Ten minutes out of town, we found the dirt road that goes up to Storm Lake. We had been there before, shortly after moving to Anaconda, Montana. The road was hard on the car, but we couldn't resist going. This time we would hike up to the tundra and stay the night. My wife Ana had never been camping above the treeline.
There were a couple cars, but nobody in sight. The lake was sparkling in the sunlight, and the mountains of the Anaconda-Pintler range rose up all around it. It was quiet and cool here at 8,000 feet. We put on our packs and started up the trail. Twenty minutes later we were past the lake, and the trail steepened.
Hiking With Guns In Montana
After an hour of zig-zagging up the mountain we met another hiker. We talked briefly, and noticed the handgun on his belt. This is common in Montana. We've seen guns on the hiking trails and in the bars, and the bank tellers don't even blink when customers walk in wearing guns - they probably have their own.
We never did ask this hiker why he had one, and didn't find out until later that there are grizzlies in the area at times, something some "experts," have denied. At least we had our freon horn to blast if we met a bear, but then maybe that would just get the bear angry.
The trees got smaller as we climbed, and ended just before Storm Lake Pass. Ana waited patiently at the pass while I ran the five minutes - which became twenty - up to the peak of Mount Tiny, about 10,000 feet high. Small, compared to some of the surrounding mountains, but it seemed almost rude to give a beautiful mountain a name like that.
Maybe it was foolish to leave Ana alone. Just three months later, two boys were attacked by a mountain lion on the hill just behind the town of Anaconda. The fourteen-year-old fired his gun to scare it off. Both boys were probably larger than my gunless wife. Fortunately, we didn't meet any cougars or bears on this hike, but Ana had other things to worry about.
Camping With Aliens In Montana
"I hear voices," she told me in the tent that night. I assured her there was nobody within ten miles of us, and then she was worried about aliens landing in the meadow. Well, it would make a good landing site. The wind threatened to shred the tent all night, sounding like the whispers or screams of ghosts - or aliens. By morning the wind relented, but it was well below freezing - time to get Ana home.
Despite the cold she hates so much, Ana couldn't help stopping to take in the view as we crossed the high meadows on our way home. Mountains, grey with rock, green with grass and flowers, and painted with white patches of snow, were everywhere. Lakes sat in valleys below, unvisited for weeks at a time. We'll be back there again, but perhaps with bear spray and alien repellant.
Forty-five miles of the Continental Divide Trail pass through the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. Other trails in the area are never heavily used. You can easily find mountains and whole valleys where you'll be the only human residents for as long as you stay.