Sunday, July 17, 2016

Upper Holland / Sapphire Lakes loop

On Sunday July 17 Patti, Lynda and I hiked the Holland Lake / Upper Holland Lake / Sapphire Lakes loop in the Swan Mountain Range.  This is one of Patti's favorite hikes and she has wanted to take Lynda and I on this hike for a long time.  This was her only opportunity as in about a week she moves to Wisconsin to start her new job.

The number 13 flag marks the highest point of the hike, what we referred to as "the notch".

The hike - according to my GPS - was 13.5 miles long.  At the start we saw a sign indicting it was 7 miles to Upper Holland Lake so I expected the hike to be at least 14 miles long.  Perhaps the sign is wrong.  My GPS had the distance to Upper Holland Lake as around 6 miles.

If I calibrated my GPS's altimeter correctly we started at an elevation of about 4100 ft and our highest point was 7452 ft.  Of course the hike was not - quite - constantly straight up and down and we ended up gaining and losing about 3961 ft in elevation.

We spent 8 hours 51 minutes on the hike with 6 hours and 22 minutes of that time moving.  Almost 2 and 1/2 hours were spent standing or sitting.  It is easy to spend lots of time at the two lakes.

Patti and Lynda like to go on "death march" hikes.   Distance-wise this didn't meet the standard, but add in the elevation, especially the steep steady downhill over the final four miles and we all were happy to see Patti's car and to sit down.  It didn't hurt that waiting for us back at Patti's car in a cooler with ice was the wine and crackers Lynda had brought for us to toast our final hike together and Patti's moving away.

While the final downhill looks (and felt) brutal, this is the best way to do the loop as we felt the scenic views were best doing the loop in a counter-clockwise manner.

At the same spot about a mile from the trailhead - on our hike in and our hike back out - we met some lost people.  In the morning we met a young couple asking if this was the way to Rumble Lakes.  They were at a junction with a trail that goes over to the Rumble Lakes trail.  We thought the couple started at the Holland Lake parking lot.  No! They had started at the Rumble Lakes trailhead and missed the side trail to Upper Rumble Lake.  They had hiked around 5 miles out of their way and over to our trail.  The trail connecting the Holland Lakes trail with the Rumble Lakes trail was overgrown and brushy.  The young couple were soaked from about their waist down.  They took the news of being "way" lost really well.  I'm not sure I would have been as accepting about it; especially as they had a wet 5 miles hike back to the Rumble Lakes trail.   Oh! To be young!

Then on our hike back to Patti's car we met a father and son at the same trail junction.  They were asking how to get to Holland Lakes.  They had been mountain biking the trail from the Rumble Lakes trailhead.  On purpose!  However they took the trail to Upper Rumble Lakes when they didn't mean to.   I've hiked that trail - it is a user/fisherman's trail and goes in a pretty much straight line to Upper Rumble Lakes and therefore is very steep.  The mountain bikers realized their mistake and got onto the trail that led to us.  The wife had decided to quit after their Upper Rumble Lakes mistake and she planned to drive their vehicle to the Holland Lakes parking lot.  The father and son said the trail was very brushy and often they couldn't see the ground while riding.  The father had a gash on one leg with blood.  He refused Patti's offer of a band-aid.

Patti explained how to get to the Holland Lakes trailhead parking lot and off they went downhill, though carefully in the beginning as there were large tree roots and drops on the trail.

It was ironic that both groups made a mistake that was opposite of what they wanted, but was what the other group intended.

The son riding off once Patti gave directions.

Before we reached Holland Creek we were passed by a man who looked to be a long distance mountain runner.  He could have been the same guy who Patti and I met in 2014 when we hiked up a nearby trail to Holland Lookout.  Later we met a young woman hiking alone who said she knew the guy.  He was indeed a long distance mountain runner.

The young woman (18? 19? 20 years old?) had the look of what in my day back in the early 70s was called a "hippy chick".  She wore along black shirt long enough to be also used as a short dress.  She wore loose flowing pants of a fuchsia(?) color with a wild pattern covering the pants.  And a pack and hiking shoes.


The young woman passed us as we were crossing Holland Creek.   High water apparently washed out one bridge and damaged another one.  The damaged bridge was tilted.  A handrail was off to one side and one had to be tall with long arms to use the handrail.  I was able to balance and walk across it.  I helped Lynda at the end where the handrail was no longer an option.  Patti took off her shoes and walked across the creek which was not deep.

Damaged bridge

Our hike was a very scenic hike.  For much of the way to Upper Holland Lake we hiked along Holland Creek.  Usually when hiking along creeks one gets an occasional glimpse of the creek.  This time we had lots of views of the creek.  And there were a number of small waterfalls worth a pause to look at.

Upper Holland Lake had a serenity to it and was relaxing.  Sapphire Lakes was pretty in it own austere way.  The hike up to the "notch" was alpine.  The view through the notch was great.  Coming the direction we did had us going from the austere alpine views to the lush valley far below with Holland Creek and Holland Lake.  Also the trail appeared to disappear briefly near the top of the notch as the trail descended quite quick initially before "leveling" out to a steady downhill descent.  Look at the elevation profile above to see the short very steep drop in elevation.

There are quite a number of trails in this area.  Patti had a map of the trails which was very helpful as the trail signs are not the best.

The weather was ideal.  Sunny but not too hot.  The hike to Upper Holland Lake is in trees with plenty of shade on the uphill hike.  The hike up to Sapphire Lakes has some shade but being alpine the trees were not too thick.  The same with the hike to the 'notch'.  The first mile or so down from the 'notch' it was more open than treed, but that gave beautiful views of Holland Lake, Mission Mountains and the valley below.  The last few miles were in trees.

We had some clouds build after we left Sapphire Lake but the rain held off until our drive home.

In the morning as I was getting ready I saw this...

During our drive out of Kalispell we saw another hot air balloon looking for a place to land. I don't know where that balloon landed as it appeared to be either houses or fields with crops all around.

Here are 55 photos from our hike.  I had to put them in Google Photos as Google is no longer supporting Picasa for photo sharing.  Under Google photos (unlike Picasa) I can't add text to be shown as a caption for the photos.  I can add text under the info icon for each photo.  Click on info for a description of the photo.  Let me know if there is a problem - as the photo album owner I probably don't see the photos as you do.

Here is a 49 second video of Holland Creek and Upper Holland Lake:

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