It’s summer here, which is to say the rivers have crested and are slowly on their way down, temps above 70 can be taken for granted, and snow is making a rapid retreat in even the highest places. There are a couple reasons why this transformation always seems to take me by surprise.
First, the jump to shorts weather tends to be fairly stark in northwest Montana, mainly because May if often very rainy. It’s not unheard of for June to be the same, but the past two weeks have been enough to get the AC turned on at work. Second, there always seems to be something going on out of town in late May, and being in a very different part of the country highlights just how different our climate is. Third, and most importantly, summer is the exception. The dirt road I used to access todays hiking and packrafting outing may be clear enough to ride almost half the year, but some times that window might be only four months, and the ability for a ribbon of dirt to go from four foot deep in snow to dusty enough you have to corner carefully in the space of three months should be an object of wonderment.
The past two weekends have been the most fatiguing consecutive ones in memory, so for most of this one I contented myself with sleeping in, working on an article, and reading a 700 page biography of FDR. But summer is here, and the call was too much to resist. A fairly harsh winter and a long, cool spring have given us what promises to be an exceptionally luscious summer. The Camas along the creek of the same name was running riot, I saw many sleek and happy deer, broods of Canada Goslings, and bear tracks. Further up Camas Creek is the lake where one of the two Night of the Grizzlies attacks took place half a century ago, and every biologist I’ve spoke to about the subject confirms that this exceptionally wet and brushy drainage has a correspondingly exceptionally large number of bears. I saw at distinguishable tracks from at least five different bears in mud patches during the first few miles, and all of those tracks were no older than 48 hours. Humans don’t walk this trail often, as a burly creek crossing further up makes a loop or point to point difficult until later in the year. As a result the winter’s deadfall had not been cleared, and only bears had made trails around the larger snags. In a few spots the pigeon-toed postholed they had left through the grass could not have been more obvious.
I did not see any bears, and after a pleasant stroll through meadows and woods left the trail. The meanders of Rogers Meadow are exceedingly time consuming, as the creek looses all current amongst the willows. My shortcut across the bottom of the meadow was quick and took me right to the edge of the creek as it regains direction and coherence, but it was not dry. What appears, in the top photo, to be dry grass is actually an expansive knee-deep bog. But in summer the air is warm, so who gives a damn about cold feet? Soon fatigue will be over, and the race to enjoy the open season will be on. In three or three and a half month the first storm will roll in and the mountains will start to fill back up and resume their normal state. No time to lose.
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