Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Arrow Peak, goats and all

The lupine was in full bloom

A "selfie" on Arrow Peak

Best I could do with a point and shoot camera at a long distance
The mountain goat is my favorite animal.
If I see one in the mountains my day is made.
Tuesday my day was made three times over when I saw three in the Highwood Mountains coming off Arrow Peak (elevation: 7,485 feet).
I’ve seen mountain goats in the range on a number of other occasions, but each time is no less of a thrill. It is amazing to me that these high country animals are within some 15 air miles of Great Falls.
Arrow Peak is the second in height to Highwood Baldy (7,670 feet), but much more difficult to reach.
My route was up the North Fork of Highwood Creek Center Ridge Trail until the trail hooks to the north across the foot of the peak. I stayed directly on the ridgeline where I found game trails on its lee side.
The Center Ridge Trail ascends steeply from the North Highwood Creek valley floor and provides great views of the heart of the mountain range, flanked by Baldy on the west and Arrow Peak on the east.
A lovely mountain cascade
On top Round and Square buttes dominate the northeastern horizon. Further out, the Bears Paw Mountains and Little Rockies; south, the Little Belts; to the west, the Front.
I decided to come off west ridge of the lower of the two tallest Arrow peaks. As I descended, I noticed tracks I took to be elk.
About 1,000 feet down I looked up and there were three mountain goats, all in their shedding stage. As they scampered off into the timber it looked like three men running with their pants at their knees for the shedding fur. They left plenty of the stuff in the bushes.
The bushwhacking was tricky through the plentiful skinny timber. It was difficult to keep from being drawn into drainages on either side of the descent. My goal was to drop into the head of the North Fork of Highwood Creek.
Once I arrived there, by chance, I found the largest waterfall I’ve ever discovered in this mountain range, which is full of small waterfalls.
The bushwhack to the trailhead was through fairly heavy timber.
The Highwoods are as green as can be, interspersed with every wildflower imaginable.
Water seems to gush from every crevice, spring and side hill.
The colors were enhanced by a bright spring sun and deep blue sky.
It doesn’t get any better than this.

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