Sunday, September 19, 2021

Mosaic Monday #148: Fickle September

Did we make the right decision?  Outside, it's 62 degrees and partly sunny.  A bit breezy, but in all other respects, a fine late summer day.  And yet, we cancelled our camping trip scheduled for the next two nights/three days.  Did we make the right decision?  I suppose I should tell you that the forecast calls for persistent rain on Sunday/Monday, with overnight lows in the mid 30s.  Heck, that rain might be snow at the elevation of our hike!  We were so conflicted about this choice, which meant giving up a hard-won reservation in Glacier National Park.  In the end, practicality won over the stubborn determination not to abandon a plan.  Do you suffer from these dilemmas?  Since we can't go camping, I decided to use this post to re-live a backcountry trip from September 2020, a vivid reminder of how changeable September can be in the mountains of Montana.  

Our journey began in the North Fork area, the first time we had driven past storied Polebridge - now that's north!  We departed the trailhead at 10 am, and reached Whale Lake a short three hours later.  Without much in the way of views, we made quick work of the gradual, shaded trail.  This was my first hike with new boots, and the initial sensation of stiffness quickly eased.  Given the date of September 3, it was not surprising to observe blooming aster and goldenrod, as well as plants at the berry stage.

* Left: Baneberry (unusual to see white berries - they are normally red); Upper right: Thimbleberry; Lower right: Arnica

*Upper left top: Grass of Parnassus; Upper left middle: Red Paintbrush; Right: Arnica; Bottom: Black Currant

** Comparing the two Arnicas, I know they are not the same, but it is devilishly difficult to figure out which variety they ARE!  Open to anyone who might be able to distinguish them!

At the lake, we found a pretty campsite with ready-made stools and tables.  The most difficult part of setting up camp was slinging the rope over a tree to hang our bags (one of the advantages of Glacier National Park is that all the campsites have pre-made bear hangs).  Man with Hat caught plenty of fish, which made up for the fact that they were all 10 inches or less.

I collected wood, and then found a comfy spot next to the water to read.  I didn't get far since a multitude of birds caught my eye - flycatchers, a Gray Jay and a hawk.  Fish were swimming right in front of me - I tried to capture them with my camera, but the "eye" of the phone camera is not as clever as the human eye to be able to discern the shapes in the water.

We had the place entirely to ourselves as we prepared our gourmet meal.  A fire pushed back the edge of chill that began to creep ever closer with the falling of the sun.  (This is another factor we took into consideration in cancelling our current reservation - neither campground allowed fires due to scarcity of wood in those locales.  If we were wet and cold, we wouldn't even have the promise of a fire to help us out!)  In keeping with our camping tradition, we played a few hands of gin - Man with Hat walloped me 5 to 1.

The next morning, we sipped our morning joe while watching the sun poke through the pines.  A languid grasshopper had to be coaxed off the tent as we broke camp.  

On the trail by 9.45, we climbed a steep half mile to the intersection with the Pacific Northwest Trail (also known as Whitefish Divide Trail No. 26).  (Don't I look happy to have that behind me?) 

From that point, the trail meanders for a mile along the crest with expansive views toward Glacier National Park to the east.  The trail begins to descend through 2 pleasant miles of switchbacks, meadows and forest, leading to the fork with the Huntsberger Trail.  What goes down must go up (I know, gravity would say otherwise, but this is HIKING), and we had a moderate climb to another crest, rewarded by an arresting vista of Huntsberger Mountain.

Then it was all downhill to a spur that led to the lake, eponymous with the mountain.  A small meadow, dotted with campsites, perched at one end of the lake, and the mountain towered over the water on the far shore.  Rocks scattered along the edge offered perfect platforms for sunbathing while Man with Hat plied his fly fishing apparatus once more.  

He caught plenty of small fish, and it was warm enough when he returned that he went swimming.  I was captivated by the wispy clouds, dancing across the blue sky in a seemingly choreographed waltz.

Once again, no-one else arrived to camp for the night.  Our "Chicken with Risotto" dinner was more akin to soup, but quite tasty.  The sun moved across the mountain as we hung the food and other "smellies" in Spousal Unit's pack for the night.  The only available branch did not appear strong enough to hold two bags, so we opted for the "fishy" bag in the tree, and my pack wrapped in a plastic bag by the firepit.  Either we got lucky or it was a good plan; no bears interrupted our sleep that night!  (And Spousal Unit continued his gin winning streak.)

The next morning, we emerged from the tent at 7 am.  Cupping our hands around the coffee cups and looking east for the sun, it became clear it would take some time for it to clear the mountain.  What does that mean?  More time for fishing!  It didn't last long -- the wind rose quickly and strongly.

We left the lake at 10.45; we encountered some grouse and interesting plants along the way, but not many spectacular views (perhaps we are spoiled?)  I studied my "Plants of the Rocky Mountains" book, but could not identify the shrub below with the cherry-looking fruit.  Anyone know what it is?  It is unusual to see Yellow Paintbrush - I was delighted to observe this specimen.  I have always thought of Harebell as a spring flower, but my book says it will bloom through September!

At the bridge crossing for Whale Creek, we took a short break.

It's only 45 minutes from the creek to the parking area, and in that space we encountered the first other people we had seen in two-and-a-half days.  And would you be surprised to learn I knew one of them?!?  It's a small valley!

We met #1 Son at the Gunsight Saloon for a post-hike meal - always anticipated and greatly savored.  Now that we have cancelled our last camping trip of the season, this will be a tradition that will have to wait until early summer 2022!!!

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  1. Such a beautiful place, no wonder you didn't give up going!

  2. sorry you had to cancel the last days.It would have been nice to see a little from Glacier National Park. But that is probably not a good place for bad weather conditions.
    I would probably never be able to hike like that you share. My back would not cooperate with it. Even if I could carry the load I would not be able to walk up op the slope. I would really love to visit the Whale Creek. :)

  3. I understand you completely. In case of bad weather forecast I always have a dilemma to stay or to go. Over the years I realized that sometimes is worth to take a risk. Mountain of Montana are very beautiful and you know that already.

  4. ...Angie, you live in a special part of the world. Thanks for hosting the party.

  5. It's always hard to second guess and know what the weather will bring.
    Glad you have many beautiful memories of other camping trips. And just like that Fall is coming!!

  6. We had to make a similar decision for our trip too! That camp-spot looks amazing and such beautiful trail! Gorgeous views and wildflowers!


  7. Sorry to hear you had to cancel your trip, Angie. But always good to be warm and dry on a camping trip.
    Beautiful wildflowers and the lakes look so peaceful and beautiful.
    I keep getting error messages, so I hope you receive this message.
    Enjoy the evening...

  8. I certainly don't want to hike and tent in the rain so I hope your decision was the right one. However I enjoyed your post. I think my long hike days are over sadly. Though I still enjoy to hike for shorter distances particularly when the wildflowers are out! Have a good week and stay safe and thank you again for the link up.

  9. Understood this Dilemma, Angie. We made long years ago Holidays in Ireland and have had rain and drizzle on the Shannon. It was okay, but in the mountains is rain an other thing and maybe dangerous.

    I enjoyed reading about the last Camping.

    Have a good week. Happy MosaicMonday

  10. So beautiful place. Great pics.
    Best wishes.

  11. Beautiful snaps. Have a good week


  12. I know you hated to cancel but you can't control the weather. We are stuck in a hot and humid pattern with pop up showers so our hikes are on hold. Love seeing your photos today. That's one of the wonderful things about to enjoy!

  13. Stunning landscapes and beautiful macros, Angie! I would have made the same choice. I'm reminded of a hiking trip of my youth where a group of us hiked in the Wilson's Prom National Park in Summer. The weather changed as soon as we arrived and we endured three days of marching through non-stop rain and sleeping in wet tents... We were young!

  14. Sorry about your cancelled trip. Too risky if you ask me especially with no fires allowed. It's hard to keep warm with just clothes and coats otherwise.
    loved your trip from last year. You guys know how to have a good time!!

  15. I hate cancelations! At least it wasn't because of covid. Beautiful scenery.

  16. We just got back from camping in the Rockies and it was down to freezing a couple of nights. We were glad for a bit of heat from the furnace in our trailer in the morning. So I think you might have made the right decision in staying home. The snow line was awfully low, too.
    Those purple asters were just about the only wildflowers still blooming. Hardy souls, as well as pretty.
    Your camping memory is a lovely one. Memories are so very wonderful.

  17. Lovely photos! Those clouds are dreamy.

  18. Dear Angie, unfortunately you often only find out afterwards whether a decision was the right one. I am also familiar with such dilemmas, but when in doubt I choose "Safety" or "Comfort" ... Your trip in September 2020 was the right decision in any case - you brought with you some very fond memories!
    Hugs Traude

  19. I would definitely make the same choice. Weather can be very unpredictable. I experienced all seasons one summer when driving to the top of Pikes Peak with my boys and it was one of the scariest moments of my life.

  20. Sorry to hear you had to cancel your trip, Angie.

    Better safe than sorry!

    Love the beautiful photos.

  21. Hello, Angie,
    I am sorry you had to cancel your camping trip, sometimes it is best going with your gut feeling. Re-living this backpack trip was fun, I love all the views of the lake, mountains and the beautiful wildflowers. Take care, have a great day!

  22. Shame you had to cancel your hike Angie, but better safe than sorry. So many beautiful photos in this hike, I am never a big fan of the up sections of a walk.

  23. Beautiful landscapes, and the close up photos. Sorry about your camping trip, still, there are many more ears.

  24. A shame you had to cancel your trip ...
    I enjoyed seeing the views and lovely flowers you've shared from a previous one.

    All the best Jan

  25. Beautiful photos, Angie. Sorry to hear that you had to cancel your trip but there's always next year. Enjoy the weekend!

  26. now I'm stuck on the phrase "languid grasshopper" and wanting to paint it, write a story about it, or a quilt. We've had more grasshoppers this year than we have ever seen. The latest plague? lol. If so I prefer them to pestilence. Your photos are so beautiful

  27. you are brave to hold that grasshopper, and your nails look like they are pretty, i won't mention the one that is missing!! hehe

    so sad about your trip. i'm sure everyone is saying "there is always next year"!! i am not able to go on my girls weekend trip because of my health and that's what i keep telling myself, "next year is going to be awesome"!!

    really gorgeous images, the mountain with the sunshine, that one is so beautiful!!

  28. Once a decision has been made I try to convince myself that it was the right one. I don't always succeed.


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