Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kicking out the kinks: Bridgers, Adels, Great Falls of Missouri

Mark Hertenstein atop a cloud shrouded Mount Chisholm in Adel Mountains south of Cascade
This is the time of the year I make the switch from cross country skis to easy climbing to kick out the winter kinks.
Over the past couple of weeks I've started the hiking season with a nice trip to the Bridgers near Bozeman, a walk to Ryan Dam and the Great Falls of the Missouri River, and a in-the-rain climb of Mount Chisholm in the Adel Mountains south of town.
The one thing all of these hikes had in common:  tremendous wildflowers.
I can't remember such a wildflower show so early in the season.  I hope this is not a bad sign.
We travel to Bozeman every year for performances of the Intermountain Opera Company, which this year did Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet."  They bring in New York Met singers and stage the opera in the Willson Auditorium downtown.  They do a terrific job and it's great to hear top notch singers in Bozeman.
Our Bridger trip was up to the MSU "M" on the south end of the range and then a walk up the steep trail to the ridgeline, a gain of just under 2,000 feet.
Above the "M" in the Bridgers
Even though it was only May 12, we had very warm temperatures and the wildflowers were out in profusion. Views were spectacular into the snow-covered Gallatin, Madison and Tobacco Roots mountain ranges.
We had a nice stay at the Voss Mansion bed and breakfast about three blocks from Main Street.
There isn't a large snowpack in the Bridgers and I heard hikers saying Old Baldy was reachable.  Nor was the Crazy mountain range holding much snow.
This has all the makings of a pretty dry year.
Driving down to Bozeman we stopped at White Sulphur Springs and had a soak in the hot springs and witnessed pretty low snowpack in the Little Belts and Big Belts as well.
The Great Falls of the Missouri River at Ryan Dam
The weather was pretty threatening both Saturday and Sunday of this week, so I kept my plans modest.
Katie and I walked the 11-miles roundtrip from Rainbow Dam Overlook to Ryan Dam and the Great Falls of the Missosuri River via Cochrane Dam on Saturday.
Both Rainbow and Cochrane were pretty dry, but the water was really flowing at Ryan Dam and the Great Falls was really spilling.
This was the first fulll weekend that the PPL Ryan Dam picnic area was open, and although we were high above the falls on the bluffs across the river from that area, we could see a steady stream of visitors enjoying the water show.
Although it had sprinkled, the trail was pretty dry.
Arrow Leaf Balsam Roots covered the Adel hillsides
There were prairie flowers in profusion along the trail.
The ticks were profuse ---- Katie picked up 8 of the dangerous and irritating critters.
On Sunday the sky was even darker.  It had rained off and on all night. I was planning to keeping my walk to the neighborhoods.
However, Mark Hertenstein called and suggested the Adel Mountains south of town.
Despite a drizzle, which we handled by suiting up in rain gear, we enjoyed a 1,400 feet climb of Mount Chisholm (4,639 feet) in the Hardy area.
The last time we did this it was November 2004 and it was in the ice and snow.
Our hike in the rain proved to be about as dangerous as the moisture made the volcanic rocks very slippery.
Mount Chisholm, which looks down on the Hardy Bridge across the Missouri River, is really a thin volcanic upthrust.
We climbed very slowly and cautiously on the rock and made it to the top. The views to the north were shrouded by clouds;  to the south they were fairly open.
In the shroud
The most dominant wildflower was the bright yellow arrow leaf balsamroot that covered the hillsides.
Every time I hike or climb in the Adels I think about what a shame this area isn't in public ownership because it would make an amazing playground for the city-dwellers in Great Falls or even Helena.
You have to know where the state and BLM sections are to access only limited parts of this range, which is unique because of its purple coloration and its volcanic makeup.

On top Mount Chisholm with the Hardy Bridge and winding Missouri River below

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