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.