Last week I went on my last planned backpacking trip of the year, with the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute. I was super-excited about this trip, because we were hiking the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, including a stretch on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT.) The AP Wilderness is absolutely gorgeous, gigantic, and normally empty of people. It’s my favorite. As usual, the WI trip was planned perfectly, the leaders were fabulous, and the dinners were tasty!
The weather wasn’t so great. But it didn’t rain the whole time, so I can’t complain. We started at the East Fork Reservoir Trailhead, where I met WI Intern Charlie, WI Monitoring Program Director Lisa Gerloff, and fellow volunteer Jim. Strangely enough, Jim and I backpacked the Frank Church Wilderness together on another WI trip. I’ve also backpacked with Lisa on WI trips; she’s done a fabulous job leading the Monitoring Program and implementing the Citizen Science program. I’m extremely sad to hear this may be the last year of the Citizen Science program since Lisa is moving to another position.
On our way, we ran into several grouse, who weren’t too concerned about us. Good thing Zoe stayed home!
Just before we reached Queener Basin, we heard pikas chirping. As temperatures have increased, pikas have become rare in many parts of Montana. Not only did I see at least six of the cute little rodents, but they were cohabitating with a group of very fat chipmunks. As you can see, pika blend into their habitat of rocks piles very well.
We base-camped at Queener Basin and luckily, didn’t get rained on until later in the day, after we’d set up our tents. After a delicious dinner, it got rainy and cold, so we all departed for warm sleeping bags pretty early.
The next morning, I was about to get out of my sleeping bag when the hail started. Fortunately, it didn’t last too long. After a soggy breakfast, we set out for Rainbow Mountain, climbing high above the basin. The rain cleared, and it was pleasant until our return trip. The views are amazing!
At Rainbow Mountain, we headed down and down, reaching Flower Lake and then Page Lake. Flower Lake is beautiful, with vast meadows that must be covered with wildflowers earlier in the year.
Page Lake is more like Puddle Lake; there’s not much water there. But both are well worth the very strenuous hike.
On our way back, the rain started, then got heavier and heavier. I got soaked, including my boots. The next morning wasn’t any better; we packed up in heavy rain, which is no fun at all. I tore the stuff sack for my tent, so I had to put it inside my pack, rather than strap it to the outside like usual. Good thing I have a big pack.
We started down the mountains, all of us squishing along in wet boots. Fortunately, the rain stopped, and we enjoyed the hike, despite our soaked feet. Even though I was happy to reach my car, knowing I had a hot shower waiting at home, I was sad to see the hike end. Especially if it really is the last Citizen Science hike.
I had a great time and I want to thank Jim, Charlie, and Lisa for making it extra special!