Three high points in the Helena South Hills Make for Mega Views
The GiG welcomed another Bonnie to the group (we have four!) as Bonnie Jorgensen joined us for our hike up three high points: Mount Ascension, the tallest; Bompart Hill and Meatloaf, the shortest. Only two are on maps (besides the S. Hills map), so we count two in our "peaks" challenge).
The day started at 6:45 a.m. since it was going to be warm and possibly smokier as the day wore on. And some of us had electronic meetings in the evening, including a book talk with the author of The Wolverine Way, sowe wanted to get home early. We had two groups: one led by Bonnie Jensen and Katie and one with Susan and Gail.
We got to the Beattie street trailhead and on trail at 8:45; We started uphill right away, attempting Ascension first, taking rests along the way and having fun visiting since so many of us haven't seen much of others due to COVID-19. This is about 1,000 feet of gain. At the saddle, we continued to the overlook area before going up the actual peak, having a break and snack with views of the capital area, Carroll college and the Sleeping Giant. The views were pretty good; some of the smoke had cleared out of the sky, especially to the east. The south was still quite hazy. We marveled at the huge, fancy home built along the south hills and some right on top of the ridges, but we worried about fires burning them to the ground someday soon.
Then we continued along our way, but instead of just going back down to our cars, we took alternate routes and explored a new area: the Meatloaf trail. As we headed to Meatloaf Hill, we saw a trail that said "connector" on it. It wasn't on our map, so we wondered where it went, but we didn't have time to explore it today.
We came across the Capitol overlook and went off trail to go to the top for another view of the town and the surrounding mountains before continuing to Meatloaf Hill, a gorgeous rock outcropping with even more views, this time closer to the town. In this place, we sat on the rocks and had lunch, a mere quarter mile from our cars.
We arrived back to the cars at 12:30 and Katie's husband arrived right at the same time from his excursion to Mount Helena. At this point, Katie asked who would like to climb the second high point, which required a short drive. Four decided to head back, but Nora, Maria, Bonnie Jensen, Susan, Katie and her husband decided to tackle the second hill.
This was really a fun new discovery, short with great views with several loops. On top of Bompart Hill was the biggest cairn we had ever seen, so big we could stand on it, so we all climbed up and posed for a picture. Maria had never done sticks in the air, so we did with Katie's hubby Tom doing the honors.
This trail runs right up against houses and fences, so we had glimpses into people's backyards. We found a bird house hanging on a tree, signed by a young child and hose leading to dog water bowls for those with thirsty hiking companions. There are two trailheads, one with parking and one with just space on Diehl street--this is the one we took. And the Connector Trail we saw earlier? We saw where it came into the Bompart Hill Prickly Pear trails, so we needn't have driven over. Next time, we will take the trail and do a longer hike.
We were back to the car by 2:30 and home by 4 p.m., plenty of time ahead of our 6 p.m. electronic meetings and book talks.
The trails in the South Hills areas are quite interesting with many mine tailings and holes from extracting silver and gold. This area was also used for training during WWII, so soldiers could be prepared for the cold if sent to Russia, so many trenches still remain in addition to the mines scarring the land. The one thing to keep in mind is that the trails can be crowded. Even going early in the morning on a weekday, we ran into about eight groups and one solo man and many dogs. The trails are also open to bike riders, so be aware.