Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wildcat and Strawberry Lakes

** News Flash! ** (Dateline: Jewel Basin) Initial reports indicate Chippy Chipmunk was fatally injured today. Apparently a woman by the name of Patti was involved with Chippy's death. More on this story on the 10 o'clock news.

Good evening everyone. Our top story tonight is the tragic death of Chippy Chipmunk (aka. The Scavenger) on the trail between Wildcat Lake and Strawberry Lake in the Jewel Basin. Ms. Patti (aka. Polite Patti) apparently stepped on Chippy as he ran across the trail on which Patti was walking as she led a hiking group.

Patti claims to not have seen Chippy and did not feel him under her shoe. A fellow hiker, Gary (aka. The Dancemaster), witnessed this tragic accident and claimed Chippy ran under Patti's heel and was crushed. Gene (aka. The Quiet One) and me (aka. The One-who-forgot-his-camera), also in Patti's hiking group, did not witness the accident but saw the fatally injured Chippy rolling strangely on the trail with Patti and Gary standing suspiciously nearby. Gene procured a rock and I put Chippy out of his misery, then rolled him off the trail.

The questioning began. Patti proclaimed her innocence. But the facts remained: Chippy was dead. Then Gallant Gene spoke out and proclaimed: "It was suicide! It was a case of 'death by hiker'." The tide against Patti turned and the consensus came to be that Chippy had committed suicide, and Poor Patti was the unfortunate victim of Chippy's death desire.

Patti was absolved, the case was closed, and the hike continued. But, you dear reader, what do you think? Was it murder by Perilous Patti? Was it suicide by a despondent Chippy? Or was it merely a tragic accident?

In other news, with hike leader Leah on the injured list and out of hiking commission, on Saturday, August 2 Patti and Gene stepped up and Gene led a hike in the Jewel Basin to Wildcat and Strawberry lakes. The group - Patti, Gene, Gary, and I - met after 8 am and under cloudy skies and in cool temperatures began our hike from the Camp Misery parking lot high in the Swan Mountain Range at the end of forest service road 5392.

The parking lot was almost full when our group arrived early in the morning. When we left later that afternoon cars were parked along the forest service road a good distance from the parking lot. As we readied for our hike one of the three rangers wandered over to check out our destination. Then it was up the trail and to the left.

The climb was steady but not steep. The group passed only one other group on the hike up. On the way to Strawberry Lake only a few tents were seen around Twin Lakes. No one was at Strawberry Lake until minutes after we left. Then from the trail above the lake we could look back and see a young couple at the lake where we just were. The woman woke a white bikini and Gary and I were kicking ourselves for leaving the lake so soon. It wasn't until the group passed back by Wildcat Lake that we began to see more tents and more hikers. Lots of hikers with camping gear were coming up the trail mid afternoon when we hiked down.

By late morning the clouds thinned and it became more sunny than cloudy. Twin Lakes, Strawberry Lake, and especially Wildcat Lake, were all beautiful.

The group ate lunch by Strawberry Lake and swapped stories. Patti told of surviving (barely) her first hike with this hiking group: 20 miles over the Dawson-Pitamakin Passes. Gary told how he almost fell off a cliff when he was young. Gene talked of bicycling through New Zealand and from Montana across British Columbia to Prince Rupert on the coast. I told a humorous - though very long - story about bicycling in New Zealand and Australia with a friend who was new to bicycling touring and had the worst luck.

While at Strawberry Lake I wondered if Gene wasn't the long unseen "Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine" from the old Gong Show, Gene wouldn't "bust a move" for the group by Strawberry Lake. Gary, however, is the real dance master. On the hike back to the car he encountered one of his former dancing partners hiking up the trail.

A side loop trail passing by Blackfoot and Black Lakes was considered by the group until they realized they didn't have time to hike this extra distance. It was resolved to hike to these lakes another day. In total the hike this day was 10.6 miles and the group returned to the Camp Misery Parking lot at 3:30 pm.

Patti wondered what one of the wildflowers was along a section of the trail. Reluctant to pick a flower, it was only after the urging of the group that she did pick one flower and bring it to a forest service ranger to identify. The group's only request was that Patti give them her car keys in case the ranger hauled her to jail for picking the flower. The young woman ranger was certain she could answer Patti's question until she saw the wildflower. She had no clue as to the flower's identify.

By the end of the trip Gary killed a fly and Gene swatted a mosquito to join Patti and I in "murderers row".

A good time was had by all.

Photo 1: Flathead Valley with Flathead Lake on the left

Photo 2: Ridge

Photo 3: Twin Lakes

Photo 4: Mountains on the east side

Photo 5: The group at Strawberry Lake

Photo 6: Strawberry Lake

Photo 7: Gene and Patti

Photos 8 - 12: Wildcat Lake