Saturday, May 30, 2015

Upper Quartz Lake

Saturday May 30, Patti and Linda and I hiked to Upper Quartz Lake in the NW part of Glacier National Park.  It seemed like I had been to this lake more than four times, but based on my photos this was the fourth time.

The hike was 13 miles round trip. The trail goes over the Cerulean Ridge so our hike gained 1800 ft before descending 1600 ft.  Of course, when we returned to the trail head we had to go back up and down the Cerulean Ridge.

Due to the low amount of snow this past Winter there was no snow on the top of the Cerulean Ridge.  The few streams we crossed were lower this year also.

At the Bowman Lake campground, where the trail started, were these signs.  Apparently a mountain lion recently chased a deer through the campground in broad daylight and caught and killed the deer.  The Park rangers later removed the rest of the deer so the lion wouldn't return again.

Bowman Lake at the start of our hike in the morning.

Bowman Lake at the end of our hike in the afternoon. The Cerulean Ridge is on the right side of the photo.

Hiking up to the Cerulean Ridge.

Indian Paintbrush wild flowers.

Early beargrass

One stream crossing

Coming down the top of the ridge I noticed the trees have really grown since I was last here in June 2011.  There used to be many more views of the Upper and Lower lakes.

Upper Quartz Lake as seen from just below the top of the Cerulean Ridge.

Lower Quartz Lake as seen from just below the top of the Cerulean Ridge.

Quartz Lake with Vulture Peak in the background left of center.

At Quartz Lake a butterfly took a liking to me.   It would sit on my shirt... my arm.. my hand... even my hat.  When we left the lake the butterfly stayed on my hat for at least a half mile or more of hiking from the lake before flying off.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Columbia Mountain in May

It is almost the end of 2015 so I better write up the final un-written hike of 2015.

After all these years of looking at it, I finally climbed to the top of Columbia Mountain.  On Sunday May 24 Patti and I hiked up Columbia Mountain.

Back in the Fall of 2012 I attempted to hike to the top but due to a lack of time wasn't able to.

Columbia Mountain stands at 7,234 feet tall. This is a brutal trail with a 4,000 feet elevation gain and a total round trip of a little over 12 miles. There is also an elevation loss of several hundred feet in the first 2 miles and then that elevation loss is regained fairly quickly. So you are talking about a total elevation gain/loss of close to 9,000 feet in this round trip.

The diagram gives you an idea of the steepness of the hike.  To me the profile doesn't seem quite right.  Now that I own a GPS unit I will have to re-hike the mountain next year.

On May 24, from the valley, it appeared that the Winter snow was gone from the part of the mountain with the trail.  Wrong!  We encountered snow near the top.

Patti was reluctant to hike on the snow covered trail but I convinced her to continue on as there were breaks in the snow where the trail was snow free.  The snow free areas quickly got smaller and less frequent.  Patti declared with resolve that she would not go any further when we came to the next snow area.  I was ahead a short ways, and when I came to where the snow area was continuous I continued on in a quick attempt to get to the top as we were very close to the top.

I made it to the top to see the views into Glacier Park and over to Hungry Horse Reservoir.  While I called down for Patti to continue on she turned back.  She said she heard/seen some animal ahead between where the continuous snow began and the top junction with Alpine Trail 7.

Distance: 13 miles for me.  6 miles to the Alpine 7 trail, and about another tenth or two to the top with the views.  Also, at one point I doubled back to search for Patti's missing bear spray canister.

I believe "X" marks where I ended up on top for the views.

We had a small creek crossing.  Patti walked through the water.  I crossed using the fallen tree.  We think somewhere around here is where Patti lost her bear spray.  Later when she realized it was missing I hiked a little ways back down the mountain to find the canister.  I wasn't able to find it.

Partway up.  The mountain mainly in the sunlight is Teakettle Mountain.  Glacier National Park mountains are in the background.

Looks like some snow up top.

Yup.  Snow on the trail.

Glacier National Park mountains are in the background past Teakettle Mountain.

In the beginning there were breaks in the snow.  No breaks near the very top.

Junction with the Alpine 7 trail.

From the trail junction, the spot with views are just beyond those trees.

Flathead Valley seen from partway up the mountain.

Flathead Valley seen from the top of the mountain.

The ranch is over that way.  (You need binoculars to see it.)

Columbia Falls (left of center).  The now closed aluminum plant is right of center in the sunlight near the river. The plant is next to Teakettle Mountain.

Looking SW along the top of the mountains - the Swan Range.

Hungry Horse Reservoir.  The large tall mountain covered in snow: Great Northern Mountain.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bear Lakes

On Saturday May 9 Patti and I hiked to the Bear Lakes in the Kootenai National Forest south of Libby, Montana.  There are three lakes.

Three Bear Lakes (upper left corner) and the Silver Butte Road (the lower right corner).

Three Bear Lakes

Middle Bear Lake.  The rock at the bottom of the lake will be seen in my photos later.

Location: 28 miles south of Libby on US 2. Turn right onto Silver Butte Road 148 and travel a little over 9 miles to the trail sign. Turn right and continue .1  mile under the power line. Ample parking is available at the trailhead due to the cleared area under the power line. 

Trail number: 531   (On the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Map this trail is designated as Trail 178.)

Length: 3.0 miles 

Trailhead Elevation: 3,700 feet
Trail End: Junction with Trail 63.   Elevation: 5,900 feet
Elevation gain: 2200 ft.

The Silver Butte Road is little more than a one lane gravel road. 

At quite a few places along the road were areas being logged or had been logged.  Due to the Spring thaw it appears logging operations were suspended.  A half dozen or more places had logs stacked with signs declaring that firewood gathering was prohibited.  The road was rutted from the earlier logging activity and Patti had to drive slow and carefully.

Patti and I thought the trail to the lakes would be gradual and perhaps would follow a creek.  Wrong on both parts.  The trail climbed steadily up the mountain side.  We had little downfall across the trail.

Because we had little snow during our hike to Snyder Lake last week at an elevation a little over 5000 ft, and because the Cabinet Mountains had less snow this Winter, we figured that what snow we would encounter would be small, scattered and manageable.  Well... up to about 5500 ft we had little snow.  For the next few hundred feet of elevation gain the snow was isolated and we could either walk around it or easily across it in a few steps.  Then as the elevation rose the snow became more continuous with scattered ground.

While the snow was soft enough for firm footing, the snow was hard and solid and I didn't post hole.  Patti had more post hole problems, even when stepping in my footsteps.  The snow and elevation gain was wearing Patti out. While I was certain we were still on (above) the trail, Patti at times had doubts I was keeping us on the trail.  A short time after we hopped on rocks and crossed Iron Meadows Creek she waited in a snow free area and ate some food while I continued on.  I was certain we were close to the lakes.

After a half mile I reached the junction with the trail to the Iron Meadows.  This was close to the middle Bear Lake.  I had missed the spur trail to the first Bear Lake.  This spur trail may have been the one time I was initially unsure which way the trail went through the trees.  Shortly before I reached the trail junction to the Iron Meadows some trees had orange ribbons tied around them to indicate the trail.

Apparently the middle Bear Lake has a spur trail to it but it was impossible to find under the snow.  I could not see the lake from the trail junction, but due to the mountain I could see through the trees I felt the lake lay below in the bowl below the mountain.

I bushwhacked through the trees.  After a short distance I could see the lake below.  It was quite a drop to the lake.

A little steep.  Don't slip!

I discovered I should avoid large shaded areas as the snow was too hard to dig my shoes into.  The snow in the sun was soft and I could set my footsteps.  I went about halfway down to get a photo of the lake un-obscured by the trees before climbing back up the steep mountainside and then returning to Patti.

I generally could follow my footsteps back the way I came.  In a few large shadowy areas my footsteps were faint to non-existent and I had to take care to follow what I felt was the trail path through the trees. A few times I called out for Patti but she never heard me.  I found my way back to Patti. 

Even though she was rested she decided not to go up to the lake and will return after the snow has melted.  At that time we can complete out intended itinerary of visiting Bear Lake then continuing on a divide trail over to Baree Lake before looping back to the car.

On the way back to Kalispell we stopped at Middle Thompson Lake and in the sun and warmth we studied Patti's map for other trails in the Cabinet Mountains.  I found a couple interesting hikes with top elevations of only around 5000 ft and with low potential snow levels.

Middle Thompson Lake

For 21 photos from our hike:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Snyder Lake 2015

Saturday, May 2, I went on my first hike of the year.  It was a nice day on Saturday and Patti convinced me to go on a hike.  She chose Snyder Lake.

Snyder Lake is a hike best done in Spring or Fall/Winter as the snow on the mountains that surround the valley with the lake adds to the hike.  The other times I hiked to Snyder Lake had been in November and January.

The elevation of the lake is 5,246 ft.  The length is 787 ft and the width is 427 ft.

On Saturday there was only snow the last quarter mile or so to the lake.  The lake had open areas of water.

We seen a handful of other hikers and two men from Michigan who were camping on the snow by the lake for several nights.

Bridge over Snyder Creek near the lake's outlet.

We also seen a relatively fresh pile of bear scat once we left the Sperry/Gunsight trail and were on the trail to Snyder Lake.

We did not see a bear.  We did see a garter snake.

We also seen some diving ducks in the open water areas.  Patti researched them later and found they were  Barrow's Goldeneye.  (   I didn't get a decent photo of them as my camera's zoom doesn't work.

Patti counted about 20 fallen trees across the Sperry/Gunsight and Snyder trails that we either had to go around or crawl under.

The trail ends along the lake.  Due to the snow we were able to walk along the snowed covered lake to a scree/rock field at the head of the lake near where Snyder Creek enters the lake. In the Summer I believe it is brushy and there is no trail to this part of the lake.  A large part of this rock area was snow free and warm.  It also provided the best view of the lake.  We ate our lunches on one of the large rocks along the lake shore.

For 21 more photos, follow this link:

Here is a 1:10 video of Snyder Creek leaving the lake and a couple short segments of water flowing across the trail: