The Biggie for Distance, Height and Views Doesn't Disappoint
It all started with shuttling the car to the campground and then a trip up Two Medicine Lake on the 9 a.m. boat, which landed at 9:30 on the far shore. We then took the quick mile hike to the connecting trail to Dawson Pass. This being a Saturday, we did have the ranger-led hike of about 15 (going to Dawson pass and back) following behind us, along with a young couple, who also intended to hike the whole loop trail.
We started up the 3.4 gruelingly steep miles up to Dawson Pass just before 10 and arrived at the pass at 12:45. Along the way, we were treated to gorgeous wildflowers as we ascended (most of the lower level flowers were gone) along with about a dozen sheep as we got into the alpine area just below the pass. The flowers most prevalent were blue explorer's gentian, seed-head anemones, sulphur buckwheat and fireweed. And at each stop to catch our breath, we scooped up a few huckleberries and grouse whortleberries (mini hucks) as they were fully ripe. About a half mile from the pass, the ranger-led group caught and passed us. We were quite surprised as the group had many 70+ hikers. We felt a bit peeved as we thought we were pretty fair hikers.
Anyway, as we topped the pass, the views amazed us as we faced massive Mount Stimson, one of six 10,000 feet plus mountains in the park, flanked by Mount Helen to the left and Flinsch to the right. We also saw the remnants of Lupfer glacier on the side of Mount Philips along with Pumpelly and Blackfoot glaciers in the far distance. As we looked down in the Nyack country, faraway lakes and glacially carved valleys dizzied us.
We had lunch at the pass and then continued uphill for another half mile until we started around the flank of Rising Wolf, where we would spend the next four miles hiking a goat trail while being treated to some of the best views in the park.
Along the way, we met the young couple who had passed us on the trail. They said the trail was too steep for them so they decided to turn around, so we wondered if we were crazy for continuing along the narrow trail, but we did. We also met a man with one leg hiking the trail, along with five other parties who had hiked from the other direction, going up Pitamakan pass first. Some were backpacking between Old Man and No Name Lakes.
Before Pitamakan pass, we hiked along a ridgeline that provided views on both sides of the mountains. We saw many lakes and as we turned a corner and started descending the pass, the turquoise of Pitamakan lake came into view. We now had a different direction and all new sights as we continued down the trail along the side of Rising Wolf and through the valley leading to Pray Lake and the Two Medicine campground. Again, we feasted on huckleberries.
As we neared the campground, a few things happened. Two young gals passed us as they were completing the loop too. Then we met a barefoot hiker coming up. We couldn’t believe he was hiking this rocky trail with no footgear whatsoever. He said it was easy to get used to, that his feet never got cut by the rocks as a person’s feet get more malleable as she continues to hike barefoot. None of us wanted to try it as our feet were sore with boots on.
Then we came upon the two gals who had hiked past us. They told us a mama black bear and her cub had just crossed the trail. The rangers were down below us on the campground road and used a bull horn to communicate with us as they could see the bears’ progression. Once the bears were a safe distance away, they told us to proceed.
We made it back to the car by 7:30, which was around the estimated time of arrival. Starved and worried that the restaurants would close, we quickly changed into comfy shoes and went directly to the lodge where we hoped for a nice dinner with a glass of wine or even champagne. However, it turns out that it was Indian Days in Heart Butte so the reservation was dry. We enjoyed our dinner anyway, followed by a walk-through of the gift shop. Then we headed to Brownies and Jacobson’s cottages where we stayed the night, followed with breakfast at the Whistlestop and home by noon the next day.
What an epic adventure for everyone. We crossed another hike off the bucket list.
Who went: Mary N, Roni, Kathy M and Katie
Link to Katie's pictures
Linkk ot Kathy's picts