Canadian Women Wowed by Samsara, Views on Patrol Mountain
Six Americans met seven women from Canada, who had stayed over in Choteau at the Stagestop Inn, at 7 a.m. at Augusta for a hike up to see Samsara, the lookout on top of Patrol Mountain. It is Sam's 23rd year "manning" this tower.Laurie from East Glacier even came.
After Katie had a few mishaps on which campground, we finally found the trailhead and got on trail at just after 9 a.m. Thank goodness the day was cool with a breeze; however, the breeze made Katie a bit nervous as she knew the saddle could be a bit tricky to cross if the wind was too bad.
One of the things Katie and Laurie hoped to see and show the Canadians was the sparrow-egg lady slipper flower, so we started looking after a half hour of hiking, since Sam said they were about three quarters of a mile down the trail. But we didn't see any. We thought maybe we were too late to see them.
We continued down the trail, completing the first 2.5 miles by 10:15. At this point, we have to cross Straight Creek, so we took off our boots and put on our wading shoes or sandals to brave the very cold water. Then we stashed our water shoes behind some trees and put our boots back on.
Along the trail, we saw many flowers: arnica, showy fleabane daisy, twin flower, townsendia, penstemon, sticky geranium, blanket flower and bear grass, oh, the bear grass.
Just when everyone was getting very tired of uphill, we came to Honeymoon Basin, a beautiful meadow in a carved out area, a perfect place to stop for a snack, even though it was 12:15. However, Katie said we didn't want to take too long as the main point was to get to the lookout. We would finish our lunch on top, but not before Lorna pulled out her famous fudge. She had carried a pound and a half up the steep trail. We are so lucky to have our fudge lady along. The bite of sweetness was just what we needed to finish the last mile of trail.
When we apporached hte saddle, the gals were so amazed at the views that they hardly noticed the wind gusts. But as we crossed the saddle to the lookout, it could have blown a few of us over, but we all made it easily and no one was afraid to cross. It took us about an hour from the basin to reach the top.
Samsara was waiting for us and had even started a fire in her stove. The temperature was only 46 degrees, she said, and had been in the 30s at night. Sam told us about her life as a lookout, let us use her binoculars and try out the Osborne Fire Finder, an instrument made in the 1930s. We all signed the book and asked lots of questions, especially about lightning storms.
Then another hiker, a man, came in too. He didn't stay long as he had to get to work, he said. Sam told us she receives 60-80 hikers per year, mostly in July. He was the only other hiker we saw.
We stayed an hour and then Katie said we better head down as it would be around 6 p.m. before we got down. With reluctance, we headed back down the trail and across the saddle to Honeymoon Basin. At this point, Laurie, who had a long way to go to East Glacier, and who also likes to hike alone, took off and said she would really be looking for the lady slippers and would mark the trail if she found them. We had our doubts that any were still in bloom.
We marveled at the views on the way down as well as how much uphill we had climbed. Some joked that we would never get to Straight Creek, as the downhill just seemed to keep going and going. Along the way, we came across a couple doing a field survey on plants. They had a tape measure and were recording things into a notebook.
Finally, we arrived at Straight Creek and recrossed the stream, reclaiming our wading shoes from the bushes and faced the last 2.5 miles. On the way, we told our lead gals to keep an eye out for any sign that Laurie may have left pointing the way to the sparrow-egg lady slipper flowers, and sure enough, Laurie created a marker from stones and tree limbs: she had found them. There was a whole grove of them, all in very good shape. We all traipsed though the deep grass to snap a photo or two. This was a nice distraction and pick-me-up at the end of a very long day.
We arrived at the cars at just after 6 and headed back to town while the Canadians headed for the border.
We didn't see any moose on the way out, but the lupine on the ranches was gorgeous.
What a wonderful day with wonderful friends.
Who went: Canadians: Laura, Dina, Doreen, Lorna, Linda, Marilee, Sharon. Americans: Josy, Susan, Roni, Deb, Laurie, Katie