Monday, August 01, 2016

Big Sky Resort: Beehive Basin, Lone Mountain ridge line

From Lone Peak looking south the development of the Big Sky area sprawls

Pink and magenta Paintbrush wildflowers in the Beehive Basin

The lightly visited upper Beehive Basin lake
It has been more than 40 years since I spent much time in the Big Sky Resort area south of Bozeman.
In fact I used to run trails there before the resort was built.
In 1977 I skied from where Moonlight Basin now exists past the Ulreys lakes and down Hammond Creek on the other side into the Jack Creek drainage and on to Ennis before there was a road there.
I had to go there last weekend to accompany my wife to a meeting she was attending at the Huntley Lodge there.
I was not prepared for what I saw and experienced.
We stayed at Huntley Lodge and I was given free tickets to ride the Swiftcurrent and Ramshorn lifts for a look around.
I arrived in the early afternoon on Friday, and despite blazing heat took Swiftcurrent lift to the Lone Peak southeast ridge line, the most popular way to climb the mountain.   I started up through the talus and scree and got on the ridge for about a third of the way up the mountain for a look-around.
It was a clear and hot afternoon and I was stunned by the development.
Wilderness boundary sign
Of course, there was Moonlight development to the north where I had once cross-country skied.
The Big Sky ski resort was fully developed below me to the east, with more coming, particularly in the Andesite Mountain area.
To the south I could hear workers busily developing the Yellowstone Club's exclusive resort.
Below me it was a veritable ant-hill of activities at Big Sky with lifts and runs and high end housing in every direction.
I suppose I should have had a look-around sooner and should not have been so naive to think that what I saw would please me.
I knew this was coming when the resort was announced.
What strikes me the most is the vast display of enormous wealth all around.
If a palace could be built higher and better on the biggest hill in the deepest forest, it has been built.
We Montanans live simply, so this must be wealth that has been piled in from the 1 per-centers and from the wealthy from around the world.
Which brings me to my Saturday hike in the Beehive Basin in the Lee Metcalf Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area just above Moonlight Basin.
It is a gorgeous 7 miles round-trip hike that climbs about 1,700 feet into the basin where there is a stark, but pretty tarn with the Beehive Peak skyline above it.
I also climbed another couple hundred feet toward the peak for a look around and then cut cross country to another prettier and secluded unnamed lake.
The trail was spangled with violet, pink and magenta Indian Paintbrush wildflowers.
Throughout my hike there was a steady stream of hikers coming in from Big Sky.
I had never seen so many hikers in a national wilderness area.  It must be the product of being so close to a national ski/summer resort.  It reminded me of a Glacier Park trail, like the Iceberg/Ptarmigan Tunnel trail.
Had I not gone off-trail to the upper lake I would not have had any wilderness solitude.  Thank goodness the vast majority of hikers are off-trail averse.
The trailhead parking area was mobbed by cars, many parked on the sides of the road.  I couldn't figure out how they would get out.  Luckily, I was able to find a space because I had started early and beat the crowd.
The first mile of the trail is on Big Sky property and high above on both sides of the trail were perched high-end mansions I can't think could be reached without snowmobiles in the winter.  I shudder to think what might happen to these if there were a wildfire.
While the beauty of the Madison Mountains should be on every Montanan's hike bucket-list for its sheer beauty, as a north-central Montanan I thank my lucky stars we don't have this kind of high-impact development and resource use they are experiencing at Big Sky.
How it looked as I headed up Lone Peak.  I didn't go all the way

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