Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mountain pass, trip on four wheelers, near Swift Dam.

We decided to take the trail behind Swift Dam Reservoir, near Dupuyer, Montana. to the top of the mountain. When we left home, we were going to the top, and then taking the same trail back down. This is an easy part of the trail where I could stop to take a picture back at my cousin and Robert coming up the trail behind me.

At this point, the trail is a road a pickup can travel.
We stopped half way up the pass to take some pictures. From here, we're looking down into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
This mountain slope looked like it had a crown on it. The end of the photo to your right, is the point where we crossed the mountain top and headed down.

The fires of 1910 came through the mountains here. In a little over one hundred years, the vegetation here is still sparse to non existent in areas where the flames swept through.
I love the swoop of the mountains in this area. So many of them have that graceful curve, dropping off to a high cliff at their front. And amazingly enough! There's still snow in the mountains! We haven't seen that in Montana for several years, snow in August!

This part of the Rocky Mountain Front is most beautiful to me.
When we were nearing the top of the mountain, this is what it looked like. The wind has swept this ridge bare of most vegetation. I imagine there are many days you could come here and the wind would sweep you off the edge of the mountain. At this point, we could see two four wheelers ahead of us-that's the little dot you see that's darker than everything else. I wanted to include this photo to give you a feeling for the vastness of this place. I'm using a 300mm lens on my camera.

This is Mount Richmond, don't you love that hole in the mountain? When I see things like this hole in a mountain, I'm awed to think of the forces that created this just so I could see it, many years later.
Here's the tip of that crown I showed you in the earlier photos. Once again, the trail dropping off the east side of the mountain is at the furthest right point of this photo.
From the top, you look down on Heart Butte. I never in my life thought I'd have a chance to get high enough to look down on Heart Butte! Elevation 6821 feet. more info about this area.
When the air is clearer, you can see the Sweet Grass Hills from this point. They're over a hundred miles from the top of this mountain. Whenever I'm riding four wheelers with someone, if they suggest turning back, I always say, but I wonder what's over this next hill? People hate coming with me for that reason...they make me promise before we go, that I won't do that to them. Where's their spirit of adventure?

Well, on this trip, there was no next hilltop! So my cousin and Robert knew they'd get to go home once we were at the top. :)

Here's looking back at the trail from the west side of the slope.

While we were at the top, we started visiting with the two men and the lady who were at the top before us, remember the dot that was four wheelers in the one photo? As we were visiting, they told us about the trail coming down the mountain. They made the comment we shouldn't take it, because they didn't think we could make it down. They continued by saying, if we did make it down, we'd probably never find our way back to Swift Dam and my cousin's house!

You might as well wave a red flag in front of a bull and see what's going to happen! The moment those words were out of that guy's mouth, I knew we would be going down the other side of the mountain. We waited until they were out of sight, and we watched where they picked up what was left of the downward trail, and we jumped off the mountain.

Here we are at the top, left to right, my cousin, me, and my Robert.

Starting off the mountain, looking back, I saw this picture and had to stop to take it. I don't have brakes on my four wheeler, so stopping on this slope wasn't easy. I didn't get near the pictures I wanted to coming down, my hands were to full with driving and keeping upright.
Here's some more of the mountain on the way down. It never looks as steep in pictures as it was in real life. :)
Here's Feather Woman peeking over the hill at us. She's a beautiful mountain. You can see a little of how steep the hill was coming down in this photo.
A close up of a portion of Heart Butte.

Here we are celebrating we made it down all in one piece! When we got back to the dam house, and were talking to my cousin's boyfriend (who didn't make the trip with us) Robert told him, "I came down the mountain with two insane women!" It was so funny.

Most of the road down the hill had been washed into deep ruts by spring runoff. So we had many places we slid through. It was hard choosing the correct path to take, for if there was a bend in the road to where you couldn't see the trail ahead, you had to guess which way the water washed the ruts, and pick the trail accordingly or you'd be on such a side hill, you'd tip over. I don't know why, but I get chosen to be the fearless leader so all the responsibility of finding the trail was on my shoulders... But I did it!

From this point, we're five miles from home, but have no idea which trail will get us there. In my years of roaming the mountains on horse back or four wheelers, I know if you head in the direction you want to go, and if you keep heading down hill from the top, you'll get there sooner or later. So after we did our little happy dance, we headed across the foothills for the house.

I'll add some photos of the remainder of our trip to the next post...
Donna Ridgway

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