Pintler Wilderness


We were fortunate to once more as a family be able to spend a Fourth of July holiday at Georgetown Lake. For many years our children have enjoyed this trip and I have often written of the exploits into the surrounding mountains and the activities on the lake itself as well. We are grateful to our Missoula friends for letting us stay at their lake place.

Rather than write a lengthy post, I’ve decided to let the photographs and a brief film do their own work for this year’s entry. Seth and I managed to get in a little mountain biking, but unfortunately rode into a significant electrical storm, cutting things short. Lodgepole and Ponderosa swaying, we ducked for our lives into the thick trees for cover near the East Fork Reservoir as to not have our heads turned to mush from heaven’s large pelting hail pellets. “What was the message?” I thought to myself. The road on the way back was hail covered, melted and then proceeded to gush water down the mountain.

I managed a few rides solo while the kids recreated on motor craft on the lake with some of their soccer teammates and school friends. I generally skip out on the jet skis and whatnot in favor of the canoe and fishing when I’m on the lake. One day I rode up to the top of Motherlode, one of the black diamonds at Discovery, the local ski hill. One can see how the town of Philipsburg could have a lift going up to the hill. The ride was quiet and peaceful. I saw not one person, twice ascending the hill in different places. The wild flowers were abundant and I filmed some elk in one section with the phone.

I first came upon a cow with a young calf while ascending and kicked myself for not having the camera more accessible, watching both run ahead of me and into the dark nearby cover of the trees. Later, however, I heard the familiar cow chirping and quietly snuck up on a large group. This is a special occurrence and as I sat very close to the animals and watched their behavior I thought to myself how much my children would have enjoyed the scene. Clearly no one had been in the area.


Seth managed to catch a nice Rainbow Trout one day as we fished from the canoe. Down went the bobber which sported a large earthworm below. The fish in Georgetown are large with Brook Trout and small Salmon in the water body as well. I fished in the dark the night of the 5th while neighbors blasted off residual fireworks. This was an interesting experience as the explosives and light show were large and lit up section of the lake. Once it halted, I fished by the moon. The large trout fell to Caddis Flies and also Peacock Nymphs a few feet below the surface (droppers). The wind was a minor problem that night and I found myself having to do a fair amount of paddling to remain near the cabin. This was a significant problem the next day while fishing, though I was using an anchor. Disgusted with an inability to cast into the wind and more problematic an inability to control the bow, I hiked the canoe finally (after a bank nap with Wen) back around a section of the lake to the lake house. Another older fellow, fishing from a float tube, mentioned this had become a problem for him as well over the years and that Georgetown was beginning to remind him of Hebgen Lake in the Yellowstone area – too windy. He left his float tube near an old abandoned brown boathouse, disappearing back to his vehicle probably for lunch or a nap as well. There were at least two significant storms this year. I attempted to photograph the lightning as it crashed into the surrounding mountains during an evening but wound up with simply white streaks with a black background.

Erin and I drove up to Storm Lake one day to see if we could hike up to the pass above. The Storm Lake road is pretty bad in sections and I was glad my old vehicle had high clearance. Erin, on her learner’s permit, got to attempt to tackle the drive up. A fine job she did, learning how to navigate the bad sections while remaining on the single lane, quite narrow old logging road as the vehicle rocked back and forth. Fortunately no one drove down during these little sections of the climb. A good experience. Driving such roads covered with snow and ice during hunting season presents greater challenges. May as well begin to learn now. Just below the lake, being in the passenger’s seat, I noticed two moose, a mother and her calf. Erin stopped, but I was not able to get a photograph.

The photograph in the background on this journal is taken from Little Rainbow looking towards Goat Flat well above Storm Lake. Each year we’ve climbed Little Rainbow as most people prefer to stay on the trail and traverse over to Goat Flat. This year, however, I had a feeling snow would be an issue for most people and therefore we may decide to take advantage of no one being around, hiking to Goat Flat rather than Little Rainbow. We met a group of three young men hiking out (we started in the early afternoon) who said they had been to the top of Little Rainbow and the trail was ok, though we were going to “get wet.” Wen led the way. An individual with two dogs was camped in the lower area just outside of an old avalanche path. There were countess snapped trees where a slide had probably occurred during the winter or early spring. In the section there was little snow, but plenty of mosquitos. His dogs left us alone and we hiked up to Storm Pass through old snow drifts and many wild flowers. We decided to cross over on the trail to Goat Flat. This presented two problem areas where the trail was snow covered. I decided, as I did not bring along a rope, for the two of us to hike below these problem areas staying and scaling above cragged cliffs below rather than risk falling through the snow in a few bad sections. It worked out fine and we made it to the Flat as a storm hit the distant peaks. I don’t know how she did it, but she did so never complaining wearing old sneakers. There was a brief period of rain and wind, but the weather cleared and we enjoyed all of the splendid scenery that the Pintler’s have to offer. She ate a PB&J and I had my traditional can of sardines. I pointed out the Bitterroots in the distance and where the Skalkaho crosses, also the East Fork of the Bitterroot area as well explaining how the elk migrate in the fall. Heavenly country this time of year especially with no one around.

Following many photographs, we decided to hike down a scree field and then enjoyed a shallow snow slope. It was a spectacular afternoon. The Cutthroat trout were rising on Storm Lake when we arrived back to the original basin, following a brief visit with the fellow camping above. He mentioned he was from Alaska (he may have said near the Chugach area) and was basing out of the lower area below Little Rainbow’s granite face to explore the entire section. “These mosquitos are nothing compared to Alaska. I don’t even need a head net,” the hardy lad noted. One of his sled dogs was not as friendly this time ’round, protecting his master and snapping at Wen. This was understandable.


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