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Enduring the challenges of a mountain hike

by Brian Baxter — Outdoorsman
| July 9, 2013 2:52 PM

We had chosen our lunch spot well. We had earned it. Circumnavigating around the east side of Calf Robe Mountain had proven to be a challenge on this journey. Numerous snow fields, avalanche chutes and snow skirts slowed our progress as we had taken to digging steps with flat shale like slabs to secure better footing. 

Sucker holes of blue sky had inspired us to continue the trek toward Firebrand Pass. Now, it was time to take a well-deserved break. 

We hunkered down among silver gray stunted subalpine fir and a few scattered white bark pines. Scores of down logs, bleached by the sun, wind and rain lay scattered about, providing some shelter from the 40-mph wind gusts. 

The standing dead pines and firs, dwarfed by the severe growing conditions in the timberline habitat, gave the scene a Hobbitlike appearance. These sentinels of the krummholz (a German word for “crooked wood”) framed views of Red Crow and Squaw Mountains. 

In the distance, rock formations and layers ranged from carob to milk-chocolate brown. One rock face, when touched briefly by the talons of the sun, showed a crimson-streaked highlight, that reminded me of the red color of the Inland Redband trout’s lateral band. Inside Mother Nature’s protective arms, tiny specks of neon nylon and brightly colored polar-fleeced jacketed humans glassed the sheep trails and rocky outcrops for goats. 

The avalanche chutes and alpine meadows were checked for grizzly and wolverine. This group of the “Over-Fifty Adventurers Club,” watched a Golden Eagle float across the expanse and grew quiet. This was a Glacier Institute sponsored outdoor education program. This was also the summer solstice, and supposedly, the first official day of our Rocky Mountain summer.

Summers can sure be short and sweet in our area. Perhaps, all the more reason to get out and enjoy while it lasts.

 New research shows an actual monetary value to places like Northwest Montana and northern Idaho. People come from all over the U.S., Canada, and the world to hike, fish, play and soak up the atmosphere of our Rocky Mountains. That fact alone should give us good reason to celebrate our luck, persistence and fortitude as folks who live, survive and thrive on the beauty and bounty that this area offers. 

For residents, friends, relatives and tourists it should be difficult to get bored. If you feel even the slightest bit of boredom coming on, here are a few activities to try: 

When in the Sandpoint, Idaho, area try the informational boat tour, the beaches and the live music at the pubs downtown. 

If in the Flathead Valley, take a trip down to Lakeside and look up a new guide service called, “Sea Me Paddle.” 

Try a half-day kayak paddle out of West Shore State Park that takes you south to Angel Point to see ancient Indian pictographs and continues to Cedar Island.

If you’re looking for an informative, interesting and fun hike, join us July 20 for “Flora, Fauna, Footprints, Fur and Feathers.” This is a professionally guided hike to take it all in, and is free of charge to participants. 

However, space is limited, so please call Amy Robinson at: 406-755-6304; or Silver Cloud Associates at 406-293-6500 to register.

Please do yourself and all of us a favor or two. Watch out for the summer road construction that is all over the area. Have a designated driver and watch your campfires.

Yeah, life is short, and so is summer in the Northern Rockies. But so much more the reason to enjoy what we have, while we still have it.

(Brian Baxter is an outdoorsman. He writes a monthly column for The Western News.)