Hiking At Our Western Montana Lodge

We finally got our chance, and hiking we went. Starting at the trailhead at Hidden Lake, the five of us beat feet - lunch and water on our backs and camera and binoculars ready at hand. The girls led the way with orders to walk quietly, communicate minimally, and keep their eyes open. Nathaniel and I brought up the rear.

Keeping an active and curious 3 1/2 year old quiet is really not possible, but he did learn to temper his vocal antics as we traversed through the trees along the lake. Our first 'big' excitement was the opportunity to watch the fish swimming in the lake. Hidden Lake is so clear, and the day was so pleasant, we could sit on the edge of the trail and watch them swimming at our feet. Our next big thrill was watching a pair of Trumpeter Swans swimming peacefully in a little cove near the trail. They moved to deeper water as we approached, but because everyone moved quietly along, we got some good photos and enjoyed a great opportunity to observe these graceful and magnificent birds.

A bit further down the trail we watched a pair of Red-Necked Grebes paddle around a little cove. These unique birds didn't seem bothered by our presence, and we were able to watch them for quite a while before we chose to move on. Leaving the lake we entered Lost Mine Canyon. This canyon connects Hidden Lake to the little Goose and Otter Lakes and on down to Cliff Lake, and Wade Lake beyond that.

Rarely traveled, the Lost Mine Canyon Trail winds through the trees, bordered by rocky screes and steep hillsides for 4 miles from Hidden Lake to one arm of Cliff Lake. As we climbed through the trees and around the rocks, following the twisting and turning trail, Joy (the most timid of the group) kept her eyes open for a bear. Her diligence paid off when she saw, not the bear she feared, but a large bear track perfectly perserved in the dried mud of the trail. A little later she found a couple of trees with large claw marks and a fair sprinkling of fur caught in their bark.

On the lighter side, we enjoyed a vast array of wildflowers, many which we captured on film for later identification. About 20 minutes past Hidden Lake we worked our way around a large lily pad covered tarn which may or may not be Goose Lake. May or may not because it sits on the wrong side of the trail, according to the map. However, it may be Goose as it is of a substantial size - and we have yet to find another lake which we can identify as Goose.

Otter Lake, on the other hand, is clearly marked with a neat little sign, sits on the 'correct' side of the trail, and is a lovely little lake. An earlier Lodge guest identified the species of fish which inhabit the lake. Although we didn't see them, we watched a pair of ducks - I believe they were Lesser Scaup - and a larger water bird which I have yet to identify - while we enjoyed a break and a snack.

Back on the trail we continued to drop down into the narrow valley which follows a stream which feeds into Cliff Lake. The trail traverses this pleasant meadow meandering through the grass and along the stream. At one point we crossed the stream on a narrow, but doable, log. Further down the trail the stream entered an arm of Cliff Lake. Here we watched a mother Wood Duck and her eight ducklings swimming down stream. A bit further down the trail we were able to observe a single Trumpeter Swan, swimming among the weeds and grasses which lined the far bank. Since one of our guests had mentioned seeing a Trumpeter nest in the area a week earlier, we looked diligently for the other bird, but never saw her. However, the grasses were thick and tall enough to occasionally hide the swimming Swan from view - so she could easily have escaped our notice.

The day turned warm, and our return trip was more intense as we labored back up the canyon, but the sheer beauty and untouched nature surrounding us blunted the edges of our tiredness and brought us great pleasure. By the end of the day, however, we all decided we try shorter walks to condition ourselves before we set off on another trek into the countryside surrounding our Western Montana Lodge.

Lady of the Lake

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