Loving Montana Over Labor Day Weekend

Posted on Posted in Community and Culture, Hiking, Sailing

Even though the fires make for good sunsets, they’re hell on throats and positive attitudes.  The Friday night before the long holiday weekend over Labor Day found Missoula wreathed in mood-dampening smoke.  We decided to get out of dodge.

Rob, Cassidy, and I took off Saturday to the northern Mission Mountains for an overnight backpack to Mollman Lakes.  We hiked in from the  Tribal Wilderness side, which is straight up (and I do mean straight) from the valley floor.  We drove the little red truck through the forest on a sort-of road, plowing over massive rocks and around cedar branches.

After 5 miles and 3,500 feet, we arrived at Mollman pass and gazed out at the craggy Mission cliffs, and two sinuous deep blue lakes spread out before us.  Our friend, Derek, was already there, and snagged the best campsite.  Three more friends rolled in an hour later.  The dogs were in heaven. One-night backpacks are awesome: our packs were less than 20 pounds, and it felt like we flew up the trail.  We saw a small black bear on a scree field, and plenty of bear poop on the trail.  We only passed two other groups (a regular thoroughfare, compared to most wilderness hikes in Montana): one group were acquaintances, and the other was a pack of Amish boyscouts hiking out from the lakes.

A full moon rose over the rocky cliffs as we joked around a campfire in the cold air at our 7,000-foot elevation.  After three hilarious tries, and two broken ropes, we managed to hang the ~50 pounds of food for 7 people and 2 dogs.

Our friends stayed in another night to fish and laze on rocks, while Rob and I hiked out and drove north another 40 miles to Flathead Lake and our sailboat.

The wind was whipping.   We made it to the east end of Wild Horse Island in record time, docking at a friend’s cabin for a quick happy hour visit.  From the dock, we pointed to Mollman Pass, rising sharply out of the lake to the south, and told them about our night in the woods.

Waving farewell at sunset, Rob and I had a quick sail to the protected Skeeko Bay.  We nestled our anchor in a free spot near shore, counting a record 14 boats already anchored for the night.  Party weekend.  About an hour later, as we were making pasta in the cabin, another friend—our slip neighbor at Dayton Yacht Harbor—hailed us from his stand-up paddleboard.  They’d anchored next to us, and he was shuttling their dog to shore for its evening pee.  I slept well, lulled and comfortable with the gentle rock in Skeeko’s protected anchorage.

We woke up with a hike, a swim, and some knot-tying practice in the cockpit.  Around noon, we headed back to the harbor to pick up another couple of friends (and a dog, of course), heading out for an afternoon of stand-up paddling, beers, swimming, and communal laughter.

All in all, another Montana Labor Day weekend spent exerting minimal labor and receiving much love from our community, our mountains, and our favorite lake.

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