Loving the Larches on Goat Flats
An early change in colors made this hike into the Pintlers special
Exploring Montana, Featured
The first thing that I noticed on the September morning of our MWA hike into the Pintlers was the clear skies. With the fires raging across the Northwest this summer, it was truly a blessing to drive up into Pintlers, where snowfall a few days prior had cleared away most of the haze.
The hike, led by University of Montana Western professor Alan Weltzien and MWA Western Montana Field Director Zack Porter, began 16 miles west of Anaconda at the popular Storm Lake trailhead (8200 feet) and continued moderately for three miles up to Goat Flats. Road access to Storm Lake is rough but doable with a higher clearance vehicle.
A slight breeze on the Flats felt great and the visibility, although not perfect, was enough to keep us all in awe throug lunchtime. The sight of Upper Seymore Lake surrounded by thick green forest was remarkable. Looking out and being able to identify rows of mountain ranges all the way to the Bitteroots is a great feeling and one of the main reasons I have gotten interested in hiking.
Not to mention the Larch trees that make their southernmost stand in the Pintlars. These soft-bristled beauties shed their needles every year around October, but surprisingly, with the drier year, they had already started to turn an incredibly vibrant yellow-orange in September. We were lucky to catch this early explosion of color. They are a pretty sight but also a reminder of the dry year and its effects on our landscape.
During the hike, I had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with hikers who were happy and enthusiastic to be on the trail learning about the area and some of the work being done by MWA to “keep it wild.” It’s always nice to trek into the great outdoors, but to be accompanied by enthusiastic hikers and guides that give the landscape even more color and context is truly something to appreciate about our great state.
- Zach Schmaus, MWA intern and University of Montana Western student