Montana Outdoors

June 21, 2009

A walk back to winter.

On the first day of summer, a day full of clouds and a forecast of heavy rain, the mountain called.

I’ve often thought (and probably said several times before) if everyone in the world would hike to the top of Baldy Mountain at least twice a year, this would be a much better world than it is today.

Near the top of the band of Bear Grass that is covering the lower slopes of the mountain, a small Forest Service road turns off the main one and winds for four miles upward to where the Baldy Mountain trail begins at an elevation of 6,000 feet. The trail itself then winds around through many switchbacks for a couple more miles to the top of the mountain at 7,464 feet. While hiking the length of the trail, elevation is not the only thing that changes: the season does also.

From about the half way point, as the trail ascends above the tree line, the view toward Thompson Peak to the northeast:

From the Baldy Mountain trail

After another quarter of a mile, the season begins to change with a bank of snow over the trail.

From the Baldy Mountain trail

Then another, larger one (my hiking staff is 60 inches tall)

From the Baldy Mountain trail

From the Baldy Mountain trail

and the deep drifts from winter show up with more frequency

From the Baldy Mountain trail

From the Baldy Mountain trail

until the snowfield at the top points over the other side toward the east.

From the Baldy Mountain trail

(Off the top on the lee side, to the right of the photo, I would estimate the snow depth at about 40 feet.)

From the Baldy Mountain trail

To the south and east and a half mile away, Baldy Lake is still nearly half frozen over,

Baldy Lake

but due south, under the clouds and a mile below, it’s summer in the Clark Fork valley.

From the Baldy Mountain trail

The need to turn to the west and head back down the trail, as usual, comes much too soon.

From the Baldy Mountain trail

(Baldy Mountain and this trail to its top are in the Baldy Mountain roadless area in western Montana’s Cabinet Mountains.)

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