Monday, October 26, 2009

Mediterrenean brunch and Mount Helena

Katie in the rocks on Mount Helena's Hanging Valley Trail
Lime kilns at Grizzly Gulch
After several days of rain and cold I was certain that there would be good ski-able snow in the mountains last weekend.
In fact, there was, but I wasn’t there.
Sunday dawned bright blue and sunny and I took off for Helena for a great Sunday brunch and hike on Mount Helena, instead.
I admit to kicking myself this morning when I looked at Showdown’s Web site and saw all that fresh snow covering the ski hill.
But, I was deterred from taking advantage of it when I realized that Sunday morning was the first day of the hunting season, and combined with uncertainty over the snow, I bagged it.
I didn’t want to rock up skis, now did I?
I can recommend a great Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mediterranean Grill on Park Avenue in the old Eddy’s Bakery. It’s $15.95 and well worth it for the variety of Mediterranean foods from hummus to delicious sweets like baklava.
After distending ourselves we explored a few Mount Helena trails I hadn’t walked.
Well, maybe I had walked them, but it was before they were part of an official trail system.
When I lived in Helena in the 1970s there was a basic trail up the east face and to the “H”. Before I left in 1981 I was part of a group that built the back side trail that connected to the Hogback ridge to the top.
We were the organizers of the Mount Helena Run, an annual race to the top that continues to this day.
Since leaving, I never took the time to fully explore the new trails that were built after I left for Great Falls.
Mount Helena is an amazing city park that offers mountain hiking and trail biking and includes some nice limestone cliffs.
On Sunday, Katie and I hiked a loop up McKelvey Gulch on the south side of the mountain from a parking space on Grizzly Gulch. We got to the Ridgeline Trail on the west end and the connected the backside trail and then back down the Hanging Valley Trail to McKelvey Gulch.
About 30 years ago I used to run up McKelvey Gulch as a route to the top of Mount Helena.
The route was very typical of Mount Helena with ponderosa pines and Doug Fir and lots of grass. We passed through fire and pine bark beetle infestations and across limestone outcroppings.
Because the day was so clear the mountains just popped out. The Big Belts and Elkhorns were loaded with snow.
The brunch and hike made for a most pleasant Sunday outing.

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