Monday, August 22, 2011

The Funnest Part

 Now for the really fun part of the vacation. Houston, Forrest, Emily (new girlfriend), dogs (Casey and Beau) and I, went a-tromping in the Mission Mountains just an hour from Missoula. We had to get permits as this is a tribal wilderness area. In 1979 the Salish and Kootenai tribes designated 89,500 acres of privately owned tribal lands along the western slopes as Wilderness. This is the only Tribal Wilderness in the nation to be established by the actual tribe.  'These mountains belong to our children, and when our children grow old they will belong to their children. In this way and for this reason these mountains are sacred.' 

We hiked into this cut, mostly along a raging creek, until we began the climb.

At times the trail looked like this, as we picked our way carefully over the sharp rocks.

There were a few stream crossings, this one being the most manageable as there were two logs side by side. Easy peasy.

Some folks choose to ride, although I don't know how those horses got around the downed trees.

Forrest gives two thumbs up for the hike. Forrest and Emily were ahead of us most of the time, having 23 year old knees. Emily has screws in her knees to hold them steady as she has degenerative something happening but did just fine going up and even down. Maybe I need screws!

 We hiked for over 3 hours and  came to this beautiful forest of cedars, a fairy forest.

I really wanted to stop and camp here. It was so peaceful and pretty and I was ready to call it a day. We had started at 1:00 so it was late afternoon by now.  Forrest said that this was the last place to camp until we got to the lakes. Luckily it started to rain so we quickly set up camp and enjoyed our time beneath the canopy of cedars.

Bonus. The camp was set up right near this rushing stream so it was nice to just hang out and rest the old legs.

But the next day of hiking brought a few more stream crossings, one a bit harder than the day before. We had 4 options. 1. scooching  2. walking across the log  3. walking through the stream  4. f-that!

I chose scooching. I was going to walk across but when Emily (who used to be a gymnast and spent plenty of time on a balance beam) chose to scooch across, 
 scooching it was.

Forrest scampered across the log the first time, just for fun, then walked through with Emily's backpack.

Houston tried scooching, but decided that walking through was easier (?!)
I think if I tried walking through, I would have been swept away like a pin ball, bouncing from rock to log, to rock. The current was S-T-rong!

Emily's dog, Beau, scurried across like it was nothing. Casey, on the other had, could not, would not. So Forrest heaved him up, wrapped him around his neck like a fur collar (a stinky, wet one!) and carefully and slowly made his way across the slippery rocks. Luckily it was a short distance.

Casey weighs about 70 pounds, so he's no lightweight.

Nearly there

Forrest and Emily said that Casey had his 'floating face' on. They take him floating on the Blackfoot River and he gets this look of 'peaceful scared'.

Here's a little video of the Casey Crossing Creek. Don't mind the mom scream when I thought they were heading downstream. Love the high five at the end though.

Forrest and his friend, Erik, had hiked this trail 2 years previously in September. This past winter and spring brought record snowfalls and with that, lots of snowmelt (raging streams). What made this trail even more difficult was that there was no trail maintenance done this year and perhaps last year. Many large trees covered the trail which meant going under (hard with a pack), over (sometimes way too high), or up and around. Any of the above took more time and energy. Forrest and Eric had hiked this entire trail in one day so Forrest encouraged us to do the same. Whoo boy! No way, Jose. I am soooo glad I encouraged us to stay in the cedar forest. We started from fairy forest at 9:00 and didn't arrive to the lakes until 6 hours later. We would have been hiking up thousands of feet, over streams, up rock, all in the dark. 
Forrest had his heart set on taking us to Summit Lake but after hiking most of the day, we ran into snow. We hiked over snow bank after snow bank but then the trail disappeared into snow and streams and wetlands, making it impossible to continue. Forrest decided he would try to make it to the upper lake and we just waited on a snowbank. He was gone about 20 minuted and we heard him yelling and thought it was for us to continue on. I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to go on and was going to go back about 1/2 mile to the pretty lake we had passed and camp there. So, nope, go ahead and yell, but I'm not coming. But his yelling became more and more desperate and we realized he was calling for help. Something I forgot to mention was that the area just 100 yards away was designated "Grizzly Bear Conservation Area", miles and miles of wilderness where humans are not even allowed so as not to disturb their habitat. No problem here. One thing I do not want to see in the wilderness is a griz. We all carried bear spray on our belts, ready to grab the container, take off the protective cover, then spray in short spurts in a semi circle around you, but only when the bear is 30' or closer and is charging! I was really hoping it wouldn't come to that. We had seen scat and evidence of bears digging for bugs along the trail. 
Anyhootie, back to the story. Forrest was yelling what sounded like "Help, help!" So Houston took off with his bear spray, hiking pole and tromped right through the snow and water in his boots. He found Forrest in about 5 minutes, a bit lost and confused to where we were. When he got back to us, he said that maybe he should have chosen a different word to yell. Yea, "Hello" sounds too much like "Help!" 

We decided that there was no way we were making it to Summit Lake (duh!) and went back to set up camp at Frog Lake. Totally pretty.

This is where I sat and read. I was happy to get my boots off, my pack off my back, and just hang out.

Casey was pretty happy too.

Even though I whined a bit, (I kept thinking of Sun Valley and coffee shops, galleries and mountain biking) I thoroughly enjoyed the hike. Ten miles in and 10 miles out was just enough for me. We got to know Emily (love!), saw gorgeous wilderness and best of all, didn't get attacked by grizzlies.

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