Monday, May 22, 2023

Venturing out despite the smoke

It's not Forget-Me-Not season yet, but they are starting at Rogers Pass

There were fields of Pasque flowers along the CDT

Gordon Whirry in a field of Douglasia alpine flowers

Katie above a snow cornice on the CDT

 For the past week the air has been as smoky as any fire season in Montana even though it's just spring.

Weather patterns have pushed the smoke from fires in Alberta and British Columbia into Montana choking us up and making it hard to recreate outdoors in spite of warm weather.

By the end of the week we had had enough.

Katie suggested a check Saturday of the alpine wildflowers at Rogers Pass on the Continental Divide Trail, and what a good call that was.

As we approached the pass the smoke began to let up, and as we climbed the trail toward the ridge there was only a trace of smoke.

With that we decided to visit the Two Med in Glacier Park, and it was clearer still there.

Usually we wait for the fragrant and colorful blue Forget-Me-Not bloom before visiting Rogers in the spring, which occurs the first or second week of June.  But, we were treated instead to the most glorious show of pink Douglasia bunches I've ever seen, punctuated by the yellow Yellowstone Draba, and the beginnings of the Forget-Me-Not bloom.  Along the way the glacier lilies were profuse and the ground was sprinkled with biscuit root.   Purple Pasque flowers were everywhere.

We lunched just above Cadotte Pass and then returned for a 6-mile trek.

A double waterfall coming off Sky Lake on the flank of Rising Wolf

Rising Wolf

The view from the Looking Glass ridge line

An unnamed lake below Spot Mountain off Looking Glass ridge

On Sunday we wanted to see Two Med Lake since we had missed it during the ski season and we wanted to try less traveled paths.

We picked up Laurie Lintner who has spent most of her life in East Glacier Park, and decided to take the 3 mile cutoff trail from the Two Med Ranger Station into the Dry Fork Valley that drains Rising Wolf, Red and Spot mountains.

It turned out to be a great idea.  I hadn't been on that trail in more than 20 years, and it was a first time for Katie.

We had terrfic views of the east flank of Rising Wolf with its multiple waterfalls coming off Sky Lake.  We walked below the Spot Mountain cliffs and were treated to an array of wildflowers as we walked in and out of deep woods that kept us cool in the hot sun.

At lunch at the Dry Fork, Laurie spotted some mountain goats playing in the Rising Wolf cliffs high above us.

Afterward we decided to go to Looking Glass Pass that runs through the Blackfeet Reservation between East Glacier Park and US 89 at the Kiowa Junction.

At the pass is an old jeep trail that points at Spot Mountain on a narrow ridge line.

It is a three-quarters mile walk to the end of the ridge that passes through a wire fence into Glacier Park.

Once out in the open on the narrow ridge the views of the Two Med country are some of the best in the park, looking down on Two Med and Upper Two Med lakes, the Scenic Point-Mount Henry-Apistoki ridge line, Never Laughs, Grizzly, Painted Teepee, Sinopah, Lone Walker and Rising Wolf mountains.


I dropped down an extremely steep trail to a saddle above an unnamed lake below us on the flank of Spot, and scrambled to the top of the next hill.  I had been too cautious in years past to try it, but found it not particularly difficult, and well worth the effort for the views it afforded.

Laurie Lintner was an exceptionally good tour guide, as she has been when showing us other sights on the Blackfeet Reservation.  She is truly a part of this landscape.

Knowing these off-the-beaten paths into Glacier makes the park's new, restrictive special permitting system more tolerable.

We got into the park legally, saw no one outside our party, and had spectacular views enjoyed by only a handful of adventuresome folks.

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