A Butte of a Day with our Canadian Friends
Even though we were warned of gumbo roads from the rain the night before, we braved the two-track to get to the Gold Butte trailhead. Fourteen of us met in Sunburst for this somewhat crazy ride, filled with gate crossings and ruts (six from Great Falls GiG and eight from the Canadian hikers group). Our backup plan was West Butte, but we were able to drive the roads--the howling wind dried them quickly.
Thank goodness the day wasn’t too hot as this hike is a steep climb (about 2500 feet of gain over 2.4 miles), but we did wish for a bit less wind as the gusts made a few lose their balance on the rocks a few times.
The meadows on the way up were filled with wildflowers: golden pea, prairie smoke, lupine, prairie rose, sulfur buckwheat, stone seed (gromwell), with some chickweed, spring beauties and a few shooting stars hanging in there.
On the way up, we left two of our gals huddled against the wind as they didn’t quite have their summer legs on yet. We promised not to forget them on the way down.
Once we left the steep grade and uneven clumps of the meadow grass, we were happy to get on the rocky talus game trails that were switch backed and at a more reasonable angle. The wind did howl around the butte, however, making this stretch a bit treacherous. A few gals stumbled when they caught gusts but the only mishap was a bloody arm. Several questioned if we should continue due to the wind. The leaders forced us on—saying we had come this far, we need to tag the top and sign the register, even if the wind is too bad to linger long.
At the top, the wind miraculously died down, making for a wonderful late lunch with 360-degree hazy views; we could the Rocky Mountain Front, Badger Two-Medicine, Glacier—barely, as well as Writing on Stone Provincial Park. Twelve gals summited. Along the way and at the top were American Indian prayer flags and a medicine bundle as this is a holy site for Montanan and Canadian tribes. We signed the register and took group shots before deciding to say goodbye to such a special place.
The way down was precarious at times as we picked our way down the rocky slope. This time, it was the grass that was a welcome reprieve from the loose stones that threatened to throw us off our feet. But we all made it down safely; and we managed to find our two comrades, patiently awaiting our return. (one small mishap: Sue scraped her arm when she fell on the rocks).
Before jumping in the cars, most of us wandered to Miss Jessie Rowe's grave that is along on the hillside (actually, there are five other unmarked graves). She--and the others--were left behind when the graveyard was moved to the Gold Butte cemetary due to an underground spring disturbing the graves. Read more here. And her grave posting on findagrave.com
We drove the quarter mile up the road to see the old mine and almost slipped into some deep ruts created by a truck going through the road when it was gumbo. Kuntzie did an excellent job negotiating the ditches before we turned around and headed into Sunburst, saying goodbye to our Canadian friends and then heading to Shelby for dinner.
Thanks to our cell phones, we found a nice restaurant in Shelby to rest our feet and have some much-needed food after our strenuous hike. We raced to get into the restaurant—and use the bathroom—before we realized that no one had let Ellie out of the way back seat. We joked that we had “left the baby in the car.”
We shared many other laughs over our dinner. The meal was quite nice—many ordered the prime rib—however, the service was so slow, due to only one waitress on a Friday night. We felt sorry for her, but it took us two hours and 20 minutes to eat and pay our bill. We finally got up and went to the bar to pay. This made us get into town at 9:30 p.m., way later than expected.
Who went: Cathy "Kuntzie." Katie, Anita, Ellie, Bonnie, Sue