Yesterday I went on a hike in the Gallatin National forest with John M. and his dog Tango. The park service doesn't allow dogs to go with their owners on hikes in the back country, so we went to Bear Creek trail. There was a drive up a dirt road past Jardine. We passed a break in the trees where you could see the remnants of an old gold mine. We got to the trail head and Tango was excited to come out. After walking about 5 min we came across 4 people on mules heading in the opposite direction. They had a dog off the leash, like Tango was, and he came right over to her. At first Tango was all interested and started sniffing him. But after a few seconds she seemed to just want to hide behind John and myself. Overall the four mules and their riders passed without a hitch. We came across an old avalanche run going across the trail which basically looked like a meadow on the side of a slope now. The trail ran right through it and it was a great view up and down the old run.
The weather that day was cool and moist, and it rained during the second half. But we had our rain gear and the cool air was a nice relief to the fact that we were hiking up a mountain all the way in. Most of the way we were just hiking through the woods, and even with the cloudy overcast, the view throughout the forest was absolutely gorgeous with the dark moist wood with green all around and a pine smell lingering in the air.
We crossed a few creeks over the hike. John used his long legs to go across in a few steps stepping on rocks while I usually had to find alternative ways around. Just as we passed our first very small patch of snow, we reached the first Bear Creek crossing. After deciding that the spring runoff was still too high to cross the creek we took a small break. John picked up a rock and started looking at it. After putting it back he took a small drink from the creek. At first this surprised me, because in the park we warn hikers about not drinking directly from streams and creeks because of the potential of getting infected by the giardia parasite. John explained later that the giardia parasite has been around a long time, back when the native Americans and the early settlers here drank from the water. They didn't have iodine tablets or water filters back then but they didn't get the intestinal problems giardia gives you either, that they must have been immune. In short, in small amounts he took drinks from some clean mountain streams to possibly build immunity. He also explained that he took a look at the rock to see if there were any fly larvae on living on them. Certain types of fly larvae, (may flies, deer flies) can only like in clean water, which is how he checked for other possible sources of contamination. Leeches and (i think) black flies do live in clean water, but can also live in contaminated or dirty water. If only black flies and leaches were found he probably wouldn't have taken a drink.
Since we decided not to get really wet and cross the creek, we turned around and started heading back the way we came. On the way back we passed through the Avalanche-run/meadow and just as we stepped into it, the rain stopped and the sun came out for a few minutes. It glinted off the blades of grass like liquid diamonds and sparkled in the creek below. The sun brought out the purple color of the Monkshood flowers in the meadow. The view across the small valley onto the other mountain shone bright in the sunlight. Just as we exited the meadow, the sun went behind a cloud again when we stepped under the canopy of the trees.
Over the hike, we saw some pretty interesting shrubs and wild flowers. I've done some research about the flowers we saw. The pride and joy of the hike (wildflower-wise, that is) was the fact that we saw a Fairyslipper, (Calypso Orchid). When we saw it we didn't know what it was until I did some research this morning. The Calypso orchid is found only in the first 3 weeks of June, (so to see it this late is pretty awesome). It is a rare flower because people are enticed by its color and shape and thus is very rare because people pick it too often. We left the Calypso orchid right in the ground where we found it. But I did manage to take a picture which I will post in the next album. We also saw the Columbia Monkshood in the Avalanche run, Creeping barberry(yellow), the western serviceberry shrub, and there was one other plant that I remember. But after looking through numerous plant books here in the office, I still haven't managed to find a name for it. It is a vine-like plant, light purple in color, the stem bends over and opens downward. It could possibly be a shrub but I'm not sure. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of it so I'm trying to use my memory to find it in the books. My search so far has been unsuccessful.
Part 2 of my day off will be in the next post.