Crisp and clear on the trail

After visiting family in Georgia last week and enduring humid, 90-degree heat, my return to the Flathead was welcomed with perfectly crisp air and Big Mountain’s first snowfall. Words are hard to describe this time of year; autumn in Northwest Montana wears many hats. This week alone, local growers scrambled to protect plants during the season’s first freeze, and by week’s end, we will experience idyllic temperatures back in the mid-70’s. Thoughts of fresh snow can delight us after a long summer and the simple change in color elicits nostalgia for a season’s end. The turn of seasons makes me feel more present. The wind seems more noticeable and the colors more vibrant. The golden light of post-work, magic-hour tempts us outside, and we all know that winter will slam the door on these perfect, Montana days.  Get outside soon because they will not last.

Yesterday, I seized the opportunity to explore the landscape on our favorite, community trail. This year’s Whitefish Trail Run & Half Marathon will be held October 9th. Starting at the Whitefish Bike Retreat, the half marathon route will follow the left side of the South Beaver Loop, travel counter clockwise around Woods Lake, visit Dollar and Little Beaver Lakes, and return to the retreat following the east side of the South Beaver Loop (see map and elevation profile). The 10K+ will loop around Murray Lake and the 5K+ will complete the entire South Beaver Loop. The two-mile family fun run will complete a short loop from the Bike Retreat.  Click the map to the right to see a bigger version.

Half elevation profile

The trail is in impeccable shape, and I would argue that the forest is in even better shape. In contrast to last year’s dry summer, this year seems more vibrant, more abundant, and more colorful. Larch trees have started prepping for their annual color show. The wind storm from a few weeks ago brought down over a dozen trees in Beaver Lakes and Swift Creek, and we are happy to report that devoted volunteers acted quickly to clear the trail. Adopt-A-trail crews and volunteer trail crews will tackle a few last projects at Spencer Mountain and Dollar Lake before we put the trail tools away for the year. Now is the perfect time to get out on the Whitefish Trail. The air is crisp, soil moisture has returned, and soon colors will amaze us with their consistent return.