It’s good to be hiking again. There’s nothing like being surrounded by God’s stunning creation to clear my mind and improve how I feel physically. Even when we’re not hiking up mountains, it’s a definite high. So after way too long without consistently being out on the trails, this year our goal is to hike somewhere every week. It’s not always an epic adventure. Last week friends and I went to Memorial Falls, which was probably only a half mile round trip to the lower falls, but longer, more challenging terrain is definitely in the future.
We started off the season with a group of us hiking – 15 kids ranging from 2 to 16 years old and 3 adults – to Sulphur Springs (also called Sacajawea Springs). According to the history, when the Lewis and Clark Expedition came through this area Sacajawea was terribly ill, and the water from these springs helped heal her (and I’m sure the heavy doses of opiates took the edge off of her discomfort). The trail starts at the Morony Dam trailhead, and travels 1.6 miles (one way) through the prairie to the springs. There are a few little hills, and a spot close to the river where, of course, the kids had to toss in a few dozen rocks. When we arrived at the springs we ate lunch, caught caterpillars and other insects, and played in the water. It was the trek home that got interesting. There was a small rattlesnake in the trail. I’m so grateful the kids in the lead saw or heard it in time because the snakes blend incredibly well into our landscape. It’s spooky. We all stood and waited for a time to see if it would mosey down the trail. It didn’t. We decided to go around it single file with the oldest guy keeping an eye on it. Thankfully, we managed to scoot past it without incident, but I think everyone kept a keen eye on the trail the rest of the way out.
The next little outing with Grant and the boys was along the Rainbow Dam trail. It was just a few miles down and back, but we managed to find a geocache on the way out, as well as locating a second one on our way home. Geocaching is one of our newest endeavors. It’s great practice to hone those hide and seek skills, and I’m really impressed with the creativity going into hiding some of these caches. Plus, it’s good practice for me to become more familiar with using a GPS unit, something I’ve resisted for years, but realize I seriously need to step up and learn.
Last week, Julie and I took the kids to Memorial Falls, then went to Showdown Ski area to see if we could figure out where we could hike some more. We couldn’t. So we went to Silvercrest, an area that’s excellent for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trails are all marked, but it was terribly unnerving to be in a lodgepole pine maze. (And, no, I didn’t have the GPS unit. At my current knowledge level, it wouldn’t have done any good.) The neat thing about that day was we saw a black bear on the drive home. He crossed the road, and was munching on grass as we slowed down near him. When we slowed, he turned tail and hauled it back to the tree line. The boys were pretty tickled to finally see one in person.
Saturday Grant and I joined a group with the Montana Wilderness Association on a hike to the North Fork of Dupuyer Creek. It was a rainy morning that continued to drizzle, but I didn’t care. The wildflowers were amazing! Our first leg was a nature trail on the Boone and Crockett Ranch, and as soon as we stepped out of the car there were flowers galore. Dave Shea, a retired naturalist from Glacier National Park, led the hike. He’s immensely knowledgeable. I wanted to pull out my little note pad, but I was too busy taking photos. The second part we crossed three streams. I was glad Grant drove because I probably would’ve gunned it going across, and tore something off the bottom of the car. We hiked up a section of the Old North Trail, the path Native Americans used for thousands of years where evidence of travois tracks still remains, and found an ancient tepee ring. The wildflowers were equally stunning, and Grant spotted two different groups of elk as well as an extremely pretty striped orchid. This is also prime grizzly country; although we didn’t see any bears, we found some older tracks. Overall it was an amazing day.
Julie and I planned to take the kids to Two Medicine in Glacier National Park this week, but the weather changed those plans. They’re forecasting rain for us over the next 3 or 4 days with snow warnings (10-20 inches) in the mountains. Since we really want to keep the hikes comfortable and fun for the kids, we’ll just push back our hike until the weather moderates. (If the hike is too long or too hard, it quickly becomes the Bataan Death March. And since we don’t want the kids to mutiny on us, particularly this early in the season, we want them to look forward to going.)
There’s a lot more on the horizon, and as we successfully complete them I’ll include details on my new website Family Hikes of Montana. One of my biggest challenges in this endeavor is discovering hikes that all of us can do, and I know there are a lot of other families in the same situation. It’s bound to be a summer of adventures and memories!