since the snow fell. She complained a bit when the animal tracks occasionally disappeared.
Since we all wanted to get back to town early, we didn't stop to eat. However, we did stop at the Cougar Canyon to drop off a donation in lieu of attending the benefit for the owners. We lamented the demise of the Lazy Doe and the Cabin and hope that this new restaurant that inhabits the old Cub's Den will be able to make it.
We left at 8:30 in the morning and returned to town around 2.
Who went: Jeanne, Kuntzie and Katie
Saying Goodbye to an Old Favorite: Last Dinner at Lighthouse
We prayed for good roads, not a sure thing in December in Montana, but we got our wish for the final drive to a favorite restaurant, just ahead of a predicted storm.
The Lighthouse was one of our favorite places to eat after a long day hike in beloved Glacier, a great finish to many wonderful days shared with friends.This eating establishment had been for sale for a while, with no takers, so the owner's son purchased it and plans to turn it into living quarters for a summer home. The last day will be New Year's Eve.
So, of course, we had to say goodbye with a final meal, which wasn't an easy thing to do. Katie called in October and already the slots were booked for large groups. Finally, the owner found one day where he could accommodate 10 people: Dec. 13. We had hoped for a weekend so that we could fit in a hike ahead of time, but no such luck. But that didn't deter the gals who had to make it a long day after work.
We did have a half hour wait in the bar, giving us time to visit and look at the few remaining wood carving pieces the owner had left in the showcase--not many at all.
So 10 of us headed up at 4:45 for a laughter-filled dinner of chicken, halibut, walleye, blue-cheese steak, apple walnut salad with salmon and mud pie for dessert. Everything was wonderful, tender and perfectly done. Doris, who is from Valier and Christi, from Conrad, reminisced about the restaurant. Christi remembered how popular it was for prom dates. And Kuntzie snagged a menu as a souvenir.
Then on the way home, we were treated to the Geminid meteor shower, the best of the year, the comets streaking past our front window until we arrived back in Great Falls at around 10 p.m.
Goodbye, old friend, we will miss you after the trail.
Who went: Christi, Mary S, Kuntzie, Maria, Deb, Roni, El, Sue, Doris, and Katie
Check our completed hikes in the archives below or upcoming on our calendar.
Girls in Glacier and Katie Kotynski