Monday, June 19, 2017

Buffalo Lakes in Two Med, Otokomi after the fire

Katie in the Beargrass on Otokomi Trail in Glacier

Above one of the Buffalo Lakes in the Badger Two Medicine Area south of Glacier

We took a quick trip to Glacier for Father's Day weekend and explored the aftermath of the 2015 Reynolds Fire on the Otokomi Lake Trail, and were surprised by an easy trip in the Badger Two Medicine, which came our way by accident.

Fire has opened the views 
Hard to argue that fire hasn't changed the landscape

Katie on one of the snowfields leading to Otokomi Lake
Otokomi Lake Trail

We've done this St. Mary Lake area trip that starts at Rising Sun Campground many times, but not since the 2015 Reynolds fire the burned most that summer and scorched an area between the campground and the Jackson Overlook.
We wanted a look at how things are coming back and the extent of the fire.
I can report that the vegetation is coming back gangbusters and the fire burned in a nice mosaic pattern that left plenty of patches of live trees while clearing new vistas.  It was great we could see the Rose Creek bottom and its many waterfalls and cascades more clearly because of the fire.
Yes, there were areas we crossed that looked like a bomb had hit it, much like what we have seen the past 30 years of fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex.  But even these had greenery coming back.
There is no doubt this is a big beargrass year, and the trail was covered in it, as well as bright patches of orange Indian Paintbrush, and yellow Arnica wildflowers, and neck-high thimbleberry bushes crowned with large white blossoms.
The Park Service has done a great job clearing the trail of downed trees and fire debris.
The normal trail is 5 miles and gains about 2,400 feet to Otokomi Lake, a jewel in a cirque with walls of bright red arguilite rock.  It lies below Goat Mountain to the south.
We got within .2 of a mile of the lake and after having negotiated three of five snowfields and being dampened by rain shower with even darker clouds heading in our direction, we decided to turn around.
The fire has improved this hike.

Walking the Bison Ridge opposite Lubec Ridge above Buffalo Lakes 
One of the Buffalo Lakes in extreme northeast corner of Badger Two Medicine Area

Buffalo Lakes in Two Med

This is a hike I had never heard of until Sunday morning at breakfast at the Two Med Grille in East Glacier Park at loose ends about what to do.
Serendipitously, in walks Kendall Flint, the local obstetrician and Badger Two Med Alliance activist,  who was there to meet those who had signed up for his hike into this area.
Flint was leading a Montana Wilderness Association hike into the area, which is really his backyard, an area bounded by Lubec Ridge in the Two Med area of the Badger Two Medicine Area of the Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest.
Flint said there had been cancellations and invited us along.
For the past 45 years I've driven north of this area on U.S. 2 heading to Marias Pass, and thought the area looked uninteresting.
I couldn't have made a less informed judgment that the hike disproved.
The area is in the extreme northeast tip of the Badger Two Med about a mile or so west of the Firebrand restaurant.
There is a small pullout on the south side of U.S. 2, which we got four cars into.  It would be very easy to miss.
It is gated, with a tight pass-through for hikers. To keep out 4-wheelers and motorcycles, there are a couple of effective concrete posts.  The Forest Service, which ruled this area off-limits to these motorized vehicles, obviously means business.
My new National Geographic map of the Bob Marshall Complex shows no trail here.
But, my old Forest Service Bob Marshall Map shows this trail as Trail 100.
It follows a portion of an old, but recently expanded natural gas pipeline right of way and within a mile and a half opens into a beautiful green bottom that had been dammed into a lake by (now gone) beavers, whose lodge is still visible.  It sits below a small ridgeline that separates it from a couple of other dammed ponds.
Throughout, this hike opens up and reveals great views into Glacier Park's south and east ends, looking straight at Sacred Dancing Woman, Red Crow, Calf Robe, Bearhead and Summit mountains.
We hit it when the wildflowers were in full bloom as they lit up these open eastside slopes.
After a short lunch we climbed the ridge to the east and walked it back down to the pipeline right of way and then through forest back to Flint's house.
We had covered 3 miles and almost 1,000 feet of elevation.
Along the way there were lots of signs of moose, elk, grizzly.  This area is really alive with wildlife.
It is an isolated area even though it is only a couple of miles from U.S. 2.
This is some of the land that the Badger Two Medicine Alliance is trying to save from oil and gas development and it lies close to the Hall Creek proposed wellsite that is sacred to the Blackfeet Nation.
Had we stayed on the ridge above the ponds and walked south rather than north we would have been able to access Baldy, Kyo Crag and Half Dome mountains deep in the heart of the Badger Two Med.

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