©Bert Gildart: Whenever we return from a long trip, after settling back in our home, one of the first things we want to do is make the short drive to the Jewel Hiking Area. The lure is overwhelming as we can see it from our picture window, to include Mount Aeneas, the area’s highest peak. Hiking the Jewel also recalls the wonderful time Janie and I had creating our book Exploring Glacier National Park and the Flathead Valley, published by Falcon Press. For all these reasons we decided to take our book and climb to the top of Mount Aeneas.
Though distance-wise it is only about 10 miles to the Forest Service parking lot, known as Camp Misery, getting to the hiking area requires about 30 minutes, as the last stretch of the drive is over a bumpy logging road. But the views are spectacular.
The hiking area was created in the early 1950s, and as we hiked, we marked out sections from our book that either established background information or established a setting:
“The Jewel” straddles the Swan Range within sight of Flathead Lake to the south, Hungry Horse Reservoir to the east and Glacier to the north. It’s a hiker’s and backpacker’s dream and has more than fulfilled the promise which the Forest Service envisioned…”
That entry established a setting while the next paragraphs tell of features we commonly encountered:
“The area is characterized by glacier-carved peaks and cirques, which surround valleys dotted with 37 alpine lakes. Fifty miles of hiking trails connect most of the lakes, and aside from getting from the valley floor to the basin rim, most of the hiking is not too strenuous.”
HAVEN FOR WILDLIFE
“Mountain goats are commonly seen and inhabit the region along with elk, mule deer and a few whitetail deer. Black bear and grizzly and an occasional mountain lion are also known to live in the Basin. As well, you may see upland game birds like the Franklin grouse, blue grouse and the ruffed grouse.
Furbearing mammals in the region include pine marten, weasel, and coyote. There is also a sparse population of lynx, mink, beaver, and badger…”
Though we generally see mountain goats most every time we venture into the Jewel, such was not the case this past weekend. However, we did see grouse. About midway along the hike we came to a saddle and the final leg of our hike to 7,528 foot-high Mount Aeneas. And so a description:
MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY
“Named for an Iroquois Indian, Big Knife arrived in the Flathead valley sometime in the 1870’s and was adopted by the Kootenai people. Somewhere along the way, his was changed to Aeneas, borrowed from the Greek and Roman, meaning ‘Man Without a Country’.
Also included in our book were quotes from one of the area’s noted hikers, who is also a good friend.
“Elaine Synder, a volunteer hike leader with the Montana Wilderness Association, says that from the top you can see in several directions and that your sweep includes vistas of early Indian settlements, some thousands of years old. “There are places,” says Synder, “that were used in the last century by Native Americans who camped, hunted, and gathered in the valley.” Synder says that there is good evidence that the peak itself was an important perspective point for early day hunters, just as it often is for us.
Snyder also says that Bob Marshall once hiked the area, noting that he walked through what is now the Bob Marshall Wilderness country in late August, 1928. She also said that according to his trail diary Marshall climbed to the summit of Mt. Aeneas at 11:10 am, stayed for “for seven minutes” and then headed on, covering 30 miles, an impressive distance in the Swan Mountain range.
This past weekend we reached the top of Aeneas in about two hours. Several other people were there and we all pointed to familiar features.
We could see our house and the Flathead River behind it. In the other direction, we could see Great Northern Mountain and I was reminded that when my son was 15, we climbed to the top. Great Northern is the huge tan-colored hump on the far left of the last picture included here. Our trip coincided with the southern migration of many falcons and hawks, and their numbers had attracted a local ornithological club.
All together our outing required about six hours, but the hike accomplished our purpose in that we felt invigorated from our long drive to Alaska.
THREE YEARS AGO AT THIS TIME:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy