|Katie and me on our wedding anniversary hike in Glacier|
|Katie in Maritime Alps in Italy above the town of Roaschia|
|A storm moves in as Katie signs the register on West Butte in Sweetgrass Hills|
|Wayne Phillips passes through a floral garden of pink Douglasia and blue Forget Me Not alpine flowers on Rogers Peak|
We spent 22 days in France and Italy (via YYC Calgary Airport) with hiking in the Maritime Alps between those two countries; an anniversary hike around Two Med Lake at Glacier National Park when we got back, our annual trip to the Rogers Pass section of the Continental Divide Trail to view the alpine flowers on Rodgers Peak, and a trip up West Butte in the Sweetgrass Hills with Katie's "Girls in Glacier," hiking group.
Maritime AlpsThere are national parks in both France and Italy in the Maritime Alps, which are about 50 miles north and east of Nice, France. They are directly south of massive Mount Blanc.
We stopped in Roaschia, Italy where Katie's paternal ancestors came from. It is an area south of the better known town of Cuneo and not far from Turino.
We hiked to an area near a rifugio that reminded me of the Rocky Mountain Front with its high, limestone walls. However, the lower elevations are filled with hardwood trees like Sycamores and Horse Chestnuts and maples, giving the mountains a different feel than Montana slopes.
Last year we spent three weeks in the Dolomites across Italy on its northeast side just below Austria. That area is filled with high-end, glitzy shops and ski lifts up every drainage. Money.
Where we went in the Maritimes was equally beautiful, except there are no ski lifts and we saw only two other people on the trail on a beautiful day of spring hiking. The rivers and creeks were the color of the Flathead River, meaning they were coming off glaciers.
The Maritimes are dotted with small, isolated communities like Roaschia. Little villas known as tetti are built in the heavy forest above them. Most of these stone structures, built in the 17th and 18th centuries are now abandoned, virtual ghosttowns. No wealth here. These towns empty out in winter and few come back during the summer. The locals are puzzled about how to regenerate populations and are proposing that the Maritime parks incorporate them within their boundaries. Seems pretty bleak to me.
Roaschia has a summer population of about 100 and there is a restaurant and a hotel to service the population, which shops in Cuneo.
In France our hiking was limited to walking and seeing the sights and museums in such great cities as Paris, Lyons, Nice and Bordeaux. We did get out to the Pyrennes where we had to opportunity to climb a small mountain and straddle the French-Spanish border with a foot in each country.
I loved the Pyrennes and would love to return to these mountains, which seem so less congested than the Alps.
Glacier is incomparableWe were treated to amazing weather in Montana when we got back and took full advantage.
Glacier in incomparable. That park and our Rocky Mountain Front country visible on a drive there world class scenery-wise.
We have the added advantage of access to truly wild and sparsely visited landscapes.
I'll take our Montana scenery over anything I've seen in Europe.
Rodgers Peak alpine flowersOur alpine wildflower tour of the Continental Divide Trail off Rogers Pass was amazing.
The blue, fragrant Forget-Me-Not flowers stole the show, spangled on the red arguilite stone amidst the yellow graba and the pink Douglasia.
In the distance the snow-capped Scapegoat Wilderness high-point, Red Mountain at 9,411 feet.
It doesn't get any better than this!
West Butte: Sweetgrass HillsOn Thursday Katie asked me to lead her "Girls in Glacier" hiking group up West Butte in the Sweetgrass Hills. The butte (really a mountain) at 6,983 feet, rises abruptly from a flat, agricultural plain. Up against the Alberta border it is the highest of three such buttes north of Shelby/Chester.
I lead 15 women from our parking spot. Fourteen reached the top as the Great Plains sky put on a tempestuous performance. We could see storms moving in as we neared the top, causing us to take cover in a wooded area as rain and hail pelted us.
I thoroughly enjoyed the drama of the malevolent sky bringing moisture.
From the top we could see the other buttes floating on the prairie as dark clouds descended on them.
This is a sacred spot for the Blackfeet Indians and we saw prayer flags in the threes on top where they do vision quests.