05 July 2010

Backpack Trip: Many Miles Lakes

Year 'round from my home in Walkerville or college where I work in Butte, Montana, I can look west to the peaks of the Pintler Wilderness and daydream about the places we backpack. Though I've been to each ridge, peak, and valley a number of times and am working on filling in a few remaining blank spots on the map, I never tire of visiting these places. As friend Dave Carter and I (with Molly- and Jack-the-Dog of course) dropped into the Many Miles Lakes cirque, looking across the valley and seeing the craggy ridge was like saying "hi" to an old friend:

The cirque is dotted with Alpine Larch (Larix lyalli) that mark the top of the treeline along the Continental Divide. I love the fragrant, elegant, soft needles that turn gold and fall off in autumn:

Though not a hot day, our hard working pack-dogs were happy to find the snowdrifts around the lower lake:

We intended to camp at the next lake up in the hanging valley, but the snow got deeper and deeper and we turned around when it was above our knees:

After making camp, Molly-the-Dog & I hiked up to the next lake, undeterred by the brief rain shower:

Yep, that's ice on the lake--still about half-frozen:

At the lake's edges, Marsh Marigolds (Caltha leptosepala) bloomed:

At the edges of melting snowdrifts, Glacier Lillies (Erythronium grandiflorum) bloomed:

Fishing was good, and I soon had a few trout to go with our antelope steaks (Montana surf & turf). Note that the middle trout is a rainbow-cutthroat hybrid:

Hiking back down to camp, we found sprouts of False Hellebore (Veratrum veride). A very toxic plant, Indians poisoned arrows with it and allegedly even drinking water where Hellebore grows will make you ill:

Around the trailhead, at a much lower elevation than the lakes, the Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is budding up:

And where there be Beargrass, there be bears (claw marks where a black bear had climbed this aspen tree):

Also near the trailhead on dry ground was Pygmy Bitterroot (Lewisia pygmaea):

And Springbeauties (Claytonia lanceolata):

At a lovely spring near the trailhead (where we stashed some cold beers as a welcome post-hike treat), there was Trapper's Tea (Ledum grandulosum):

And White Bog Orchids (Habernaria dilatata):

Driving down 10 miles of Forest Service road to the highway, we discovered a warmer clime of sagebrush with blooms of Sticky Geraniums (Geranium viscosissimum):

Heartleaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia):

Back in town, we prepared for a weekend of Independence Day fireworks madness. In addition to a big municipal display, fireworks sales are largely unregulated in Butte. Rockets light up our little city a few hours every night the week of July 4th (Bruce Newman/Montana Standard photo; the red object on the left is a mining "gallows frame"):

Happy Birthday, America!


secret agent woman said...

Those are pretty little wildflowers.

Maria said...

Wow! another GREAT hike !
My husband and I read and enjoyed the photos...
The bear claw marks up the aspen started an interesting conversation...

All your photos are wonderful... I enlarged many of them to get a closer look!
It's 95 here in upstate, NY ... too hot for me!
The ice on the water looks inviting!

Happy 4th!

Sean E said...

That looks like a very cool trip.

troutbirder said...

Spring comes late in the high country. I love it all the same. And miss that clean mountain air.

Should Fish More said...

ER, did you see any Morels? The Hmong farmers had some dried ones a couple weeks ago at the Farmer's Market, but I'm missing the fresh ones.

Anonymous said...

So strange, ice on the lake, and all those lovely wildflowers.

The fish look good. We cook them wrapped in a bit of bacon.
Is there anything tastier than campfire food?

Judy said...

Much as I would welcome the cold right now, I am glad we don't have snow and ice any longer!

tsduff said...

LOVE your bear claw picture :)