Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's Never “Mostly Flat with a Bit of Downhill” in Montana!

"It should be mostly flat, with quite a bit of downhill." This is how my husband described a hike he wanted me to do with him. It may not have been intentional, but he lied.



There was a time when I was up for any hike my family wanted to do. But over time, my husband and kids have become more adventurous, and I have become more cautious. Recently, I've left the taller, more rugged peaks to them.

My family, on our way up to the top of Casey Peak (elev. 8512'),  June 2013
I was a little concerned that we would be starting a ten-plus mile hike when it was already late morning and storms were forecast for later in the afternoon, but it sounded doable. I agreed enthusiastically to go. I should have known better though. Where in Montana can you go down - but not up?

We got to the trailhead (a 25-minute drive from our house) about 11 am and parked the car just off the dirt road in a convenient pull-out spot. The beginning of the hike was my idea of perfect. The sun was beating down and it was hot, but there was a nice smooth dirt trail which was quite flat. The scenery was beautiful.  


Had I given it any thought, I would have realized sooner that the terrain between us and our destination was far from flat ... mountainous describes it much better.  




We reached the first creek we had to cross. Rather than wade through it, my husband convinced me to walk across a fallen tree (with a 6-foot drop into the cold water on either side) to a better part of the bank. He might as well have asked me to tight-rope walk, as I have always had a bit of an irrational phobia about balancing acts. I was chanting, "I can't do this" most of the way across  - but I did it! 


I was feeling really pleased with myself until we realized that there was still another log that we would have to walk on to get across the water. Another tree had fallen across it so that we would have had to dodge underneath its branches part way out above the stream. Even my husband decided this would not be wise. So, back across the first log ... and we walked through the stream.


Flat gave way to a steep grassy hill. Finally, some cloud cover made the trek much more bearable.  


Dirt trails were then traded for an uphill rocky mountain trail, and we were more than partway up the mountain.  I was convinced my husband had tricked me and were headed for the summit! 


A brief rest and a delicious nectarine did a lot to restore my good mood, and we were on our way again.


My husband normally hikes a lot faster than I do. For the most part, on this particular hike he matched his pace to mine. He did get out of earshot for a bit on the steepest part of the ascent, but as he was carrying our only can of bear spray I caught up and insisted he slow down! 

As it turned out,  there were no bear sightings on this hike ... the only wild animal that gave me a momentary jolt was a friendly little garter snake. (He disappeared far too quickly to even think of taking a photo of him.)


Those previously welcomed clouds became an ominous black and we suspected we might get wet. Worse yet, the distant thunder which we finally acknowledged seemed to be becoming louder and more frequent.  

Fortunately, right about that time, the trail began to descend and we made our way down quickly, getting just a little damp from a shower. 



I began peppering my husband with questions and studying the map. From the next trailhead we were approaching, we were not exactly sure how long the rest of the "loop" back to our car would be, or over what sort of terrain. All we knew, was that it would be at least two more miles and the mountainous topography obscured any view of our destination.

I was concerned about the stormy weather, potential lightning strikes, and the unknowns ahead of us. We made the decision that if our son would pick us up at the end of this trail, we would stop there. If we couldn't reach him, we'd have no choice but to hike the rest of the way back to the car and hope the weather improved. Fortunately, we were back in cell range, and our son answered when we called.

The tables had turned. For so many years, I have set aside my own plans and dropped everything to provide transportation for my kids. Today, my son did it for us! He was waiting at the trailhead when we arrived and drove us back to pick up our car.

I was feeling a little cowardly and disappointed for suggesting that we not complete the entire ten-plus mile loop as planned. When I got home though, reading the description of the hike in our book about local trails helped to make me feel a little better. According to the article, hikers should expect the 8.5-mile version of the hike (the part that we completed) to take between four and six hours. I felt a little less wimpy knowing we completed it in under four-and-a-half hours.


Our hike is marked in red. The black dotted portion between The McClellan Creek TH and Willard Creek TH is the part of the loop we did not do.

In fact, I want to do the trail again. Except next time, we'll get an earlier start and complete the entire loop.

Had I taken the time to read the hiking book before we set out, I would have seen that rather than flat, this hike includes a 1900-ft elevation change (not downhill!) But if I had known that fact before we set out, then perhaps I might not have gone. That would have been a shame.




Do you like to hike?

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12 comments :

  1. What an adventure! Sometimes it is best not to know the whole story before you embark on something!

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    1. I agree Carlee - that is probably true of life in general!

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  2. Same here Susan - the boys out-hike me now! It's one of our favorite activities, and I never believe any of them when they tell me it's going to be easy. What a beautiful hike and you should definitely be proud of yourself!

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    1. I just saw the photo you posted of your hike by the ocean - gorgeous!

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  3. Beautiful scenery. I am so glad you went, and sorry that I couldn't even attempt it now.

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    1. I am sorry for that too, EC. But it does sound like you stay busy with many different interests.

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  4. what a woman! I'm so impressed with your hiking skills and I think I need some of those pics for my blog because there was a lot of cresting the hill going on! Well done for getting through it with a smile :)

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    1. It is true, it was quite a "hill" we crested that day! I really love your header banner photo, by the way Leanne. So perfect for your blog!

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  5. What fun! Beautiful pictures! I love hiking. But you're right. There are no hikes in Montana (or in vast parts of Alberta) without some (as Husby puts it) 'upping'.

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    1. LOTS of upping. We passed a couple on horseback on the trail. I would have liked to borrow their horse for a while ... not that would have made it a perfect day!

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  6. What beautiful scenery! I miss the mountains of KY it's flat and sandy here even this far from the ocean! We used to hike all the time when the kids were little.but have gotten out of the habit. It's definitely something that I would like to get back into. We live so close to the Appalachian Trail I've always wanted to hike part of that!

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    1. The Appalachian Trail would be a beautiful place to hike. I can understand why you miss the mountains of KY. I lived in WV for a while and loved those rolling hills.

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