Bushwhacking, Wading in Bogs: The Views Were Worth It!
It's a strange year, with the east side of Glacier National Park closed for the season, due to COVID-19 worries for the Blackfeet Tribe, so we need to branch out a bit for places to go. So the hike into the Buffalo Lakes and Lubec Ridge fit the bill: it has pretty lakes, wonderful wildflowers and views into our beloved east side of Glacier.
This area lies within the Badger-Two Medicine area, which abuts the Blackfeet Reservation on one side and lies across the Highway from GNP on the other. It's a sacred place for the Blackfeet, who fought to have the mineral right leases rescinded. This summer, the last potential developer gave up his rights.
Of course, the National Forest trails aren't often the same as the park's: signage can be rare, trails more a braided or less traveled and include more bushwhacking and fall down that hasn't been cleared. This hike was no exception, except we went off-trail on purpose at times. So, yes, it was a day of bushwhacking!
It started off at 6:30 a.m. with three gals from Great Falls meeting Madelon from Eureka, both with a two hour 15 minute drive to the trailhead along Highway 2, tucked into a small pull out. Madelon arrived first; luckily, we met up as there is no cell service in this area.
The trail was fine to begin with. Katie led off the main trail to a field of blue camas for pictures. Then we headed right up the ridge, gaining views in no time. Then she wanted to take everyone to the shores of the lakes, so we dropped down and had a bit of bushwhacking to get across a creek in the next drainage. The pine trees were in bloom, releasing tons of blossoms when we bumped the branches. Plumes of what looked like smoke erupted every time we hit one.
For a while, we wandered around the west side of the lake, running into two other people at the head. So far so good.
Then we rounded the second lake, but the going got rougher on the third, with bushwhacking through alders along the side and then going into the marshy bank area. We did see bear and moose tracks and signs in the mud.
Once we rounded this last lake, we were surprised to see a trail leading up the ridge. It was easy going until right before the top. Josy did a great job picking her way and leading to the top, which was very windy. We lost our balance a time or two, but really enjoyed the flowers: biscuitroot, crazyweed, lupine, larkspur, sticky geranium, lance-leaved stone crop, woolly groundsel, to name a few.
And the views were amazing of the mountains: Summit and Little Dog, Red Crow, Dancing Lady, Calf Robe
The it was back down, with Madelon and Josy scouting the way, this time heading for the east side of the lakes. We did fine until we neared the lake, when we got too low for a bit and got mired in some muck, but once up higher, we were awed by the green rushes in the lakes against the mountains and azure sky, so stunning.
Once we rounded the last lake, Katie took a bad turn through the bushwhack to get back across the stream. Again, we faced alders and pines with their pollen. Then we reached the wide-open area. Katie thought we were home free, but we didn't see the orange trail and gas well signs as we should have, so we headed to the west The trail started back in the direction of the lakes: more bushwhacking, Katie thought as she figured we were one drainage over before dropping down. Josy, thankfully went ahead, crossing a drainage; however, she didn't find a trail, so we waited while she looked. Soon, with the wind, we were out of shouting range; we started to worry about getting separated, never a good thing. And Madelon had a dinner she wished to attend later in the evening so she was aware of her two 'o’clock deadline
Josy, of course, was loath to come back through the brush, hoping to find a way down; We started hollering for her to come back, not sure if she could hear us. We worried some more, but not wanting to bushwhack over ourselves, not sure if we knew where she was anyway, Then we heard a faint voice, but way below us, so we went further down until we could hear Josy better. We were grateful that we could hear her now! Then there was a place for Josy to more easily move to us through the brush. We all so grateful to have her back with us and thankful that we didn't have to do the bushwhack that she did! And she did it in shorts! Both she and Madelon, who also wore shorts, will earn their Mountain Mama legs from this trip! After we were back as a group, Madelon said she was so grateful that in normal times she would hug Josy!
Katie figured if we returned to the open area, even if we didn't find the trail, it would be a lot easier going down the grassy open area than bushwhacking through alders and rose bushes. So, we retraced our steps. No one wanted to do any more game trails though bushes today.
When we returned and dropped a bit lower, voila! The trail and the signs appeared. We hadn't dropped low enough after coming to the opening the first time. Then it was a hustle down the trail, actually an old road, all the bushwhacking behind us. Madelon made it back with plenty of time to spare, around 1:30.
Then we went our separate ways. Madelon and the Great Falls gals arrived home at just after 4 p.m. Wonderful day.