Social distancing is one of those terms I hope goes by the wayside relatively quickly, not only due to its deep detriment of the psyche and soul, but because it’s a misnomer. Granted, our daily activities dropped considerably with the shutdown of our state, but we didn’t secure ourselves in a dark room and shut the door. Instead, we kept up with our people via technology along with meeting outside once it was prudent, all while maintaining our physical distance. Thankfully, this was easy to do in Montana where we have plenty of space to spread out.
First and Last Trip to Lost Lake
For over a decade I’ve heard fabulous things about Lost Lake, the remnants of falls higher than Niagra Falls from when much of our area was still under water, but I never visited because it was such a short stroll. It wasn’t enough for me to warrant the time away from the “real” trails. Boy, was I wrong, and am eternally grateful that we did since it is now closed to the public.
Finding Heaven at Devil’s Glen
Along with Lost Lake, Devil’s Glen was on my list of nearby trails that I haven’t explored, yet. It seems in past years, the thought to visit Devil’s Glen always came to me when the berries were heavy on the chokecherries… not the best time to wander into grizzly country, particularly bringing the kids.
During the first part of May we headed out past Augusta, near Bean Lake and the newly created Falls Creek area, past the Bible camp to the parking area and trailhead for the Dearborn Trail #206, also called Devil’s Glen. It was one of those perfect days when the pasqueflower, Wyoming kitten tails, and shooting stars were all blooming, and spring felt like it was really here.
Mother’s Day Trip to Swift Dam
When Covid-19 hit Montana, much of our state shut down, including the Blackfeet Nation, which restricted non-residents to recreate upon the reservation. With their history of epidemics, this was totally understandable. Thankfully, we are still allowed to visit the south short of Swift Reservoir outside of Dupuyer.
There’s a rich history in this region, including being a gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness, along with being the site of a devastating disaster in June 1964 when the dam failed during the epic flood in the region, killing 19 people within moments. It’s difficult to envision such a beautiful area being a place of such heartache.
We enjoyed exploring the area, although not as much as I would’ve liked that particular days since it was barely above freezing and spitting snow (and not everyone brought appropriate clothing). Even with the reappearance of snow, the Douglasia montana was stunning, and we were thrilled to locate a Dusky Grouse, a species I haven’t seen in all of my years stalking these fun birds. This short visit definitely makes me want to take a much longer stroll on the Trail #143 and into the Bob.
Venturing to Willow Creek Falls
Our road conditions are definitely a consideration when choosing trails, particularly in the spring. After a friend reported a flat tire from the last couple of miles of the extremely bumpy road, heading to Willow Creek Falls outside of Augusta, was in the front of my mind. Fortunately, by being well-aware of what awaited us, all of us managed to crawl over the rugged conditions without having to practice our tire-changing skills. And, boy oh boy, was it worth it!
Just beyond the parking area, the first challenge is a stream crossing. There is a log over it, which was definitely easy enough to maneuver without ending up in the drink, but it takes a little finesse. . From then on, it was a gorgeous walk through wildflowers and landscape many would expect to see in Glacier National Park. I love the rocky trails hugging cliff faces, which is exactly what part of this trail is so I felt I had a Glacier fix during this time when I couldn’t visit.
We hiked for over a couple of miles until we started running into considerable mud on the trail, and not wanting to trash the trail, we turned around saving the rest of the trail for another day.
Avoiding Snakes on the Rivers Edge Trail
With nearly 60 miles of trails along and around the Missouri River, the River’s Edge Trail is a gem of Great Falls, and is one that I don’t utilize as much as I should. Towards the end of May, a couple of friends and I decided to venture the 3.5 miles to Cochrane Dam heading out early in the morning to avoid rattlesnakes. (I’ll take a grizzly any day of the week, but rattlesnakes turn me around in short order!)
What a treat! After traversing the prairie we dropped into the single track bike trails where we followed the cliff through dense junipers and brush reminiscent of a Californian landscape. The spring flowers were also abundant along the way, as well as a number of birds. This is one I need to do again soon since the yucca are now blooming.
Rogers Pass Flower Dash
Some people look for antlers in the spring, others of us hunt for flowers. By the beginning of June, Rogers Pass, is in its full botanical glory. Early one Sunday morning, my friend Darci and I, drove the hour to the pass so I could show her the blooms before they were done.
We ran into one snowdrift that we had to bushwhack around, and were rewarded with a phenomenal display of Douglasia montana, Yellowstone Draba, and the alpine forget-me-nots, among many other of the spring favorites. Plus, it’s not a real hike unless there is a little excitement. An incoming storm with winds so strong my trekking poles saved me more than once, gave us a serious case of the giggles as soon as we could speak.
The Covid situation is unprecedented. And while we haven’t managed any epic hikes with the larger groups of people, as is the norm, being outside as much as possible has been the one saving grace. Here’s to more days on the trail keeping our distance and keeping each other safe.