Colorado Mountain: Bushwhack, Paddywhack, Leg Cut to Bone!
Barking Bronco Riding
Up, over or through was the saying of the day, as the GiG bushwhacked their way to the top of Colorado mountain from sheer determination. We could not believe how much deadfall was on the trail.
It all started from Great Falls at 7 a.m. with us arriving just after 9 a.m. at the Moose Creek cabin trailhead. We had two groups, one going a shorter distance to the lunch spot, and those wanting to summit A family was staying at the cabin; they asked where we were hiking and we proudly said, "Colorado Mountain," not knowing what a challenge this eight-mile 2,200-feet-of-gain hike would be.
The beginning of the hike is a bit steep; Bonnie J, just coming from living in Vegas for two years, felt it, but then the trail leveled a bit to a reasonable incline. The forest was pretty, with green grasses underfoot and a few flowers, especially lupine, and showy phlox.
After all the rain we had had the last few days, we expected a muddier trail, but we only came across one boggy spot on the way up--more on that later.
We had a fun hike to just below the ridge, our usual stopping point for lunch; but before the ridge, we came across quite a few downed trees--and may cut ones. In years past, there have been a few downed lodgepoles that were easy to step over, but there seemed more this year.
After a few log hoppers, we gained the ridge, took a break and had lunch. It was now 11:30. After lunch, we said goodbye to Karen and Bonnie J, who planned to just do four miles. Paula had considered it but decided to soldier on. And that is when the bushwhacking really began. At first it was a few more logs, then bigger logs, then logs crisscrossed over each other. Katie led at first, breaking off branches with her poles and stepping on them to break a path so that no one got impaled while climbing over. We also belly crawled under, necessitating taking off our packs at times. Sometimes, we pulled back branches, as many of the trees were still green so the branches would not break. And it was slow going. Josy took over lead after Katie injured a leg on a poking branch. Beth and Amber coined the term “barking bronco” as we straddled these fallen pines.
After about a full hour of bushwhacking and only getting one mile up the trail, Sara and Paula decided they had had enough. If they had only known that they only have a handful of trees left after the hundreds we had already conquered, but there was no way to know. Susan left her pack with them, just taking a water bottle.
Then Katie said we had about an hour to go. Amber wondered if they knew if would take that long. She and Beth decided to go back to get Susan's pack so they could head back if they wanted to. The other four kept forward progress toward the peak. In this area in particular, we saw tons of bear and elk scat plus elk prints. We wondered through wildflowers and sage brush until we could see the top, a very welcome sight about now.
On the top, we were greeted with 360-degree views: the Big Belts, the Elkhorns, the Bridgers, Adels, Tobaccoroots, Bridgers, the Lewis and Clark ranges, Absolutely amazing. So, it made the bushwhack worth it, not thinking we had to do it again. On top, the standout flowers were buckwheat, wall flower and biscuitroot.
Amber and Beth thought we might be able to skirt some of the deadfall if we stayed right, on the leeward side of the mountain, so we decided to try it. And we did avoid some deadfall; however, we got into a bog. Beth almost lost a shoe in the muck; Amber and Judy may have ruined theirs. At this point, Katie and Beth compared leg gouges. When Beth showed hers, we noticed how deep it was. As she pulled up her legging, the scab came off and it really started bleeding. We could really see the flesh; it didn't look good. So we got out the first-aid kit, disinfected and bandaged, but it was still bleeding.
But we soldiered on. Since we skirted around, we now had to get back to the trail, Katie checked the GPS, We had dropped too low into a drainage, so up we went to get back on trail, of course, through thick downfall, Josy still leading.
By this time, some gals were getting blisters from wet feet, but they didn't want to stop to change socks. Amber had a big hike the next day. She wondered how she would make it with wrecked feet and wet boots, but she was hanging tough and planned on two big hikes in a row.
So we soldiered on again, through tons of brush to regain the trail. Josy spied cut logs, yay! We were back on trail, but back on bushwhack too. Then Katie saw a way around some of the logs on the left side. It was smooth sailing with only a few trees, but Josy saw a cut log way off to the far side and followed up. Sure enough, we were off trail again. It had swung to the right while we had gone left. A quick look at Katie's GPS confirmed it. So, we backtracked uphill a few hundred feet. This time, we really were on a good trail with only the occasional log to cross. Home free, or so we thought.
About now, some were running out of water, the 2-3 liters that they had brought for what we thought would be a more moderate hike. But we knew the last 2.5 miles would be fast without many downed logs. So, we skipped along. But Susan was hitting the wall and fell off the trail, perhaps tripping on a twig. We made her sit down and have a quick snack.
Then it was downhill all the way, but we slowed the pace, so no one did any more tripping. The cabin was a sight for sore eyes. We had been on trail for 8.5 hours to hike 8.5 miles stretched to 10 with our off-trail wanderings.
The it was time to head home, most of us in our own cars due to coronavirus. Beth decided to head to the immediate care to get care for her wound. It did require two stitches and a good cleaning to stop the bleeding. Amber and Judy stayed in town for dinner. Josy headed out and Susan followed Katie to make sure they both got home okay. On the way home, Katie about hit another deer. Oh, my.
We arrived home by 8:30 p.m, a far cry from the 5:30 we expected.
Who went: Sara, Paula P, Susan, Josy, Judy, Amber, Beth, Bonnie, Karen, Katie