As we left the Roaring Lion observation point, we entered a desolate area quite unlike the other burn areas we had been hiking through up to this point. We walked around a bit, just observing and taking it all in. It seemed so very strange; like something from a movie scene. It was like we were in another world of some sorts. And there was a hollowness to it, as there wasn't any vegetation to absorb the sound when we spoke. It sure had an unusual feeling to it. Kind of an eery feeling, but not in a scary kind of way.
We left the desolate area behind and began climbing in a wide open section with a broad eastern view of the valley below. The view in this photo is looking towards the northeast from above the overlook. Looking down on the overlook showed us that with each step we took we really were getting somewhere. Open views are great, but things were heating up with the sun getting stronger as the day went on and no shade here.
We were glad to find a bit of "normal" when we suddenly walked into a section of woods that had been spared from last year's fire. It sure looked and felt like a completely different trail!
In this spared area of woods, we came upon Judd Creek flowing across the trail. Such a refreshing sight for the eyes to behold!
Running water, greenery, and beautiful flowers ... such loveliness preserved in the middle of a burned up mountain!
We enjoyed our little half hour respite while we filtered enough water to make it to the top and back again on our way down. This little creek is the only source of water on this trail and we sure appreciated it.
As we left "normalcy", we walked into another strange world, desolation area number two. This one was even more desolate than the first one in a way I can't really explain... you just have to experience it for yourself to know what I mean. It just has a certain look and feel that you can't quite capture with a camera.
And this area was unusual in another way we hadn't experienced before. We observed a combination ash-dust devil that continued for several minutes as it spun its way around us in a complete circle, varying in intensity as it traveled. At one point in the beginning when it was on the trail ahead of us, it got thunderously loud for a bit, like a jet flying overhead. Then we saw its column of ash and dirt twisting high up in the sky. The ash-dust devil circled down and around, crossing the trail below where we had just hiked up. When it came up alongside of us at about 15 yards away, we could feel the circling wind and see bits of burnt bark flying off the trees. It crossed the trail above again and we returned to our hike, leaving the area and strange experience behind.
On our way back down from the top later, we saw one small one as we passed through this area again. This time around it came even closer to us, about 8 feet away. This trip was definitely more of an adventure than we had anticipated.
Almost there! Beautiful views start opening up before us, and are such a nice reward for our hot hike in.
Just ahead... top of Ward Mountain. Only a little bit more to go to see the full view that is waiting for us. (One of my daughters went ahead while the rest of us were looking at the remains of the old fire lookout; you can see her on top in this photo.)
The summit is a large pile of rocks. No trail to follow ... you just find your own way wherever you want to go.
The girls and I make a pretty good hiking team. They're usually game for trying anything I'm willing to try, and we always have a wonderful time on our adventures together. We love to go hiking and backpacking with the guys (husband/dad, and son/brother) and with friends, but we frequently venture out on mountain treks as our own little group.
We ate lunch, wandered around taking lots of pictures and video, studied our maps to see what we could see from there, and just hung out and enjoyed the amazing views. :)
I'm always amazed at how the mountains just go on and on and on. You could get lost out there! That's part of the reason why we have Search and Rescue out here. Because people literally have gotten lost out in these rugged mountains.
And people do get hurt, too. The mountains certainly aren't child's play, so we firmly believe in finding a balance of being as prepared as we can while still going reasonably light when we go out on our mountain adventures. You never know what might go wrong when you least expect it, and we prefer to take care of ourselves if we can. And anytime someone goes out in the mountains without me, my good-bye is always, "Be safe and have fun!" Safety always comes first, but fun is the point of going.
Beautiful views all around!
The view in the photo above reveals the Como Peaks, Lonesome Bachelor, and El Capitan in the far distance.
I'm not sure about all of the peaks we could see, as I'm still working on putting together all the puzzle pieces when we see different things from different sides and angles. The more places we go though, the more pieces we start to fit together.
Peaks from several different mountain ranges and numerous peaks within our Bitterroot Mountain Range can be seen from here. We definitely need to come back again on a clear day without smoke to see everything more clearly.
While the smoke from wildfires hindered our views in every direction, it especially did to the south. Lake Como is somewhat visible in this photo through the smoke. This lake is highly used for water recreation in the valley at the base of the mountains. We could see a few motorized boats when we looked closely, but not the kayakers or swimmers.
We did have a pretty nice view of Kidney Lake; a mountain lake that is accessible by hiking up Camas partway and then working your way up the side to it. We hiked into all three Camas Lakes last fall and talked about maybe doing Kidney Lake sometime. Now that we've seen it from above, it just might have to be added to our list.
We left the summit about 2:30 in the afternoon and made it back to the trailhead 4 hours later; almost 12 hours after we began our day-long journey.
I was quite dirty and my legs were tired and sore from all of the steep downhill coming back out, so I was definitely ready to pick up pizza for supper on the way home, hit the shower, and relax on the couch for the rest of the evening!
I love spending time in the mountains, but coming back to the comforts of home after a long trek sure is pretty nice, too!
To sum things up, while some parts of the hike were relatively easy, it was a tough trek overall. Afterwards while comparing the elevation gain to St. Mary's Peak which I've hiked many times over the years, it suddenly dawned on me that the elevation gain we covered on this adventure was almost double that of St. Mary's! I realized these two mountains are similar in height, but St. Mary's trailhead starts higher up (you take a mountain drive to get there), whereas the trailhead for Ward Mountain starts down at the bottom. That's a pretty big difference... no wonder my legs were sore! LOL!
But we did it ... end of story. Now on to planning our next adventure. Enjoy! :)