|In Wagner Basin below Castle Reef|
|Three rams in one of the three bands of bighorn sheep we encountered|
|Nice drop off on ridge line|
|Wayne Phillips enjoys the view from the ridge|
I have given up on backcountry skiing, though, and begun hiking.
I've scaled Mount Sentinel in Missoula and Mount Helena, done a short trip on the Pioneer Ridge in the Little Belts, and Wednesday did a spectacular hike in the Wagner Basin of the Sun Canyon in the Rocky Mountain Front west of Augusta.
There are no designated trails in this open area beneath Castle Reef and along the Sun River. Access is from Home Gulch and a small parking area at the southern tip of the reef. We walked beneath the reef along a number of cliff bands, gaining and losing about 2,300 feet on the 5.3 mile hike. We saw three bands of bighorn sheep and many whitetail deer that love the willow covered Sun River bottom. We saw early spring flowers like the pink/purple Douglasia, and Pasque Flower.
This simple hike delivers some of the best of the east side Bob Marshall Country: high, snow-covered peaks, and fabulous vistas.
Driving to the canyon we stopped by the Sun River Game Range viewing area and could spot easily 1,000 elk grazing beneath Sawtooth Mountain.
Wagner Basin is a good choice this time of year because the elevation is windblown and there is no snow to contend with. There was snow above 6,500 feet, however.
After the hike we stopped by the bridge over the Sun near the Gibson Dam road to view Indian pictographs.
Beware: the ticks are out.
For map, more photos, CLICK HERE.
|The basin's famous "skull tree" of birds painting on deer skulls and hung from the tree|
|Douglasia wildflowers in bloom|
|We encountered a few patches of snow|
|The bushwhack along the Sun River bottom|