Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kelseya uniflora hike

The Kelseya uniflora bloom on limestone in the Big Belt Mountains


Katie snapping some shots of the wildflower

The Trout Creek Canyon walls rise above the trail like the nearby Gates of the Mountains

Normally my hikes involve a mountain peak or a loop trail.
But, at the urging of my wife, a wildflower enthusiast, the sole object of our hike was to see the Kelsey Uniflora (a rare limestone loving miniature rose-shrub) bloom in Trout Creek Canyon near the old mining town of York in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.
When I lived in Helena in the 1970s, what is now trail was a scenic road in the Big Belt Mountains known as the "Figure Eight Route" that followed Trout Creek and climbed to the top of Hogback Mountain before descending into the Beaver Creek area.  The 1981 flood obliterated the road and the Forest Service wisely converted the road to a great hiking trail that begins at Vigilante Campground about 7 miles northeast of York.
For me, the Trout Creek Canyon is attraction enough with its towering limestone walls reminiscent of nearby Gates of the Mountains Wilderness.
The Kelseya Uniflora hangs from these walls in full view of the trail up the canyon.
We had a wonderful hike and saw many blooming shrubs.  It was a real treat.
Although this was an early Spring day we saw many hikers, mountain bikers and even horseback riders coming up the trail as we returned.
While there were plenty of Kelseya we didn't see any other wildflowers, although they are blooming in profusion in other areas we've hiked this Spring.
It had been years since I had done this hike, and will return soon.
The road to York is picked up on the Custer Avenue exit off I-15 in Helena.  York is about 20 miles from this exit.  It is paved all the way to within two miles of Vigilante Campground, the trailhead.

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