Today, we decided to play hookie from work and take our oldest daughter hiking in the Jewel Basin. Our plan was to summit Mt. Aeneas and then loop down into the Picnic Lakes area for a quick dip and an afternoon snack lakeside. We've been in the middle of a brutal heat wave so we tried our best to get an early start. But alas, despite our best efforts, we did not arrive at the trail head until 10:30 AM -so our 10 mile round trip hike was destined to be a hot, hot, hot affair. So with lots of water in our packs and a good attitude we began our ascent.
The Jewel Basin is truly one of Montana's best kept secrets. Located just to the west of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, it is an amazing expanse of stunning alpine lakes and summits set aside by the National Forest Service for hiking and fishing (no motors or roads...) The Jewel is a fragile alpine ecosystem that is home to mountain goats, grizzly bears, elk and moose. For us in Whitefish, Montana it is just a quick 25 mile drive southeast.
Our hike was a steep, winding trek in 98 degree heat and the three of us were pretty well soaked with sweat when we arrived at the summit of Mt. Aeneas. But we were blessed to find it a bit cooler at the summit and astonished to see even a few deep patches of snow still resisting the summer heat. It is a curious thing to hike in snow when the temperature is in the 90s. As we began our descent of the mountain and headed our way to Picnic Lake, we discovered a small herd of mountain goats (with a few adorable babies...) frolicking in the snow.