It was rainy. It was windy. It had graupel. It was windy. It had snow. We had fun, or at least some of us did.
The day started at 7 a.m. and put us on trail around 9:30 with one car going through Conrad to pick up Shelley. We stopped briefly to view the Old North Trail sign along the road before pulling into the campground and hikers' parking area.
Before we started on trail, June spied something on the hill above the trail. It was very tan and partly blocked by trees. At first, we thought a mountain lion, but then it emerged from behind the trunks and we could see it was a large golden fox. He ran over the edge and out of sight.
The day seemed windy, but not too bad as we climbed up the ridge to gain access to the lake. On the way up, we saw the sign about the East Slope Back country horsemen maintaining the trail and two markers for members who had passed on.
Once we reached the top of the ridge, we weren't prepared for what hit us! Wind, probably 60-70 mph gusts that made us turn around to have it at our back. We couldn't talk to each other the wind was so loud, but we all managed to get a look at the dam and snap pictures of some flowers, which were gorgeous: pasque, kings crown sedum/rosy sedum, Jacob's ladder, shooting stars to name a few. Usually, the sight of the teal-colored lake is what is a surprise; this time, the wind!
At this point, three of the gals decided to abandon the hike and return to the cars. The other felt bad since they would be waiting a long time, but we thought they might explore around the dam a bit while seven of us soldiered on.
The trail then headed downhill, which once we did get lower, we were out of the main gusts. In fact, in the treed sections, we couldn't feel the wind at all, but it was still hard to talk with the rustling of the trees. We shouted loudly to ward off any bears, knowing it would be hard for them to hear us. We did see several piles of bear scat and a few tracks, but small ones, probably black bear. We also saw many moose tracks, but we didn't see a moose.
Our destination was first Hell Roaring Falls or Spring. We viewed it from across the lake and then up close as the trail goes up and around it. It's amazing to see this water flow forcefully straight out of the ground and tumble down the mountain into the lake. Our next destination was the first creek crossing, that of South Fork of Birch Creek. This is three miles in and out turn around point. We would have had to wade the stream, and with the other gals turning around, we thought we should get back. It had already taken us three hours on trail, facing the wind and snapping pictures of glacier lilies and other flowers and views along the way.
A few times we decided to gain a high point for views; every time we regretted it as we were blown down, only our poles to hold us up. We had graupel pelt us in the face. We had a few showers and even some snow flakes, but we weren't sorry we continued as the views and flowers were worth it in the end. Even when we regained the ridge and had even stronger gusts than when we started out.
After we got back, we were surprised that the other gals didn't get out of the car at all while we were gone due to high winds. They said they almost fell asleep. But we woke them up and headed to Dupuyer for some hot slaw, sweet potato fries and burgers at Buffalo Joe's Cafe. We arrived home around 6 pm.
On a side note, Katie rolled down the passenger window in Susan's car, and it wouldn't roll back up. Susan called her husband because it had happened before; to fix it, he banged on the door, but our bangs weren't working. He wasn't any help. It took a whole bottle of cream rinse to untangle Katie's hair after she got home. LOL
Who went: Gail, Jo Ann, Shelley, Katie, Susan, Debra, June, Sara, Catherine. Carol