Sunday, May 20, 2012

Quick run to the Front

The red marks the way I had used to travel in this area.  The "boot prints" mark where we hiked Sunday.
For years I had taken a Sun Canyon Lodge horse trail when I wanted to explore the Sawtooth Ridge area.
A couple of years ago Matt Marcinek suggested I try an official Forest Service trail, No. 277, that begins about a half mile north of Home Gulch right off the main Sun Canyon Road.
It shows on the map as a loop that arcs above Red Lake on its return.
Very good horse/elk trails continue on the ridgeline to the north end of the Sawtooth Ridge where we've discovered a very good climbing route.
This ridge is the boundary between the national forest and the state game range and is a great spot to see where the elk migrate between summer and winter range.  Hunters have set up blinds in this area.
On Sunday my wife and I did the short hike above Red Lake just to check out this section of trail I had never taken and were very satisfied with the experience.
Blue Belles
We began near a couple of summer homes and found the trailhead for the trail that looks like a reclaimed road. The 1990 Bob Marshall Complex map shows it as a road to where it meets Trail No. 267 coming up from Sun Canyon Lodge.  The "loop" part of the trail goes over the ridgeline and down a steep draw on the national forest side of the game range boundary.
All the horse trails coming from every which-way makes consistent trail finding problematic.
The route we chose Sunday is very direct and solves some of that trail-finding.
The old route, marked in red on the map comes up from the lodge's main arch-way gate, an imposing structure of huge logs.
Katie enjoys the scenery, especially the flowers
No matter which route is taken, the scenery is breath-taking.  The up-side of taking Trail No. 277 is that it stays on a ridgeline and Castle Reef and and the Sawtooth Ridge, the two gate posts of the Sun River Canyon, are always in sight.

Incidentally, the trail rises abruptly from the parking area, so be prepared for some huffing and puffing right out of the car.
What made our hike Sunday particularly enjoyable was the amazing array of early wildflowers, particularly the arrowleaf balsamroots, lupine and brightly purple pasque flowers.

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