Thursday, May 30, 2019

A burst of activity: Glacier, Judith Mountains, Pioneer Ridge

On a high Judith Mountains Lime Kiln Trail

The Judith Mountains Lodge at the Lime Kiln Trailhead 
Katie with Glacier's Mount Gould in the background

Fields of Shooting Star wildflowers in Many Glacier
I'm so busy enjoying this wonderful weather I haven't had the time to summarize my trips.
On Tuesday Katie and I traveled to Glacier Park and assessed the trail conditions at Many Glacier and Going to the Sun Highway.  On Wednesday, it was a trip to Lime Kiln Gulch in the Judith Mountains with Wayne's Wednesday walks group.  On Thursday, it was the Little Belts and the Pioneer Ridge circuit above the Belt Creek Ranger District.
We saw moose, a black bear, dozens of bighorn sheep and about six mountain goats on a Josephine Lake hike.  The purple shooting stars lit up the Many Glacier roadside.  I was a bit surprised with the lack of snow on many of the hillsides.  We had a picture perfect day with clear, blue and sunny skies.
Wayne Phillips, who leads the Wednesday Walks, is trying to hit all the central Montana island mountain ranges and the Judiths, north and east of Lewistown was his premier. This BLM managed range is much larger than I had expected and has been mined, roaded and burned, but there are pockets, like the 7.4 miles Lime Kiln loop has large pockets of old growth ponderosa and Douglas Fir stands.  These are tall trees on steep slopes.  There is a thick patch of new lodgepoles that have filled in the space burned by a fire.  Very thick.  We were surprised to see the Judith Mountains Lodge at the trailhead.  We took a side hike to an overlook, but views were marred by smoke rolling in from northern Alberta fires.  I'll return to this area to high-point, as well as do Collar Park hike.  The trail is excellent.
Central Montana is so green right now and floods are devastating my Rocky Mountain Front stomping grounds, so I was drawn to the Little Belts Thursday, to Pioneer Ridge.  I reached the high point of this 4.5 mile loop hike in an hour and 10 minutes, climbing 1,900 feet over the first 2.1 miles, equivalent to climbing Mount Sentinel in Missoula.  The hills were resplendent with different varieties of wildflowers.  I was surprised to encounter a lone bear hunter from Great Falls, reminding me to be aware of of the hunting seasons.  He had lots of helpful information about the Little Belts backcountry.
These were a fun three days.

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