A Hike to Mollman Lakes in the Mission Mountains

July, 2002

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My nephew Brian and his friend Drew came up to visit in July, 2002. We did a float trip down the Missouri, and then decided to go backpacking in the Mission Mountains. Several years ago we went to Turquoise Lake and enjoyed the spectacular surroundings, so another trip to the same general area seemed like a good idea. I went over the map and found what looked like some obscure lakes in promising surroundings based purely on topography and gut feel. It was about eight miles in, and 2000 feet up, which seemed doable for our threesome.

Our first clue that this wasn't going to be easy was the closed gate across the road, 4+ miles before the trailhead. The lower elevations around the trailhead were closed to vehicle traffic because it was prime summer grizzly habitat. So now we had a 12 mile hike, with another 700 feet or so added. We started hiking at noon, along the hot, not very pleasant road. But at least it was speckled with bear poop. By 1:30 or we were eating lunch at the real trail head.

The first third of the trail was along the road. The middle third worked up a ridge, then down to a shelf. The lower portion contained huckleberry bushes with ripe berries! It was a good year for beargrass, but it was only as we got higher that the flowers were at their peak.

The final part involved crossing a few streams. Most of the traffic to the lakes is on horseback, so the stream crossings were a mess. We didn't have to take off our boots and wade, but some of the crossings were a bit tricky...

It was a long hike, but the scenery was great. The last picture is the final saddle we crossed to get into the lakes.

We arrived at camp about 7:30, tired but happy.

Our camp was in a field of beargrass, surrounded by spectacular mountains, with a view of one of the two large lakes.

We hung our food in a waterproof bag, out of reach of bears. However, a small critter chewed part way through one of the ropes during the night and almost brought it down.

The basin is hemmed in on all sides by rocky peaks.

The next day we decided to climb the peak to the north, as it looked the most accessible. We threaded our way up heather covered scree slopes and short rocky sections, then followed the rocky ridge.

It was windy even in camp most of the time, and especially so on the ridge. We stopped at our high point and ate lunch while enjoying a spectacular view.

Looking south, we could see the lake where we were camped. Beyond the mountains rimming the lake, Calowachan loomed even higher.

To the east, we could see across the Swan Valley to the mountains on the west edge of the Bob Marshal Wilderness Area.

To the west, we could see the Flathead Valley.

To the north, we saw more mountains.

And at our feet, we saw the many lakes sprinkled around the basin.

We returned from our climb, and crashed for short afternoon naps.

The small creeks connecting the lakes were especially pleasant.

After our naps, Drew and I went fishing.

Brian and Drew performed the ritual marshmallow roasting.

The next day we hiked out. It was a lot easier -- lighter packs, and mostly downhill. We saw some grouse with chicks along the way.