Sunday, April 26, 2015

Great Bear Wilderness Hikes

After all the warnings about grizzly bears, I am delighted when an internet friend puts me in touch with her sister in the next town over who is interested in going for a hike.  L. suggests Skiumah Lake in the Great Bear Wilderness of Montana.  It’s somewhere she has been reluctant to go to on her own due to possible grizzly bears.  See, I'm not the only one who is cautious!
Bears are even in the name.
I'm happy all we see are trillium on the Skiumah Creek Trail.
It’s always tricky finding compatible hiking buddies.  I am so relieved that L. seems to have a similar pace, and that she doesn’t seem to mind silence.  I forget how much I like being around other people who don’t talk nonstop.
Up the Skiumah Creek Trail.
As we climb higher, the trail disappears under snow.  Scanning up and down does not reveal any logcuts or obvious signs of trail. Should we try the dense vegetation or postholing through snow?  Turns out, we’ll get our share of both.
Honestly, I am laughing with delight to get lost in the dense undergrowth, to get swallowed up by forest.  To have a bit of adventure. To finally emerge at the shore of the lake!
Skiumah Lake.
Skiumah Lake is still partially frozen over.  On this overcast day, with clouds hanging low over the tops of the mountains, the clouds and snow a blur of white where does snow end and sky begin.

Why is the lake so low? Why are the banks so tangled with logs?  And where does the trail come out?  We find no answers.

It is still early when we arrive back at the trailhead.  So we head up to the Stanton Lake Trail (#146) which is not much further up the road.  However, the forest around Stanton Lake is a whole nother world.  Smaller denser trees but more open understory.  A much bigger lake with more yellow of glacier lilies.
Stanton Lake.
Every forest has subtle, and not so subtle, differences.  I try to figure out what factors of elevation, slope, exposure, maybe fire history explain the variation in plant distributions.  Back in the southeast, I could anticipate where to find various plants.  Here, there are so many new surprises.

I’ve only been here a short time, but already I am longing to stay here. I want to walk these trails over and over and watch them change.  I think I will find answers to some of my questions here.

More information on these hikes in the Great Bear Wilderness of Montana:
Skiumah Lake Trail #204
Stanton Lake Trail #146


  1. Hahaha the brush! It was fun!

    1. Sure was tangled thick brush. Glad it didn't have thorns! Fun indeed!

  2. I was reading this when I realized I'd already read a report of this hike, on Firefly.

    1. Small hiking/blogging world, I suppose. Here is the link if anyone else wants to check it out:

  3. thanks for the report!
    Spring hiking in Montana almost always assures one that you'll have the trails to yourself, of course the almost 100% chance of encountering snow has something to do with that :) a small pair of snowshoes usually is strapped to my back in the Spring; sometimes not needed, but more often used
    I was a Wilderness Ranger in the Great Bear (nearly 30 years ago), nice to see things haven't changed

    1. Hi Mike- Must have been something else to be stationed in the Great Bear! Can't wait to go back and explore more. Spring has been a quiet time in Montana. If I end up staying here, definitely will find a way to get snowshoes. But at least the microspikes help some.