Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kicking out the kinks in old familiar spots

Part of a herd of 20 bighorn rams we encountered on Front Monday.

Wayne Phillips atop Mount Wright with Corrugate Ridge below in the Bob Marshall Wilderness

Lady bugs covered the mountain top

Phillips descends Mount Wright
Plentiful douglasia alpine flowers covered the mountain

School's out and I've begun spending my 82 days of summer vacation!
The weather has been super cooperative and in the first five days I've climbed Willow Peak in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, Mount Wright in the Front, Windy Peak in the Highwoods, and hiked to the Blackleaf Divide between Mounts Frazier and Werner in the Front and hike to the Dearborn River's Devil's Glen.
I can't recall when the weather has been more glorious or the sky clearer and bluer.
I've avoided the Gates for several years since the 2007 season took out most of the timber in this area of limestone spires and cliffs along the Missouri River.
I wanted to have a look at how the vegetation was returning and am convinced that avoiding this place, fire or no, is a big mistake.
To my chagrin, I discovered that I wasn't in as good a condition as I had thought.  We gained 3,300 feet to the top of this limestone peak in a round trip of 10 miles, mostly straight up from Willow Creek on the peak's southeast side, clawing our way through burn and limestone passage-ways.
From the top, we could see some oases of green in the wilderness, but for the most part this area is still a burned over mess.
Views from the top include the Sleeping Giant and the Oxbow Bend in the Missouri River.
The following day I did a solo trip in the Highwood Mountains to enjoy the green and flowers of this central Montana range.
I traveled up the Windy Peak trail from Thain Creek Campground and came back via Briggs Creek.
Billowy clouds played with the top of this range's high point --- Highwood Baldy --- throughout the day.
On Sunday, my wife and I went through the Blackleaf Canyon in the Rocky Mountain Front west of Bynum, climbing about 1,800 feet to the divide between the Blackleaf and the East Fork of the Teton River in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Katie on Blackleaf hike
The Blackleaf passes between Mounts Werner and Frazier, two powerful sentinels of the Front country.
It was greener than green here and the lupine were flowering in a profusion greater than I had ever seen.
Near the divide the trail has a real alpine feel to it and there were still some snowbanks.
On the hillsides the Jones columbine, forget-me-nots, and douglasia alpine flowers were blooming in profusion.
On Monday, Wayne Phillips and I did a climb of Mount Wright, a seven mile 3,200 feet round trip.
The highlight of this trip is always the cresting of the ridgeline for a breath-taking view of the Bob Marshall complex to the west and south and Glacier Park peaks to the north.  It is mountains upon mountains here!
There is plenty of snow in the Bob, so I am hopeful there will be good water there later in the summer that might forestall a fire season.
On the way to the trailhead we bumped into a herd of 20 bighorn rams, the most rams I have ever seen in a herd at one time.  They didn't seem particularly startled by our presence.  Many of the rams were full curls --- very powerful trophy animals.
On Tuesday, it was back to the Front once again, this time to enjoy the Devil's Glen of the Dearborn River south and west of Augusta.
The glen is a series of chutes and cascades of the emerald green Dearborn that is forced through a narrow limestone canyon below the Steamboat Mountain cliffs.
Devil's Glen of the Dearborn River
Driving to the trailhead we were thrilled by the sight of the fields of arrowleaf balsamroot flowers on the prairie.
Summer is off to a great start!
Untold numbers of Arrowleaf balsamroot flowers in front of Haystack Mountain near Augusta

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