With the perfect weather holding, and the corn skiing in perfect shape, Ben and I pulled out of the near neighborhood and made tracks for just this side of the Canadian border. Heading up the North Fork of the Flathead River takes the traveler into a very wild landscape, thick old forests, vast burns, towering peaks and azure colored lakes.
We drove to Bowman Lake after checking in at the Polebridge Mercantile where we were warmly greeted by the folks who had just recently reopened this classic one-stop. The winds were light and to the east and after loading the canoe with all our gear we shoved off taking the north shore on our initial approach to the Continental Divide. Rainbow Peak dominates the front country views in this part of Montana and we could not help but admire the ski runs that descend crisply from the summit in three separate lines plumb through a cliff band to the saddle and beyond into the basin and out of sight.
It was easy to wake up at five the next morning as the prospect of finally completing this sought after ski descent was transforming me yet again into who I really want to be. We were off by 6:30 with a 7-mile hike to Brown's Pass and the toe of the slope leading to Chapman Peak. The bridges across the creeks had been rebuilt after last year's blowouts and we enjoyed the fine grade and easy approach of a National Park trail. From camp to the pass there were probably only about ten pieces of deadfall across the trail. When we peered off into the forest we were surely glad that we were not bushwhacking here. Eventually we came to our first open alder swath and our second inspiring views of the morning as we looked up canyon to the tremendous falls dropping from Hole-In-The-Wall. Surrounded by high and rugged peaks and with a corner of Chapman showing we made good time with only bear and wolf tracks for company.