A Flat Tire on Hot Day Impedes Climb of Butte in New Area
Just over a year ago, a rancher put a conservation easement on land, which allows hikers to enjoy the Birdtail and Lionhead Butte area. So, the GiG decided to check it out.
Birdtail Butte can't be climbed without rope, so our plan was Lionhead. We left Great Falls at 7 a.m., thinking an early start would be good since the butte has no shade and we would be exposed the entire way. But Josy's car had other ideas: it took a rock to a tire, splitting it. Susan, Katie and Judy didn't notice at first that Josy wasn't behind us as we were all driving our own cars, due to the coronavirus outbreak, and also practicing distancing between cars to keep the dust down. But when we arrived at the trail head and Josy didn't show up for over 10 minutes, Katie called as we did have one bar of service. But Josy didn't answer. So, Judy drove to find her, returning in 20 minutes to say she had a flat but was having trouble getting the spare off from under the vehicle. She said she would return to help as she could.
Susan and Katie got a few steps walking the road and just talking. A couple in a pickup came by and said the gals were just about finished changing the tire, so Katie and Susan had hope. A few minutes later and first Judy and then Jody's cars came down the road.
So we put our gear on, rolled under the barbed wire gate and were on our way.
Then it was up, up, up the side of the butte, just after crossing the creek, which was pretty low. A few cows bellowed at us, keeping a leery eye at us humans, since they all had calves. Bushwhacking all the way, through service berries, sage and roses, we battled a beating sun; Susan, coming off a cold, tired and overheated a bit, so we stopped under the few pine trees that there were on the way up.
Then we continued on, rounding the far end of the butte to take the easy way up, a nice ramp that even had a game/cow trail. The grasses were high, making our walking slow, especially since under the grasses were many rocks, some fairly large that must have tumbled off the butte or been pushed down by spring runoff and snow. So, we had to watch our footing. We also kept an eye out for snakes, but we didn't see any.
As we neared the final ascent, Susan was really over heated. Katie sent Josy and Judy to climb the high point while she took Susan slowly up the easy side, so that they could get some views and hopefully a breeze on top. Susan rested some more, but we made it and enjoyed looking across at Josy and Judy as they did some rock hopping, circled around the butte and came up to join us for lunch. Two limber pines provided a bit of shade to eat under, while Judy said how the rock ledges were a bit scary and that the top had some sort of big bugs flying at them, so that's why they came down fast.
We enjoyed the views of the surrounding buttes, Josy using her peak visor app to ID many of them (Fishback, Black, Cecilia, Skull, Haystack) and the views of the Rocky Mountain Front with Caribou peak and Castle Reef really showing.
After lunch, Katie hurried everyone along, reminding that the day was to get into the mid-eighties. She did not want to be out during the heat of the day with no shade. So off we went, down, down, watching our step for hidden rocks.
Josy led us down quickly with one rest stop under the same pines from the way up. Then Josy went ahead as she only had a donut tire and wanted to start getting back to town as she would have to drive slowly.
Judy needed to get to work, so she went quickly too, while Susan and Katie tailed each other, making sure the other two weren't broken down on the way back.
We got back to town around 2:30, about one hour later than expected, but we thought it would have been more with the heat, rests, and a flat tire. Josy called to say she made it to Westside Tirerama, and they were taking good care of her. We felt bad that she would have to get all four new tires, but she said she was grateful that she didn't have a blowout on the highway. All in a day.