Thursday, May 12, 2016

Early season in the Swan

All week I gaze across the valley at the Swan Range.  One spot in particular ended up being my favorite little getaway in Montana last year.  I ended up there repeatedly, watching spring turn to summer and then fall.  I’m itching to get back and see it this early in the season.  How much snow is still on the pass to get over there?  Only one way to find out.
Low elevation flowers are popping.
Trout lily.
The green colors are overwhelming after my winter in New Mexico.  Was Montana this in-your-face green last year?
A thousand shades of green.
Hiking over early season blowdowns.  This is why other people wear pants.
I’m surprised the snow level is so low.  I’d thought when I rounded to the east-facing slopes that the sun would have cleared them.  But no.  I hike past where the last pair of footprints.  The slopes get steeper.  What did I expect?

Angles that make my head spin.
Despite microspikes, I slip a few times.  A full backpack and heavy sleeping bag isn’t helping, but oh how I’d hoped to camp out here.

Around the corner, the pass appears.  I want to go further/ I don’t want to go further.  Carrying my full pack up here was stupid/ carrying my full pack up here felt good and is making me stronger.  I love the solitude/ what-if-I-fall-down-and-break-my-neck-and-die-out-here-alone.
Where I decide to turn around.  The lakes will still be there in a few more weeks.
On the way back down, a couple with small daypacks pause to ask me where snowline is.  They mention they’d done the other side trail last week but “It was far to Wolf Creek but there wasn’t snow.”

So, I take the trail out to Wolf Creek. Small streams flow with clear cold water.  So novel, after the cow slobber water in New Mexico.  Being away, even just for a few months, makes me appreciate these things all the more.
Flowering trees perfume the air. 
Wolf Creek is too high for me to ford, so I turn around a second time and head back to the trailhead.  This trout-lily gorgeous valley is an unexpected treat.  So much more exploring remains beyond these early season barriers.  I can hardly wait to see what this year will bring.
Approaching Wolf Creek

Date hiked: May 1

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