Ross Creek Cedars, Western Montana

The mountain sheep grazing near the highway tell us that spring has arrived in Montana, but the snow still lingering in the mountains shows us how stubborn winter has been this year. It's mid-May and, despite nature's obstacles, we're eager to visit Ross Creek Cedars, a cedar grove with a nature trail that winds through the towering trees.

About three miles into the road that leads us to the parking area, the snow is too deep to pass with the car, so we leave it behind and hike the last mile to reach the grove, all the while wondering if we'll actually be able to walk the trail. Once we arrive at our destination, the blanket of melting snow covering the grove confirms our suspicions. With most of the winding trail (just under a mile long) completely concealed, save for the first hundred feet out of the parking lot, there's no way to follow the self-guided path, which means we'll just have to wander around on our own.

Men seem to always like it better that way regardless of the circumstances. It wouldn't be an adventure with out a little bit of uncertainty, right?

Isaiah's old pal, his wife, their beautiful children, and I trudge through the snow.

Although I can't do much about it now, I would like very much to be following a designated path. That fantastic sense of security you get from knowing it's impossible to get lost is priceless. Still, I suppress my anxiety and the growing feeling that Isaiah and his old pal have no idea where they're leading us or how we'll get back, and enjoy using felled trees to cross the creek, sipping the sweetest mountain spring water I've ever tasted (I need to get out in nature more, I know), and climbing into the hollows of old cedars. After an hour or so of romping around the grove, the parking lot is nowhere to be seen and I start to feel raindrops, and panic slowly setting in. How would we survive out here with no supplies? Would we freeze to death at night, soaked from the rain?

As Isaiah always says, "Have a little faith in me." I do have faith in him, but I don't really trust nature, is all. Instead of looking at Isaiah's face, as he always manages to look calm in situations like this, I look at his old pal's for any sign of concern, but I find nothing. They're like two peas in a pod, so I should have known better. The two of them make like they don't know how to get back, but their highly functioning internal compasses save the day and within ten minutes we're back at the parking lot to make our way back to the car. (It probably helped that they were actually paying attention to the landscape as we romped around, whereas I was as carefree as a child.)

Ross Creek Cedars, off state highway 56, is part of the Kootenai National Forest in western Montana. (If you want to avoid the snow, it's probably best to visit from June on.) After our cedar grove adventure, I can't help but think about the countless other treasures of these 50 United States that I have yet to explore. So much beauty lies in our National Forests, and they're only a camping trip away.

1 comment

  1. Whew! This had me nervous. I was afraid it was going to turn into a post about how you were stranded in the mountains. It looks lovely and I'm with you, a designated trail gives more security than just wandering around.


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