My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Holland Falls Hike

Be warned - this is a longish blog.  But I couldn't stop myself from adding more and more pictures and text. . Grab your coffee first.

Last Thursday, I woke up all ready to go hike to Holland Falls, but it was raining and we had a high probability of rain throughout the day.  So I stayed home and ended up doing more volunteer work, including closing down the Auto Tour. The volunteer work consisted of designing and doing some of the writing for a brochure that we needed to have done several days ago.  It took up a lot of my rest time but didn't interfere with my play time.

Friday was still going to be cloudy and rainy, but I'd started to discover that the rain forecast here is always much worse than the the actual rain.  So I packed up my lunch,  raincoat and my Wildfire, in case I had to sit out a shower, and traveled to the next mountain range over.  This is probably thirty miles as the crow flies, but not being a crow, I had to drive south, then east and then north to get to an almost straight east destination. 

The directions were easy to follow and I enjoyed the trip.  As I approached the town of Seeley Lake, I realized I was going to pass the street that led to a larch grove that contains the continent's largest larch tree. So I took a little detour and found a pretty nice Lolo National Forest campground, along the Clearwater River.

The parking lot for the larch grove was just past the bridge over the Clearwater River. It has a circular trail with interpretative signs. This was a place the native people gathered and they managed it with fire to keep the larch trees from being overgrown by Douglass firs. Recently the Forest Service did another logging and burn to restore the area to it's historical appearance. 

The largest larch tree was on a side path leading into the center of the grove. It was so big, I had to take two pictures to show the top and bottom.  Notice the size of the other larch trees around this one. It appeared to be many times thicker than the surrounding trees and at least a fourth to a third taller.

This is all I could get of Gus's base.  Notice how skinny the surrounding trees look.

As much of the top as I could get in one picture.  I probably missed the middle third to half of the tree
This tree, believed to be 1000 years old,  is called Gus. He has a wonderful presence and a very expressive trunk.  And he definitely has character. He stands 164 feet high, down from 174 feet before his top died. His circumference is 21 feet, 11 inches. The signage says it takes twenty children to hold hands and circle him.

After a short visit with Gus and his progeny, some of which are probably about 600 years old, I returned to Highway 83 and continued north.  But only a few miles further, I had to pull of  to see what the numerous white flowers were that had not been blooming the first time I traveled this road. 

The forest floor was covered in  blooming beargrass.

Beargrass Blooms

 A few miles north of Seeley Lake, I saw the turn to the Holland Lake Recreation area.  I stopped to explore the lakeside campgrounds and the day use area, before reaching the trail head. From the vantage point of the bridge at the top of the lake, I saw a tiny, curving white line that appeared  from and then disappeared back into the trees. This was Holland Falls, my destination. But I still had to drive over a mile before starting my hike to it.

The trail to Holland Falls was one of several that could be reached from this parking lot.  I think I had to walk a fourth of a mile to get on that trail and then another mile and a half to reach the falls.  The trail started out flat and then had a few undulations before I reached the lake side. The day was cloudy with off and on misty rain, but not to the point of needing a raincoat. Mine was the only car in the parking lot and I had the trail and the day all to myself. I enjoyed the misty light on the lake and plants.

Trail near the start

This red squirrel insisted on posing for me
I enjoyed watching the raindrop patterns on the lake

Several ravens were having a confab
I was surprised to see this Mariposa lily growing on the lake bank under Douglass firs
The path started to climb amid plants that were growing every more lushly.  At a few points, I could only see a foot-wide path and was pushing through the shrubs.  Soon I was hearing the sound of falling water.  Then I saw a bridge over a small stream that was falling down the mountain in a series of waterfalls.  Not far past that, I walked over an even smaller stream that was racing down the hill. The path continued to climb and I came out of the lush area to one that was more rocky and open. 

Climbing but still pretty easy

Thimbleberries were making up part of the lush growth
The largest of the two small streams.
Then I got to a steep part of the trail that went through a rock fall.  But it was still pretty easy to walk, even though I was glad I was using my walking poles. And I was hearing a huge roar, so knew my destination was near. And my views now stretch for miles across the lake to the Mission Mountains.

View from near the top of the trail.  Mountains are in sunlight while the lake is under clouds
The falls were fantastic.  The overlook was probably about a third from the bottom of the falls.  I think they were probably a couple of football fields long.  They ended at least another couple of football fields from the lake.  I was still at least a hundred feet from the falls but occasionally felt some of the mist blowing off them. I stayed long enough and took so many pictures that I felt almost immersed in the falls.

Long view of the falls from the overlook

Close view of the top of the falls
A closer view

My favorite picture - the falls fill the whole background, strike the rocks and then pour out the lower left

The falls continued below me
 After spending about twenty minutes at the falls, I turned around and made my way back.  I was amazed at how much time I'd spent taking pictures. It only took me about forty minutes to get back after it had taken about one and a half hours to get up to the falls. I did stop twice to take pictures.  Once of a fabulous area, the size of a large house that was full of lupines and red Indian paint brush. The other time was when I met what must have been a whole camp group of children when I was over half way down.

Nature's garden
The only hikers I saw

Another wonderful exploration day.  And  had a visit to a family of new friends to look forward to  on Saturday.  I had another wonderful day of visiting and hiking with Zoey and her girls.  That will have to wait for the next blog.