Explore roads on Woody Mountain April 14, 2024

Participants: Steve Schombel, David & Julie Kahl

It was hot…temperatures in the valley today got up to 77/24c degrees. We haven’t had time to acclimate to hot temperature hiking yet, and in addition wanted to stay covered up to watch for ticks. We never saw a tick. The first mile/1.61k of the Cowboy Trail Rd is the route of the Nee Me Poo/Road to the Buffalo trail used by Indigenous peoples for centuries. Though I had a waypoint on my GPS, I was focused on finding a good pace to not over heat going up hill and missed the ramp of the “other road” that goes out to Lewis’ overlook. We ended up one switchback up the road by two small old buildings, one of which had been an explosives shed. I saw the overlook below us and we decided to drop down to it, anyway, as Steve and I had both been there but David hadn’t. This is a spot that Meriweather Lewis had left a very good description of, in his July 5th, 1806 journal. You could still vaguely see where the road had gone down Lewis’ Gulch on the right/east side, the Blackfoot River bottom clearly below. Coming up we had seen yellow bells (Fritillia), shooting stars, both white and yellow parsley, and played out buttercups, just as we expected to see. We also saw a lone vulture and an osprey. David’s bird app on his phone said we heard a flicker. And probably heard nuthatches. There were several unidentified small birds flitting around, and those tiny blue butterflies, I saw a mourning cloak, and bees were about. We did not see any meadow larks in this open terrain. Going down to the overlook we found a patch of Glacier lillies, and close by a bunch of pasque flowers, a bit further down an arrowleaf balsamroot was in bloom. What we were walking through was short grass and scattered brush and blowdown, we had sprayed our pant legs for ticks and didn’t worry about it too much. We could take the old road (Cowboy Trail) back to the new road and reclimb up to the switch back we had come down from, or go back up the hill. We chose to climb back up and part way up stopped in the shade, with a nice breeze, to eat lunch, then finished the climb. By the old buildings we saw a local who was planning on having a gathering, with a grill, at that spot. (Can’t drive up there.) He said he had seen a big bighorn sheep ram about a mile up the road. Up to this spot the road had been a normal dirt road, but as we continued up the road, the vegetation down the middle gave it the appearance of a two track, but it was still a good solid road. We were into a series of switch backs. Alden Wright had ridden the road on his bike earlier and thought that he saw trails that were cutoffs between the switchbacks, by-passing many of the switch backs. I watched for the trails and thought I saw several in the vegetation patterns in the draws. We didn’t want to go there, today, to stay out of the ticks. Several switch backs up we stopped by an “outside” corner where the road turns on the brow of the ridge, with good views of the ridges around Miller Peak to the south, and down the Clark Fork Valley to the east. Here we met another local that we chatted with a few minutes, had him take our picture with the bare dry slopes of Woody Mt. behind us, then we continued on to one more switch back corner, now over Lewis Gulch again. We had set a turn around time of 1:PM, and it was just about that, so we went a short ways off the trail to sit in a shade a bit before heading back down, it was pleasant and hard to get going again. Part of the road runs on the ridge edge between Lewis Gulch and the next gully to the west and there, as a light breeze, we could feel the hot air rising up out of the valley via the west gully. We did just over 4 miles/6.44k. This is not hot-summer day terrain, but we will probably revisit it next fall, it’s some nice hiking, close to town.

Explore roads on Woody Mt.  Sun. April 14th 2024

Leader:  Julie Kahl

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