Unnamed Peak, Arrowleaf Balsamroot Wow Gals on Long Hike
Over nine miles and bushwhacking gave three Giggers a workout on a pretty day that highlighed all the flowers the Highwood Mountains had to offer.
The day started at 7:30 a.m. and took over an hour to travel the very bad road going into Thain Creek area. We parked where the road splits into North Fork Highwood Creek and Thain Creek. Then we took the 411 trail across the road that meets with the trail at the campground.
By 9 a.m., we were on trail with our watershoes packed just in case the 13 creek crossing required them, but we discovered bridges, logs or rockhopping sufficed to get across all the streams.
At the beginning of the trail, we had to check the GPS at one junction. We ended up heading in a counterclockwise direction, which was new to Katie. As we headed up, some of us realized it was early in the season as our legs and lungs took a bit to get adjusted to the uphill climb. We took adequate stops to get water and admire the 45 flowers we saw along the way. Nora used her Seek app to help us with a few names, but for the most part, we were familiar with the blooms we saw.
After we reached the first pass, we continued around a small peak and then to another, the largest on the horizon. Katie thought it was the Windy Peak as it was bigger and we were approaching from a different direction, so we headed up the ridge, Susan in the lead. Going up was pretty easy. On the way, we looked back and spied a man and a dog on the trail. Then he decided to follow us and caught us on top when we were taking off our packs to rest and have our lunch. Nora discovered the hiker was someone she knew: Dan Levine, so she chatted a bit. We enjoyed the views of both sides, green hills all around covered in bright yellow arrowleaf balsamroot reflecting in the sun.
After lunch, Katie had the bright idea of going off the far side instead of going back the way we came. It got us down all right, but not without a lot of bushwhacking through trees, on talus and over junipers. Nora guided us down most of the way down very steep terrain. But no one slipped or got hurt; we were happy to see the trail though.
Then we continued along the ridge, reaching the real Windy Peak and pass in about a mile. No one really felt like going up another high point, even though it was much easier, 250 feet lower than the peak we climbed.
Then it was down, down, down with most of the creek crossings ahead of us. We enjoyed the different zones of flowers (see list below). We completed the Windy Point loop and threw in a peak, so on the way home, we also went back a different way, completing another loop. Our day ended at 5 pm. back to Great Falls.