Quick Seven-Mile Trip Has Us Back Home for Beer and Gear Expo
Crown Butte it's not. Instead of a flat-topped lacolith, Crown Mountain is a major peak in the Rocky Mountain Front, one that looks similar to Sawtooth but just a little tipped. It resembles a king's crown from a coloring book.
At 6:30 a.m., four of us set off to Augusta, had a brief stop at the mercantile before heading down the Benchmark gravel road that leads to some of the best wilderness in the world. Spardha drove for her first time in the Front and did an excellent job--she wasn't a bit afraid of the gravel.
Before we got to the trailhead, we took a side trip to Double Falls, enjoying the smaller cascade, spilling into the larger one. Spardha actually climbed to the upper falls, while the rest of us stayed back.
Then it was off for the last mile to the Crown Mountain trailhead. We were on trail around 9 a.m. and immediately started uphill, getting in our 1500 feet of elevation gain for the day. The westher was hot, but luckily most of the trail was in the shade. Along the uphill climb, we enjoyed many wildflowers, in particular the lady slippers and blue explorer's gentian. We also saw two kinds of lousewort: fern-leafed and parrot-beak. Of course, there were many others.
Also on the way up we came across the avalanche chute that had taken out the trail this year, spilling rocks over it. This section was a bit hard to navigate over the piled-up scree, but not too bad. After this part, the trail breaks out into the open, revealing the rocky cliffs of the mountain. Since it was so hot and all of us wanted to get back to the Beer and Gear Expo, we decided to stop short of the saddle by a half mile and enjoy an early lunch.
Then it was back down and back to Augusta, with a quick stop for coffee and a look around Latigo and Lace, since both Bonnie and Spardha had never seen this cute boutique. In the store, we noticed several Great Falls' artists and enjoyed all of the hand-crafted items. Nobody bought anything other than a latte though.
Then it was on home by 3:30, just in time to wash up and get to the Gear Expo at 5 p.m.