Tuesday, June 16, 2009


On Sunday, Kimber and I left Missoula at 11am to hike Sleeping Woman Trail to Cha-paa-qn (formally known as Squaw Peak). What we thought would be a 25 minute drive turned into an hour and twenty minute drive, mostly because after we left I90 onto Nine Mile Road, all the little dirt roads that led to the trailhead were impossible to drive over 15 miles an hour. The absurdity of how closed in, rough, and long the drive turned out to be had both of us laughing.

Using Kimber's book on day hikes around Missoula, we knew exactly how to get to the trailhead, what to expect on the hike, and approximately how long it would take us. What the book couldn't tell us was whether we would make it to the base of the peak before bad weather caught up with us.

We soon found our hiking rhythm, with me taking the lead, as she is a bit taller than I am, and as she said herself, she tends to go too fast and would exhaust herself. I set a nice, steady pace that ensured we would both make it up the 2200 foot elevation gain and back down again.

The forest bed was a lush green, just reborn from its Winter slumber. The scent of whitebark pines and firs overloaded my senses. I recall a bee buzzing around us for most of the hike, however, I don't remember the sound of birds until we had gotten much higher in elevation, when we were actually hiking more on snow banks than not. I've decided that dry ground is best for hiking, as the snow was melting a bit and thus much more slippery than I had expected, making the hike a bit precarious at times.

We almost made it to the base of the peak (making it to within 1/4 of a mile). The weather did not cooperate...or at least it got an attitude for a bit, causing Kimber concern, to which I urged her on for a couple of minutes, until a large boom of thunder brought me back to reality. The weather can change so fast in the mountains, and I didn't feel like running down what took us 1 hour and 40 minutes to climb up.

The hike was a great experience. Kimber and I are both hoping to hike every weekend, and with the book of hikes close to Missoula, we can easily fill 3 summers and never have a repeat.


Frank Wetzel said...

I always wanted to do that trip and never got around to it. If you havent ventured into the bitteroot already I highly recommend it. St. Mary's Peak was my first trip and a great introduction to the bitteroot. Sheafmen's drainage is my favorite. You can get a hiking the bitteroot book at probably any outdoor store, but be warned 90% of the trails are gated until June 15th until around Sept-Oct. They all should be unlocked and open now. Have a good summer!

Julie said...

Thanks for the input! I think I hiked Bass Creek in April and that was nice. I'm looking forward to finding all the hidden gems around here.

Mike said...

Partly inspired by your blog, my daughter and I hiked to Cha-paa-qn yesterday. We could have used some of that rain- it was extremely hot. Plus a swarm of biting flies drove us off the summit very quickly. But still worth the trip. Did you see the pikas when you went?

Julie said...

Mike, if you are up to it, you should take your daughter to Lolo peak, or at least Carlton Ridge and then down to the lake. I'll bet here in a few weeks it will be stunning.

I have not seen any pikas on any of my hikes. Cute little buggers they are.