Finding State Flower Bitterroot Makes for Evening Magic
Evenings can be a magical time to hike in summer, with long evenings stretching until 10 p.m. or later. With it being a good year for bitterroot, we decided to hike up toward the Rodger's Peak area to see if the ones Katie saw blooming last week were still open.
We left Great Falls just before 4 and were on trail by 5:20. Katie's husband Nora came along for the drive and planned to shoot straight up the ridge to the peak and beyond, so Nora decided to join him. If he didn't see the bitterroot, he would return down the trail to let us know, so we didn't rush up for no reason. The rest of us took the long, but easier, way to the pass just before the peak where the bitterroot were.
The hike was lovely, as we passed through patches of huckleberries, grouse whortleberries and various flowers. The berries were a nice distraction when we needed a breather. It was around 80 degrees when we started but with a nice breeze. The flowers started right away with horse mint, lance-leaved stonecrop, harebells and bright red Indian paintbrush predominating.
As we made our way up, we were grateful not to see Tom or Nora, giving us hope that out state flowers were still blooming.
When we did arrive at the pass/shoulder of Rodgers Peak, there they were: not too many, but bright pink blooms standing out among the dark slate-colored rocks. Nora was there too, waiting for us while Tom went on to climb the peak.
We saw many flowers that we assumed were in bud stage, but as the light waned, we noticed that more and more closed and rolled up. We realized that the bitterroot must close as the light wanes, so we were glad that we kept forward progress before they all shut for the night. So, we decided evening may not be the best time to find our state flower.
We enjoyed the surrounding views in this spot as well, while Rose and Carol walked another quarter mile up the trail looking for more bitterroots, but to no avail.
It was a bit breezier at the pass, not unusual, but we found a spot on the other side of some rocks to block the wind enough to sit and enjoy the views of the plains while we ate our hiking dinners. We watched Tom as he went off trail, making his way through the cliff side of Rodger's Peak. It was so pleasant that we didn't want to leave, but Katie scurried us along as she didn't want us to be driving home at dark.
The hike down was even more scenic, the light playing on the mountains as we walked the ridge. We ate a few more hucks and got to our cars around 8:30. We arrived home at 9:45 after a glorious drive through the buttes, the evening light dancing upon them. Pure magic.