Saturday, May 05, 2018

Highwoods: Windy Peak exploratory

Lots of bleached Pasque flowers on this hike 
The Shooting Stars wre out

A "Selfie" on top Windy Peak

A couple of delusional "snow nymphs" I met along the way. They were convinced the snow would safeguard them from ticks

It really isn't spring hiking season until the Highwood Mountains clear.
And I'm here to report that they are clear right now.  The road to Thain Creek, with numerous trailheads, is in good shape.  The creeks are running high, but have little effect on hiking, except if you want to reach Highwood Baldy on Deer Creek approach.  Only the top 450 feet of that mountain is still covered with snow.  I'd advise snowshoes for that last pitch to the top.
The flowers are out --- Pasque, Shooting Star, Spring Beauty, Fritilary, Arrowleaf --- and the Black Hawthorne is ready to pop.  There is a green cast on the aspen and even the grass is greening in spots.
I went Saturday to do the Windy Peak-Briggs Creek 9-mile loop.
This hike turned into an exploratory when, after climbing Windy Peak (Elevation: 6,000 feet) I decided to go off-trail and proceed down the open ridgelines to Briggs Creek near the Thain Creek Campground.
This turned out fantastically.  I got into a bit of brush on occasion, but for the most part stayed on the top of open, grassy ridges.
Along the way I could see that this area is a real haven for wildlife.  I saw deer, elk and moose scat;  lots of it!  I found a spring they obviously use.
At the bottom on Briggs Creek I found that the beaver, which returned after a campground-destroying flood, have been super busy knocking down large trees and creating a chain of ponds behind dams.
This would probably explain why the moose have returned.
I almost hiked the North Highwood Creek Center Ridge Trail, but when I got to the parking area there must have been a dozen motorcycles readying to go into the same general area.
That's when I turned around, reasoning that more off-trail opportunities sans motorcycles are available on the Windy Peak Loop.
However, right below Windy Peak some of the cyclists came through.
That's when I decided to forgo the trail and walk the ridgeline.
I also climbed Windy in an unconventional way, up from a saddle to the west of the peak beween the peak and the gorgeous outcrop, also to the west.  I fought a couple of snow fields and lots of brush, but the climb was more direct this way.
At the saddle to the south of the peak I found two female hikers sitting in one of the banks of snow.
They said they were there to avoid contact with ticks.
I called the "Snow Nymphs," and told them they were delusional if they thought they could avoid ticks in the heart of the season.
The day was overcast, but I could still get pretty good views from on top Windy:  Little Belts, Bearspaws, the buttes, Big Belts and the Front.  Still lots of snow up there!
Busy beavers were at work on Briggs Creek

The beavers created a series of lovely ponds behind their dams

My off-trail route below Windy Peak

1 comment:

Scott Wagner said...

Greetings, I just did this hike for the 4th time on Monday, May 14th. I descended due south from the pass, which was a wonderful ridge walk almost directly to the campground. Very steep and hard on toes, but so much more fun than completing the trail loop.
Am pretty dismayed they allow dirtbikes on these trails, but hopefully things will change!