Fall Colors and Wind Blew Us , Canadians Away on Firebrand Pass
Bright red fireweed, hot orange mountain ash, snow berries, saskatoons/service berries and a few hucks--These provided a wonderful understory as we sauntered through thigh-high brush and gorgeous aspen groves before we broke out into the alpine section of the Firebrand Pass hike with our Canadian sister group, the WoW (Women of Wonder).
The day started and ended with a train blocking our way, making us wait to get over the tracks to the trailhead for this little-used southern-part-of the-park hike. Even though it is not very popular, about 20 cars were parked at the end of the day. Most of the activity was probably due to the west-side fires shutting down all of the trails, forcing everyone to the south and east side.
Six Americans (five from Great Falls and one from Eureka joined seven gals from Alberta, Canada. We got on trail at 9:30 a.m. behind six other parties who got an earlier start.
As we made our way on the flatter part of the path, we marveled at the fall colors: the oranges, yellows, lime green and red ground cover really popped in the sun. We knew autumn had started when we saw the false hellebore drooping and brown from an early frost and August snow. Contrasting with the fall colors, we also were happy to see blue sky instead of the smoke we have been used to for over a month. With predictions of 48 miles-per-hour winds, we were surprised that we didn't even feel a breeze--yet.
When we hit the alpine section, we felt a breeze and knew the scree section could be challenging if a big gust came where the drop offs were at a dangerous angle; but luckily, the wind kept mostly to our backs and didn't present any issues.
However, on top of the pass, the wind was gale-force. We had a hard time keeping on our feet. After enjoying the views of Mount Despair, Peak 8888, Summit and Little Dog and taking a few pictures, we scooted down the side of the pass behind some trees and bushes to get out of the wind before eating our lunch.
Then we headed down and retraced our steps, leaving the side trip to Lena Lake for another day. On the way back, we came across several parties just getting started, including a tour of about 30 people, including some Asians who didn't appear to be properly dressed for such a trip.
Interestingly, we didn't see any animals: none of the usual bighorn sheep or marmots showed their faces, but it could have been the wind. A few of us did hear the whistle pigs (marmots) calling to one another. Some thought they heard pika too. However, we did find a green shieldback Katydid, sometimes called a Mormon cricket. We arrived back at our cars around 4 p.m. and headed to East Glacier for a meal at Serrano's but not before getting in a little shopping at Glacier Park Lodge gift store, the pottery shop and the Old Goat Traders. After dinner, we drove home arriving back in Great Falls at 8:15 p.m.
Who went: Americans: Madelon, Susan C, Anita, Mary S, Beth, Katie; Canadians: Laura, Marilee, LaVern, Dina, Joan, Shellee, Lorna