17 October 2011

Garnet Mountain

Garnet Mountain

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting my brother in Bozeman for a backpacking adventure! Our destination was the Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout that is just 20 minutes south of Bozeman. The day before our trek a storm had rolled through Gallatin County and dusted the mountain tops with snow. The weather on our hike up was pleasant, in the mid-50s and only semi-cloudy. The breaks from the sun were welcomed and we cheered with cool breezes that graced our hard working bodies. The hike itself is a mere 4 miles - however you gain nearly 3,000 feet over the course of the hike.

We were cautious of bears, toting bells and bear spray, but we did not see any large wildlife during our hike. We spotted lots of Elk tracks in the mud and saw a few chipmunks scurry off the trail into the brush. We ran into snow the last quarter mile that was up to 6 inches deep in some spots. The snow made it much easier to spot animal tracks, such as some Prairie Chicken tracks, Fox tracks, and more Elk tracks.

The last stretch to the top was by far the steepest, and in the snow field a few hundred feet from the fire lookout we spotted a bunch of fox tracks zigzagging and then turned into circles. We laughed at the sight of the pattern of the tracks and wondered what the little fox had been up to, perhaps chasing his tail or more likely following a bunny, whose tracks we also found not far from the fox tracks.

The fire lookout itself was very cozy and offered unparalleled views of the Gallatin Canyon and beyond. The sunset was incredible; bright pinks, golden yellows, and blazing orange contrasted against the deep blue and bounced off scattered clouds. The views from the Lookout were well worth the aches and pains of the hike! Luckily we were not socked in with clouds or fog so we were able to take in the stars and wildly bright moon. Thanks to the snow reflecting so much of the moonlight, we were able to turn off our lantern and sit by the fire to enjoy the endless beauty below us. After inhaling a delicious fajita dinner, we were all more than ready to cozy up in our sleeping bags and call it a night.
We only stayed one night, so after waking up, eating breakfast, and cleaning up the cabin, we headed back down. It was a beautiful fall morning, full of crisp air and chirping birds. Chickadee calls were the most prevalent, however that is the bird call I know the best, so it could have been that my ear was only tuned into the Chickadees. The trek down was difficult, but beautiful and much faster than going uphill. Yet again we didn’t spot any wildlife, outside a few squirrels. This hike and Fire Lookout was amazing and will definitely be something I will do again. If you are looking for a great weekend getaway and a challenge, I would highly recommend Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout! The only thing I would do differently next time is pack along a field guide (I forgot mine at home on the coffee table, doh!)

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