Perfect Day to Sit on a Mountain Before the Heat Wave Hits
At 6:30 a.m., with six crammed into Katie's Highlander, we headed to Augusta, not for the rodeo, but for a climb of Fairview Mountain in the Rocky Mountain Front.
The day promised to be a bit of a hot one to do 3,000 feet of uphill, but we hoped our early start would get us to the top before it got roasting, and we were pleasantly surprised that the day never heated too much with a breeze and cloud cover.
Today was a test for three of us: Katie with her hip and shoulder issues from the car accident still bothering, Amber with Achilles' tendon issues from running and her bad ankle and Susan with ankle and knee issues from her ankle operation four years ago. But we all made it to the top and in pretty good form, albeit hurting at times.
Before our hike started, we spied a doe on the side of a hill nursing her two fawns; she quickly left with the babies boing-boinging up and over the hill. So cute! Then we went through the fence, carefully crossed the stream on some old logs, and hit the trail.
We enjoyed the canyon with the string of waterfalls, checking off Willow Creek Falls and Upper Willow Creek Falls. At times, it was fairly hot with no breeze. We prayed it wouldn't warm up even more. Then we headed for the off-trail portion of the hike, the reason we had Katie's husband Tom along, yet we were able to follow old cow and game trails until the saddle. The trails were more distinct from years past.
From there, the slant got progressively steeper until we reached a second saddle, where it leveled out for a bit before the final ascent over very rocky, steep terrain. On this last stretch, the wind picked up and some ominous clouds hung over us, giving us a bit of a chill.
Once we gained the top, we were surprised at how calm it had become, so we could enjoy the views for a while before descending a bit for a lunch spot as the wind picked up once again. But not before we snapped a few summit pictures and put three rocks on the cairn for the three ladies who have gone before us: Chrissie, Colette/Coco and Phyllis.
We were so lucky to find a day before the heat warning engulfs us later in the week.
Instead of retracing our steps, we did a lollipop, by creating a loop out of the off-trail scramble, going through some old snags and rock ledges. On this part, we came across different zones of wildflowers, one with forget-me-nots, one with shooting stars, one with arrow-leaf balsamroot.
We got back to the cars at 4:30 to find another vehicle there with a couple from Helena, who had no idea where they really were or how far the falls were. We explained to them about the gorgeous canyon and the falls. They also said they were log-time members of MWA and wondered about the name change to Montana Wild, Camille, being on the board, explained to him the logic.
Then it was back home via Augusta right as the rodeo was ending. We got into a traffic jam getting through the four-block town, taking about 15 mintues as we people watched: cowboys spinning their hats, beers in hand; people lined up for burgers at the Buckhorn Bar and a giant Budweiser bottle blow-up swinging in the breeze.
We arrived home around 6 p.m. Who went: Camille, Susan, Suzie T, Amber, Katie (Guide Tom)