On July 21, 2010, fourteen middle-aged women and one fearless man hiked to a place called Headquarters Pass, one of the places to enter the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I have a real yen to go into the wilderness, but so far I just skirt around the boundaries.
We weren’t serious backpackers but several were serious about yoga. Half way up to the 7,000 ft pass we came to a pleasant pond in a meadow, got out the yoga mats and stretched out the kinks. It was the first time our male member had done yoga and he did quite well.
The pass is known for its mountain goats. Two of them wandered out to get a closer look at us. They are born models and posed for all the photographers.
I was fascinated by the fossils in the limestone--snails, corals, worm burrows, clam shells, and mysterious tiny tubes. Over 200 million years ago, these creatures thrived in a tropical sea at the Equator and now they are pushing toward the sky to define a chilly wilderness just west of Choteau, Montana.
The flowers were rampant. I found three that were new to me. The Mountain Ladys-slipper is an orchid with bright white, ballerina slippers and swirled brown laces to wrap around the lady’s ankle. A penstemon mat of leaves was loaded with large lavender flowers. The Pleated Gentians were just opening and the most beautiful blue I could imagine.
There is one thing about Headquarters Pass that would make it worthwhile to climb even if it were the only feature. Midway in the climb, a cascade of water plummets over a 400 foot wall of limestone. It does not come down in one stream but separates into at least a hundred rivulets and ribbons—each one vying for its fifteen seconds of fame.