Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Spring is here and lots of hikes: Indian Head, Sentinel, Missoula Waterworks, Rogers Pass, Cochrane Dam, Spring Gulch in Gates

In the Gates of the Mountains descending to Colter Campground

On top of Mount Sentinel above the city of Missoula a wind sailor readies his craft

An alpine bouquet atop Rogers Pass on the Continental Divide Trail

Thank God I startled a big bull snake, not a rattler on my hike to Cochrane Dam

 I haven't been posting, but I've been plenty busy hiking as Spring settles in.

The weather has been pretty mild, with the exception of snowstorms in the mountains, one of which knocked down lots of trees in the Belt Creek Canyon between Monarch and Neihart.

Over the past three weeks I've hiked Indian Head Rock in the Front where we saw tons of early alpine flowers, two Missoula trips to do Mount Sentinel and the Waterworks Trail, Rogers Pass for more alpine flowers, a hike out to Cochrane Dam, and my favorite, the Spring Creek Trail in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area.

It seems as though the alpine flowers are ahead of schedule.  We've seen Yellowstone draba, Douglasia, and Forget-Me-Nots, weeks ahead of schedule.  The ticks have been out on schedule, though, and I got a good bite on my lower right side above my hip.

I was pleased I could still climb up Mount Sentinel's 1,930 feet in just under an hour, several minutes faster than last year's annual climb.

It had been nearly 25 years since I had done the Spring Gulch hike in the Gates. Then, it was memorable not only for the scenery but because it was the first time I had used hiking poles.  Our 8.3 miles trip yesterday from the gulch to the Colter Campground on the Missouri and back was spectacular for the rugged limestone cliffs and numerous wildflowers.  I reconnected on that hike with the Helena Outdoor Club, which I had hiked with on and off again going back some 50 years!  I never hike without hiking poles now.

I am working very hard to get this 76-year-old body in shape for several backpack trips this summer, and if these hikes are an indicator, it looks as though I'll probably be able to do them.  

Willow Creek/Fairview Mountain is one of my favorite hikes on the Front.  The lack of snow there is scary.  On our April 24 hike, we could have climbed a clear Fairview Mountain had we wanted.

The Missoula Waterworks Trail was new to me. It is a high ridge that sits above Rattlesnake Creek with great views of the Rattlesnake Wilderness.

On the way home we stopped at Rogers Pass and climbed to the ridge to the west along the Continental Divide and were richly rewarded with early alpine flowers.  Likewise, the ridge to the east leading up to Rodgers Peak is clear.

We took a short day hike to the top of Indian Head Rock in the Front with friend Laurie Lintner and were delighted with early alpine flowers, but unsettled by the lack of snow.

I've been frequenting the South Shore of the River's Edge Trail and for the first time in about five years did the Cochrane Dam 7-miler, enjoying prairie wildflowers and below me a high Missouri River, swollen with snow melt.

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