Friday, July 23, 2010

Piper Lake Mission Mountains Wilderness July 19, 2010

Piper Lake with mountains in the background

Location: The Mission Mountain range borders the western end of Swan Valley and the eastern edge of Flathead Lake. The higher country of the Mission Mts. is very rugged with alpine lakes and dramatic cliffs. It tops out at an elevation around 8,000 ft. This year June in Montana was very cool and rainy so I decided to go for a hike in the northern part of the range especially when I saw how much snow was still in the southern part of the range. I chose Piper Creek because it is close to the southern end of Swan lake. To access the trail head take Highway 83 to Forest Service access road 966 (a sign for Piper Creek also shows the way).
The hike: Today I went for a hike with my dog Nevada. The hike to and from Piper Lake is a nine mile round trip. The first part of the hike is somewhat monotonous because it meanders through logged forest to the wilderness sign. The trail continues to follow Piper creek climbing the last mile to Piper Lake. From Piper Lake the trail continues on to Cedar Lake and Fatty Creek. Tree life in the Mission mountains is very similar to the Swan Range but this hike had more Western Larch. Remember the Missions have Black and Grizzly Bear populations. Hikers need to be aware and make noise. Backpackers need to hang their food and cook away from their tent.

                                            Bear Grass with Thimble Berry leaves in the background

Nevada looking into the wilderness at lake's edge

Jewel basin Birch lake July 16, 2010

View from outside Jewel basin back towards Flathead lake

Location: Jewel basin is a beautiful hiking area in the Swan Mountains of Montana. The area has over 20 miles of hiking trails which access 20 lakes. The lakes have high populations of cutthroat trout for anglers. All hikers and backpackers need to be aware that Jewel basin and all areas in the Swan range are inhabited by grizzly and black bear. That means backpackers need to hang their food at night and hikers need to be aware of their surroundings potentially hiking with bear spray.
The hike: Today I met my friend Andrew Freeman at 8 am for a hike to Birch lake. We wanted to get started early because the parking lot will fill up with cars by mid morning. We skirted Mt. Aeneas and followed the trail 5 miles one way to Brich lake and one mile beyond on Alpine trail number seven. The weather was beautiful and views were spectacular.

Vegetation and snow around Birch lake

Birch lake and surroundings

Holland Lake trail hike July 14, 2010

Picture taken above Holland Lake with the Mission Mts in the background

Location: Today's hike is taking place at Holland Lake which is located nine miles to the south of Condon, Montana, off of Highway 83. Holland Lake is a popular recreation spot for campers, boaters, and fisherman. Hikers use the area to access trails which run into the Swan Mountains and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The trails are popular with long-haul backpackers and oufitters throughout the summer. Remember the Swan Mountains and Bob Marshall Wilderness is bear habitat. Be aware when hiking and raise food at night. It is recommended to carry bear spray.
The hike: Today I will hike on trail 42 climbing up near Holland Peak to Sapphire Lake. Leaving Sapphire I will hike to Upper Holland Lake and back to the trailhead by trail 35. Backpackers can leave trail 42 and hike into the Bob Marshall by way of Necklace Lakes near Holland Peak. The loop will be approximately 15 miles. Tree life in this part of Montana is predominately Douglas fir, Lodgepole pine and Ponderosa pine in the lower elevations and Subalpine fir and Whitebark Pine in the higher elevations.

Above upper Holland Lake in the Swan Mountains

Sapphire Lake in the Swan Range