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Cowboy Heaven Consulting, LLC
6116 Walker Road
Bozeman, MT 59715


Cowboy Heaven
Sweetgrass Hills
Lubec Ridge
Many Glacier
Gallatin Crest
Lava Lake
Beartrap Canyon
Emerald & Heather Lakes

Lubec Ridge

Wildflowers and Wildlife

J.gif (896 bytes)ust south of Glacier Park and east of the Continental divide lies a beautifulBuffalolake.jpg (18347 bytes) and seldom visited hiking area. Its relatively open ridges abound in wildflowers and provide critical winter range for area wildlife, as well as providing stunning views of rugged peaks in the southeast corner of Glacier to the north and the Badger-Two Medicine area to the south and west. This is a particularly good area to go for an early spring hike, when many other areas are still snowbound. Its ridges run generally northwest to southeast, perpendicular to the prevailing southwest winds which keep them relatively snow free, a fact not lost on the many elk who graze these ridges in winter. While I have yet to find any shed antlers in this area, I’m sure many bull elk drop their antlers on these ridges. Finding a large antler nested amongst the wildflowers is a guaranteed thrill, and will provide a treasured memento of the occasion.

This area lies south of Highway 2 a few miles southwest of East Glacier. Watch for a rocky ridge that comes down to the highway 1.2 miles west of the boundary between the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and National Forest Land. While hikers can start from this ridge, less underbrush will be encountered by parking at an unmarked approach two miles above the reservation boundary. Watch for a gate with tall gateposts on each side. An abandoned road leads from this approach up to a buried natural gasWildflower1.jpg (33160 bytes) pipeline right-of-way. From this point it is easy to get to the open ridge slightly to the west (the actual Lubec Ridge). There are no established trails in this area, but navigation is easy due to the relatively open nature of the country consisting of a series of small ridges with timbered pockets between them. Cattle graze this country in the summer and trails made by them and wildlife provide routes through the timbered areas. The main Lubec ridge climbs to a high point approximately 750 vertical feet above the highway before dividing into several smaller ridges which lead southeast down to the South Fork Two Medicine River. These ridges are absolutely covered with a plethora of wildflowers, and provide great photo opportunities for close-ups of their riotous colors. The surrounding country is pretty easy on the eyes, also. One worthwhile spot to visit in this vicinity is Buffalo Lakes, a series of small but scenic potholes nestled in a basin northwest of the summit of Lubec Ridge. There are also numerous other small potholes nestled between the ridges throughout this area.

The Lubec ridge area is great for family hiking. The terrain is not particularly strenuous, and the open country makes it easy to choose aWildflower2.jpg (18361 bytes) route suitable for nearly anyone’s ability level. Even small children would be capable of hiking to Buffalo Lakes, while a round-trip to the South Fork Two Medicine and back making a loop through the whole area could make for a trip of seven or eight miles. There can be good opportunities for wildlife viewing, especially in early spring when big game is still on their winter range. The area has abundant elk, as well as mule deer, and there is always a chance of spotting a rare timber wolf or bear (black or grizzly). This is definitely bear country, but I feel the risk of a grizzly encounter is low, especially in comparison to Glacier Park. Still, normal caution should be exercised, especially in areas with limited visibility. The first time I visited this area, as is common with my exploration trips, I spent a good bit of time floundering about in the underbrush. As usual, I found the easier routes on my way back down. Anyway, I had just finished reading "Mark Of The Grizzly" by Scott McMillion, a story of twenty or so bear attacks that have occurred in the last few years in Alaska, Canada, and Montana and must admit I was more nervous than usual and relieved when I got out onto the open ridges where I could see some distance. Now that I am more familiar with the area, as I mentioned earlier, I feel the bear risk is fairly low. I would like to quote a line from McMillion’s book, though, because it sums up part of the way I feel about hiking and camping in bear country. "The thing I really like about traveling or hiking in country where you know there are grizzly bears is that your hearing improves, your eyesight improves, your sense of smell improves. You’re paying attention a lot more. You’re a lot more alive if you’re paying attention to bears." Our distant ancestors knew they weren’t at the top of the food chain, something that has become irrelevant to most people in our modern, urban world. I think it’s good for people to be reminded that there are large predators out there that can do them harm if they’re careless or stupid or just unlucky. That knowledge does heighten your awareness of your surroundings and adds immeasurably to the whole experience. It sure isn’t going to keep me out of the woods. To paraphrase a line from a movie, "all have a life, but few truly live".

See you on the trail.


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