Once again, I have returned to school and resumed my studies as a full-time student. I am very excited to call Missoula, Montana home for at least the next couple of years and this town presents unlimited opportunities to explore. Unfortunately schoolwork and other activities will leave little time for backpacking until summer next year, but I will do my best get out and hike a bit.
So today, I had a few hours and decided to embark on my first hike in the area. It was a short day-trip to Glen Lake in the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness which is southwest of town. The trail travels through a large burn area from a 2006 fire for the majority of the hike and is just under 6 miles round-trip. I actually really enjoy hiking through burn areas because the ghostly snags and blackened stumps provide a wonderful contrast against the varying colors of returning vegetation and also open holes to view the surrounding scenery. Also, if you know me, you know I’m an outspoken critic of wildfire suppression and even though this was a somewhat unnatural stand-replacing fire, we have only ourselves to blame.
Glen Lake trailhead sits at about 6,600 feet and provides a starting point which eliminates a whole lot of climbing that would be otherwise necessary.The trail rises up over the ridge, traverses a large bowl, and after more than 900 feet of steady elevation gain reaches the lake. Glen Lake is small but very scenic due to its rocky shoreline and the eerie black crags which rise above it. I was thrilled to see a number of mountain Larches in their transition to fall colors still standing in the area. It was a beautiful sunny day and I sat and enjoyed my lunch on a boulder next to the water.
A short loop trail heads uphill from the lake to a bench which holds the even smaller Hidden Lake. Hidden Lake actually consists of two separate lakes, contrary to what the map shows as one. The lower lake is very small and really more of a pond especially due to the dry year which is evident in the high water-line on the rocks. There were even more yellowish-green larches up here and I have to say I love these small rocky bodies of water because they have a lot of character.
Many of the lakes in the wilderness require much further hikes and therefore this a popular area. I got an early start and reached the lake by about 11 am, running into only one couple who had spent the night there. However on the way out, I passed no less than 26 people, something I’ve only experienced in the well-used county park near my hometown. This may be something I’ll have to get used to living in such an outdoor-oriented town like Missoula. Fortunately, there’s thousands of miles of trails to explore within a short drive of town and many hundreds of lakes without trails which are sure to include solitude.