Mill Creek / Fred Burr Creek,
Friday, May 28, 1993
Looked like serious showers as we started, but it cleared up right away. After about three miles, we crossed into the Wilderness Area.
Shortly after, we met a guy camping by himself along Mill Creek. When we talked to him he seemed glad to see us, but looked as though he was in a trance. He said he was on his way to Mill Lake and had been at this spot for a week. I guess he was eating the fish he caught because the river looked good enogh to hold lots of small trout.
We stopped for camp just after 8:00 and had freeze-dried lasanga. Also got a taste of all kinds of dinners, most were pretty good. Only had one period of rain today while resting which was nice because it was almost too warm to hike with a backpack.
Saturday, May 29, 1993
Through the valley we passed across several old avalanche chutes. Near the end of the valley the trail turned into a constant stream of snowmelt from all directions.
We bypassed Mill Lake and bushwacked our way to Heinrich Lake and then to Lockwood Lake. Each was frozen almost entirely solid, but we were able to refill our water with the coldest, best-tasting water I can remember.
Around the lakes, we found a trail with tons of switchbacks and had to create cairns for Marvo and Dave to follow. Throughout the hike these two thirty-somethings usually took up the rear (that is, until the last day when the finish was in our grasp).
The views along here are incredible, postcards never seemed so real. We snowshoed and climbed to the top of the burned-over ridge separating Mill Drainage from Fred Burr Drainage, looked over, and saw a snow-covered cliff.
I vowed to Terbo there was no way I was going down here, so we hiked up along the ridge until the snow looked passable. Later, he said he would have done it, but didn't because I was so insistent.
It was a scary hike along the incline and it didn't help that as soon as I took my first step I slid out-of-control about fifty feet. That slide could have been several thousand feet.
Finally, we found a great campsite among the exposed boulders at the edge of Fred Burr Lake at 9:00.
Sunday, May 30, 1993
Marvo played his flute as I laid comfortable in my bag. Everything seemed right with the world, the whole canyon was aglow.
We left camp at 10:30 and had a few hairy moments of descending snow-covered switchbacks into the valley. The river looks great for trout, crystal clear with a rocky/sandy bottom, 5 to 20 feet wide, and about a foot deep. It was a fairly easy hike along the bottom of the valley, but very wet.
To cross the next ridge, we climbed up along an unnamed creek to an unnamed lake. The climb took three hours and was incredibly tiring. Soon after climbing, Marvo saw four elk run away as we approached them up the burned-over incline. From this pond we climbed to the ridge of South Bear Creek Drainage.
Since the area was burned over a few years ago, the climb (we were no longer hiking) was very technical with lots of loose gravel and stones.
Terbo and Dave were ahead of me as Dave stepped on a loose rock the size of two briefcases and sent it flying past me and Rando. Marvo was directly in its path and waited until the last moment to duck to his right as it flew 30 feet through the air.
Luckily, the rock only grazed his backpack, denting his ski pole and sending him into a large boulder. He escaped with a minor scratch, but all of us were terribly shaken.
At the top, the view was beyond anything I had ever seen. In this case, the pictures will say thousands of words.
In single-file we descended the snow covered incline straight into the valley, After such an intense climb, the descent was fun, carefree and easy. The snow was hard enough were we went without snowshoes and pole-holed only occassionally making great time.
It drizzled during dinner as we camped on the small, clear stream between a host of wetlands. This was the first dry area we could find. Everyone had wet boots.
Monday, May 31, 1993
We bushwacked for three to four miles like I've never done before. It scratched the hell out of our legs and was totally exhausting.
Finally we found a trail which got progressively better and we quickly hiked downhill.
Saw a cool beaver dam - they seem to like chomping on aspen trees over anything else. Also collected some feathers which Ron thought were from a woodcock.
Terbo and I had a symbolic exchange as he gave me the map he used to guide us, and I gave him an owl feather I had picked up at Fred Burr Lake and a few of the woodcock feathers.
We had to cross the North Fork of Bear Creek across an enormous ponderosa pine and had to wade in our boots through the frigid water of the South Fork.
Got back to the truck at 9:00 and gorged ourselves at Pizza Hut. It was an even later drive for me back to Great Falls - finally got home at 3:30 a.m.