Friday I spent a most amazing day in my backyard (The Rattlesnake Wilderness is just 4 miles from town)! The weather, views and company were perfect.
I got up early to pack the car with my camelbak and things I had prepped to bring the night before including some first aid stuff, and emergency gear if we, for some reason, got caught out overnight. Changed a diaper, got Astrid's lunch and goodies packed (ready for Jeff to take her to our friend Kristin's house before work)....and I was on my way. Skagit and I picked Kathy up, and went to Lisa's to start the car shuffle. Lisa gave us a ride to the Finley Creek Trailhead, and rough directions through the first section of the roughly 18 mile hike. These directions would help get us to Sanders Lake. Once we made it to Sanders we would be on a well-defined trail the remainder of the day. The end point of the trip was the main Rattlesnake Trailhead in Missoula.
There was a nice trail up to the first lake (lower Finley Lake) and then a series of cairns to follow through a scree field to the second lake. On the opposite side of the second lake we began to climb to the top of a saddle (which we couldn't see) in order to pop out over the top and see Sanders Lake. This section was the most challenging (and slow-going) since our route of travel took us over truck sized and dumptruck sized blocky boulders which were covered with varying amounts of snow (2-4 inches). It was also the most challenging for Skagit. I think she could sense that I was worrying about her and she started to wimper a bit...she had cut her paw where the nail meets the pad on one of the sharp edges and there was some blood. Once I started to call her from some 20-30 feet ahead she showed off her athletic ability and leaped over big expanses between rocks with ease.
On the way up the slope we stopped and each had our first sandwich and a brownie (Skagit got some hard earned treats, too). I added a layer and another pair of socks. I'm glad we stopped when we did since we had quite a bit more elevation to gain before heading back down...and the wind was picking up while we were at 8,000+ feet.
Once at the top of the ridge it had all been worth it. Sanders Lake is SOOOOOO beautiful. To me, it looks like an infinity pool....the whole back side ends abruptly and appears to empty into the valley below. This was my favorite lake we passed over the course of the day. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. We could see the rest of the land we had to cover with Stuart Peak in the distance. The trip down was an easy one and it was fun sort of 'skiing' down in the snow.
We picked up a trail on the East side of Sanders lake (the outlet) and followed it (trail 517T - Stuart Peak Trail) a little West then South to Stuart Peak. During this section (the longest section) we were in snow between 4-8 inches deep with each step. The only other travelers since the early season snowfall (a week ago) on the trail were animals....the trail was teeming with tracks of Elk, Deer and Bears. Three different times I got relief in breaking trail from a small black bear who had used the trail before us.
Once we got past the turn off for Stuart we were able to run most of the way out to the car...maybe about 7 miles.
This trip is just what I needed for some me-time. Astrid is not going to daycare anymore so it is SO necessary for me to get days like this every once in a while to remind me that I can still have this. Hiking with a backpack that contains a day's food & water and doesn't contain...Astrid....although, I have to say I missed her not being there on my back. It was a tad strange, for sure.
Anyone up for a full moon hike next month?
Note to self: Make more days like this happen. It helps keep my life in balance.
Would like to see a SLIDESHOW of our adventure!?
(Skagit sniffing around Sanders Lake)
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