Thursday, August 17, 2017

Rickard Canyons, a Little Belts surprise

While the state burns, meadows in Rickard Canyon remains green and lush

These three limestone peaks intrigued me

Canyon walls like those in the Gates of Mountains Wilderness

We were expecting a road and got a nice trail, probably maintained by outfitters

Caves everywhere in the limestone
The Little Belts continue to surprise and please.
On a Wayne's Wednesday hike combined with a Montana Wilderness Association exploratory we took a look at Rickard Canyon that part of the Middle Fork Judith Wilderness Study area.
This area is north and isolated from the star attraction of the Middle Fork, the river itself.  It is accessed from the road that cuts through the Judith Game Range and runs past the range headquarters.
We were told to expect to walk on a road part way and with this dusty and smoky season that prospect wasn't too enticing.
What we got was a walk up a couple of limestone canyons reminiscent of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness with meadows filled with lush, (still) green high grass.  The air quality even cooperated, opening to bright if somewhat hazy skies.  At least it was somewhat clear while we were there.
What was supposedly a road receded within two miles to a nice hiking trail that's not on the map, but what has been maintained, probably by outfitters.
Butterflies on groundsel wildflowers
Pressed by time constraints we didn't follow the trail to its conclusion, a trail that was pointed straight at Kelly Mountain.  I figured we were about 1.5 miles below the peak, where there is a trail that travels across the Woodchopper Ridge to the south and Kelly and Yogo peaks to the north.
While we assumed that this area might be dropped from the WSA boundaries, we came away convinced that this is a worthy part of the study area, and would support a primitive use designation if outright wilderness is not approved.
As you drive through the South Fork area you realize there are dozens of these canyons in the Judith part of the Little Belts.
The battle for the Middle Fork Judith has been going on for more than 50 years.
The Rickard area should remain as it is.
Our route in fuschia color in relation to Judith Game Range in Little Belts

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