February 10th, 2016
Every once in a while I come upon a mountain that reminds me that it’s good to know when to fold ’em. A mountain that feels like its pushing me back down the hill with every step saying, “Not today!” Carr Mountain did that to me.
Let me first acknowledge that:
1. I was not feel great this day.
2. There was about 5 inches of fresh snow in which to sink.
3. We were on a time crunch.
I wanted to get out and do a hill that I’ve never done before, something new! Something that isn’t done by that many people, and boy did I find it.
The Carr Mountain trail forks off of the Three Ponds Trail, which can be accessed beyond the north side of Stinson Lake. The trailhead is on the left and there’s a nice sized parking lot available for hikers.
We started the hike bright eyed and bushy tailed, enjoying the sound of the snow hitting the dried up Beech tree leaves and optimistic about reaching the summit 3 miles ahead. There are many trails that originate at Three Ponds, and we had to follow the trail half a mile before reaching the Carr Mtn Trail.
The Three Ponds trail starts off with a steep little bit right out of the gate, but then evens off into a nice old logging road. Half a mile in, there is a lovely sign marking the branching off of the Carr Mtn. trail to the left of the Three Ponds trail.
The trail heads down hill through a nice little glen. What follows is a rather thrilling stream crossing of the surprisingly wide Stinson Brook, complete with an overhanging birch tree to make it look extra fairy-friendly.
There was a shelf of ice suspended above the surprisingly strong stream most likely created by the freezing, raining, freezing, thawing weather we’ve had for the last month. We could hear the water rushing underneath the delicate shelf as we tenderly tip-toed our way across the brook.
That was all fun and games, but then the trail headed up, angled to the slope through a rather disappointing patch of forest. Sometimes a trail just DOESN’T strike you. Sometimes it’s just not enjoyable. The up was relentless, and Mom and I were not feeling so hot.
We endured, however, and eventually broke out into a very lovely sub-alpine forest that was much more enjoyable.
Our hike ended shortly after that, however, because at already three miles and 2.5 hours in, we still had 500 feet in a half mile to do, and only 1.5 hours left total. We ended up turning around, so our hike looked like this:
Coming down through the fresh snow was lovely, of course; although my joy was slightly dampened by the RAIN that started falling. The most exciting part of this hike was our discovery of extremely significant animal sign! Take a look:
There were dozens of trees stripped like this! In Montana that’s usually a bear sign, but I figured that is might also be an ungulate of some sort, needing to eat the inner bark of the trees during the late winter hunger? It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen all winter!
Despite the wet weather, the physical challenges, and the time pressures, we still ended the hike with happy faces, content to say, “Maybe next time!”