Foot-High Chocolate Lily with 13 Flowers; Many Others Speckle Trail
Who went, group two: Katie, Amber, Judy
The weather looked bad, so both groups moved up the hike by a day, from Thursday to Wednesday. Then even Wednesday looked a bit iffy, so the first group decided not to make a sunset trip to Sunset mountain but a morning trip.
The other group ended up canceling as severe damaging thunderstorms and hail were predicted. Insstead, the weather on Thursdaay morning looked better.
Group one left Great Falls at 8 a.m. on our way to Sunset Mountain; the first hike that no one in our group had ever been on before. The trail, an unpaved road, is located about one-tenth of a mile down the highway from Rogers Pass parking area. The weather was warm and sunny, but we found a few shady stops. There were many wildflowers, which Jo Ann identified for the group.
At the top, we lunched in the shade; then proceeded down the trail. Along the way, Jo Ann spotted several Chocolate Lilies and an Early Coralroot. Everyone had a good time. We were back in Great Falls around 2:30 p.m.
Who went: Gail, Jo Ann, Sue M, Paula P, and Doreen.
Group two was under a timeline, as Judy had a doctor's appointment at 1 p.m. for a loose crown. So we left town right at 7 a.m. and hustled up the trail. Somehow, we missed the chocolate lily that Jo Ann told us about: a rare with flower with an even rarer number of blossoms: 13. Usually, this lily might have two or three blossoms on a stalk, so this specimen was highly unusual. Even H. Wayne Phillips, a botanist, couldn't believe this flower.
Both groups passed it by on the way up, but both spotted it on the return. But this wasn't the only amazing flower: the Indian paintbrush was especially bright red, the yellow of the arrowleaf balsamroot almost hurt the eyes.
The other outstanding flowers were valerian, elderberry, buckbrush/ceonothus, arnica, and miner's candle.
As we approached the top and the towers and huts, a work truck wtih three workers approached waving hello. The walk is on a dirt access road, used to service the radio, TV and cell towers on top.
On the way down, Judy noticed her sunglasses were missing. She thought she may have dropped them at the top when she took pictures. Amber said she would drive her back up, but hoped the men in the truck wouldn't be coming down as the road is single track.
Even though it wasn't in the evening, Sunset mountain didn't disappoint.