I wrapped up my week in Montana and took one last hike before heading home for miles on our Washington trails. Since Scot was not with me, I was pretty limited in trails. It can be pretty wild and woolly here in Western Montana, and there are many things larger and more dangerous than me in the woods. I opted for a favorite family hike, one that is on the list every time we visit the lake – Ross Creek Cedars. Even though I’ve seen bears in here before (from the safety of my car), I opted to take the short nature trail in the quiet hours of the morning before people were stirring in the cabin.
Now there’s an interesting thing. I never noticed before that there was another trail access in here. In fact, there are another 7 miles of trails off the back side of the nature loop. I will have to put that on my list for next year, with company.
The Ross Creek watershed contains a small grove of some truly gargantuan Western Red Cedar trees. Cedars are a common sight on hikes in Western Washington, but they are not nearly so common in the forests of western Montana, where the trees are largely Ponderosa Pine, larch, fir, and spruce. I always was amazed that this little grove of them was here, and they have been here for a very long time. The little interpretive trail provides a comprehensive education on the lives of these trees. You will see them tiny and growing from nurse logs, and you will see them huge, hollow, blackened by lightning.
Growing up, we used to play games in here? How many people can we fit in that hollow one? How many people does it take to encircle that giant with our arms? Hide and seek, anyone? Year after year, I amazed at the sheer size of these giants.
Even so, it isn’t just about the trees. Lovely Ross Creek winds through, ending at a falls further downstream. The water flows noisily through here in the spring, and in later summer, sometimes the creek beds are dry. I see a previous walker has taken advantage of a dry summer gravel bed, leaving an offering for us to enjoy.
Footsteps are muffled on the age-old, deep duff. If you walk quietly, nature goes about its business. One family member recently discovered her first American Dipper in here. Sometimes, I hear a marmot chirping in the talus slopes that line the trail. Today, an angry wren scolds me for passing through.
Everybody finds their own inspiration here. I like the wildflowers.