Bluebird Day Brings Wind, Views, Ticks; Night of Grizzlies Revisited
In typical spring fashion, we brought a few ticks down the mountain with us; but other than that itchy annoyance, the day was fantastic. We welcomed Rancher Rosanna from Augusta, who put us to shame, climbing an extra 300 feet to the rock ledge above us and Mimi, who has hiked with MWA and Wayne's Wednesday Walks, but never with the GiG.
We started out by walking the scree by the pictograph cave and then across the meadow to the Skull Tree, which has pretty painted skulls, mostly with birds on them. Mary M and Ellen's niece from Dillon, Megan Royce, paints the skulls. Mary and Ellen's cabin is right at the parking area of Wagner Basin and we sure missed having them along to do some interpretation and give us background from when they were kids, playing in these mountains.
All of us did very well for our first real hike of the season; we all moved up the ridge fairly quickly gaining 1,300 feet and 1.5 miles in one and a half hours. No one whined or wanted to turn around. The wind belted us while the ticks got us when we had to cross the streams, dropping when we brushed up against the willows and small aspen trees. The bushwhacking was for sure the place where those little critters clung to our clothes. Luckily, we had Rosanna along. She could spot a tick from 100 feet, or so it seemed to us as she expertly plucked--and then killed with her finger nails--the seven ticks she found on our clothing.
Aside from ticks, we saw several herds of bighorn sheep, including rams with full curls and ewes with their lambs. We also saw white-tailed deer and columbian ground squirrels--and heard them chirping as they poked their heads from their den holes.
The flowers were really showing too, especially the magenta douglasia that covered the upper alpine area. We also saw Wyoming kitten tails, cinquefoil/potentilla, rock cress, yellowstone draba, and phlox.
But the prettiest thing might have been the majestic views of Castle Reef, the Sun River Valley, Mount Allen and Sawtooth Mountain. We walked the edge of a high saddle ridge that ran along a sheer rock wall. On top of this place were krummholtz, kinnickkinnik, and trees leaning to the east, deformed from the wind, which always blows along the Rocky Mountain Front.
We made a circle around and headed back down the draw, walking on a solid stone draw that had a spring running in it. When we got back down to the meadow area, we happened upon two hikers, Dave Shea and his wife, the legendary Glacier Park Ranger from Night of the Grizzlies. We visited with him for a few minutes and then headed to Augusta for lunch at the Buckhorn Bar, which was very noisy, due to people in town for basketball tourneys. Kuntz even ran into a fellow East Middle School teacher who was reffing the games.
After a gorgeous drive among the buttes with the Rocky Mountain Front as a backdrop, we got back to Great Falls by 4:30. What a lovely day. Good thing we didn't let an afternoon rain storm prediction scare us!
Who went: Rosanna, Mimi, Cathy, Maria, Sue and Katie