|The Western Larch in full, Fall color near Essex|
|The Rocky Mountain Front in morning alpenglow near Dupuyer|
|The Cascadilla trail into the Great Bear was littered with cottonwood leaves|
|Katie at the Great Bear Wilderness boundary|
A trip to western Montana reminded us of the starkly different landscapes on both sides of the mountains. Clear, bold, alpenglow colors lit up the Rocky Mountain Front outside Great Falls on the east side. Just south of Glacier Park the brilliant yellows of the Western Larch in autumnal peak painted the forest.
We had set out to see the height of the larch colors, but on the way to the south end of Glacier Park we were stunned by the beauty of the Rocky Mountain Front as we passed by.
As much as I love the larch, the Front was even more of a spectacle.
Lucky for us, Katie's Marta Clark and her husband, David, who live in Pinnacle west of Essex, had planned a hike into the Great Bear Wilderness Area along the Cascadilla Creek trail that took us to the base of a snowy alpine cirque beneath Nyack Mountain.
This most pleasant trail begins on remnants of Old Highway 2 and then up an old logging road before disappearing just beyond the boundary into the Great Bear. Part of the trail follows an electric powerline corridor.
What was particularly beautiful about this six-mile roundtrip hike were the many bright, yellow cottonwood leaves that littered the ground. We gained 1,100 feet on this hike. The trail, enclosed in larch, Doug Fir, hemlock, aspen and cottonwood, protected us from the high winds in the area. There was an occasional view of the Glacier Park mountains to the north.
There's still plenty of fall color here in this Middle Fork of the Flathead River area.
The drive itself is breathtaking because of the colorful larch.
On the drive up we stopped at Freezout Lake near Fairfield, hoping to see some of the migrating swans and Arctic geese, but instead saw the vehicles of the many hunters who wanted to shoot them. No birds for us!