High Wind Warning Didn't Stop the GiG; Two Trips It Was So Pretty
Despite high wind warnings, possibilities of ticks and snake, 11 GiG members braved the elements and headed out for a loop hike along the shores of Holter Lake. Actually, the high wind warning was for the afternoon in the Holter/Helena area, but the winds had picked up to 30 mph plus in Great Falls the night before, so some ladies dropped thinking the winds were also on the other side of the canyon as well. We had 10 people on the waitlist, so we were able to fit more in last minute, so all was good.
We left Great Falls at 8 a.m. bucking winds until Cascade. We were surprised at the number of disabled cars along the shoulder of the highway: four, plus one had a deer right by it (very sad). Then we came to a truck being taken out of the median area by a tow truck, so five disabled vehicles. The deer was just a precursor as we happened upon two deer herds crossing the road on the way into Holter.
After a bathroom stop at Craig's fishing access by the bridge, we made it to Juniper Bay, meeting Viki from Fairfield there. We were on trail around 9:35. We divided into our two groups, one led by Katie and Camille and one by Viki and Sheila. The wind was negligible and the temperature in the 60s, so we were stripping layers immediately.
The views were super: we saw the back side of Sleeping Giant (Beartooth Mountain) to the west across Holter Lake and Sacajawea peak to the south
When we got to the place on trail between two hills, one 500 feet higher than the other, we re-divided into groups: those going up the smaller led by Camille and Katie and those going up the larger with Suzie. We planned to meet in the Log Gulch picnic area after. As we watched the climbers ascend, Kuntz notices a small herd of deer not far from them that wandered under some trees, the other gals unaware.
The first group made it to the picnic area 30 minutes earlier than the others, so we finished out lunches in the sheltered area and then decided to lake just as the others were coming down the trail, so we all went to the lake.
After the second group finished lunches, we started on the loop portion of the trail that hugs the lake, producing even better views. Also, by the lake, we saw our first spring wildflowers: douglasia, storks bill and dandelions; we also saw some bluebirds, but we didn't see any bighorn sheep, a bit of a disappointment. We finished the hike by 12:50 and arrived home by 2 p.m. bucking strong winds from Tower Rock on.
We were all so glad that we got out of the wind for most of the day.
The second trip, we did face winds even though not as much wind was predicted! But it was warm enough and sheltered about half the time that the breeze didn't ruin our time. Deer were all over on this trip as well, both in the fields and along the road on the way in.
We followed Wayne's group with his Wayne's Wednesday Walks group. A few times he told us about the flora, pointing out an early-blooming cous biscuitroot, explaining how it was an important food for bears and native peoples.
Besides deer, we saw no other wildlife except a dead vole (meadow mouse) on the trail and ants swarming their hill. No sheep on this trip either. We did learn about rubber rabbit bushes and woolly mullein, sometimes called lamb's ears.
The views were super, and this time, just three days later and unlike the experience of the the other group, the lake was entirely free of ice with several boats out and fishermen along the shore.
We ate lunch in the picnic shelter at Log Gulch. Then we said bye to Gail as she walked the road while the rest reclimbed the ridge and took the 2.25 mile loop while she walked just over a mile on the road. We finished by 2:20; home by 3:30. Who went: Doreen, Gail, Maria, Jo Ann, Katie