|The staff at Sperry Chalet (l. to r. Sinead, Jason, myself, Renee, Terri, Stephanie, Katie, Karen)|
My last morning at Sperry Chalet dawned much too soon--it was hard to believe two weeks had slipped by so quickly in these amazing surroundings, with such unique people!
The mule train arrived mid-morning right on schedule, bringing up the supplies. I recorded some of the unloading: Sinead and Katie moving the big propane tanks around the dining room to the storage room below. These young ladies were strong! The packers lugged the 30-gallon plastic trash cans with the supplies into the dining room, then picked up the trash and laundry to be taken down (my luggage too, except for my daypack) that had been packed the night before, and strapped the buckets onto the mules.
|Stephanie calms a mule while the packer unloads the propane tanks.|
|Sinead and Katie carry a propane tank to the storage room below the dining area.|
|Sinead and Katie carry a propane tank down the path.|
|Katie holding one of the mules.|
I hung around until noon, then started my trek down to Lake MacDonald, where Kevin would meet me. The trail back would be all downhill, and much easier than the hike up. I took my lunch to eat on the way down.
|Leaving Sperry Chalet|
I lingered to admire the scenery one more time and took some pictures at Sprague creek and its cirque--there were different flowers blooming now than when I'd hiked up two weeks earlier.
|Sprague Creek and waterfall.|
I stopped for lunch about one o'clock, looking up at the chalet and admiring its impressive height as I munched. Further down I noticed that there were a number of what looked like orchids with inconspicuous small flowers growing by the rill where I'd seen the Red Monkey flowers on the way up. I'm still not sure of the identification, other than it's definitely an orchid, perhaps the White Bog Orchid (Platanthera stricta)? The flowers look very insect-like.
|Lots of orchids growing by a rill beside the Sperry Trail|
|Closer look at Bog orchids (Platanthera stricta?)|
|Lichens growing on forest on trees|
|Fireweed growing by the trail|
The Fireweed was in full bloom further down, and once I entered the forest, I found many other flowers decorating its shady floor. I recognized rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyeara oblongiflora) in bloom, similar to our eastern Goodyeara pubescens except without the intricate veining on the leaves, Pipssipewa (Chimaphila umbellata), and one-sided wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) along with other familiar plants.
|Pipssipewa (Chimaphila umbellata)|
|One-sided Wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) and Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata)|
I looked for huckleberries, which should have been fruiting by now at lower altitudes, but wasn't able to spot any bushes with berries near the trail. The patch of Twin-flower (Linnaea borealis) had finished blooming, and I saw many mosses and fungi but didn't see the Coral Root Orchid seed pods I'd seen on the way up.
|Mushrooms on the forest floor.|
After Kevin picked me up, he drove to his home to unpack the buckets brought down by the mule train, where I could get the rest of my gear. It was a most interesting look at the logistics of the operation--he had a garage-size building next to his home that was used for storing the Chalet's supplies, shelves of goods, and a number of spare plastic trash cans used as the carrying buckets. He quickly sorted through the buckets brought down today and picked out my gear. I'd be flying back tomorrow on a Monday, the day Kevin hiked up to the Chalet for his weekly visit, so he wouldn't be able to see me off then.
|Kevin Warrington with me at dinner on my last night in Montana.|
We went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant in Columbia Falls I'd sampled during my first days here, the Three Forks, and we said our goodbyes there. What an amazing, unforgettable experience to have been Artist in Residence at Sperry Chalet!
|Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax), color pencil drawing, 14" x 11"|
I end my Sperry Chalet stories with these goat sketches, done very quickly one evening when Handsome goat was hanging around the rocks near the chalet.