59 – Patterson Mountain

Deciding to begin at Patterson Lake and hike to the top of Patterson Mountain as we sipped our coffee and soaked up the morning sun from the deck of our Eagle Pine Chalet, at that point, I had absolutely no clue just how beautiful the wildflowers would be, or how outstanding the view from the top of the mountain would be, or that I would have western tanagers and mountain bluebirds practically posing for me – or that I would pass so closely to a four foot long snake – but that is exactly how it turned out.

Morning . . . planning the hike

Beginning near the boat launch at the lake, we walked across the road to the trailhead, and right from the start, the trail was absolutely beautiful.

Near the trailhead . . . aspens and arrow leaf balsam root

Sometimes the wildflowers, like this bitterroot, drew me off the trail. Bitterroot, the Montana state flower, was so pretty as its delicate buds and blossoms poked out from the gravel that I found myself stepping closer in order to get a better look.

Bitterroot . . . beautiful wildflowers along the trail

It was not long after spotting those first few bunches of bitterroot that we found ourselves again stepping off the trail. This time because of a snake. There it was, a four-foot long snake, shading itself under the leaves of an arrow leaf balsam root. I had encountered a rattler at the base of a sage brush some years back when on a hike through Douglas Creek Canyon, so I recognized that this was not a rattle snake. This guy was too large and had the wrong coloring – plus it wasn’t shaking a rattle on its tail. But we didn’t know what kind of snake it was. We didn’t know if it was poisonous, nor did we know what its next move might be. So off the trail we went, carefully allowing the snake plenty of room.

He’s taking a photo of the bull snake (from the other side of the trail!)

Shortly after that, we met up with hikers heading down the trail toward where we had seen the snake. They had a little dog running along with them, so we shared with them about the snake. As we described the snake to them, they assured us that it was probably just a bull snake and not poisonous. Whew!

(pic by Kent) Four foot bull snake . . . along the trail

And just like that, we continued on – and up.

(pic by Kent) . . . along the trail

The view continued to get better as we climbed higher. That’s Patterson Lake where we started our hike down there in the background.

Patterson Lake in the background . . . along the Patterson Mountain Trail

Then we started spotting birds. First a western tanager.

Western tanager . . . posing along the trail

Then a mountain bluebird!

Mountain bluebird . . . posing along the trail

Nearly to the summit of Patterson Mountain here, he’s pointing out another bluebird, or maybe it was a pair.

Nearing the summit . . . look out at that view

We made it! Here we are at the summit.

At the Patterson Mountain summit . . .

The view of the mountains was impressive up there. We easily spotted Lookout Mountain where we had hiked the day before (see Hike # 57 – Lookout Mountain). It’s behind me in this photo.

Patterson Mountain summit . . . Lookout Mountain in the background

Then, with map in hand, other peaks were identified.

Identifying mountain peaks . . . from the top of Patterson Mountain

We headed back along the same trail that had taken us to the top, then switched to a loop trail that lead us through a more forested area as we continued on down the mountain. After crossing a small creek, we came to a ladder that we climbed over as the trail continued on through a pasture.

(pic by Kent) . . . fence crossing

The Patterson Mountain Trail is part of the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA), a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to developing and promoting non-motorized, trail-based recreation in the Methow Valley that works in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to create and maintain public trails on the National Forest lands, many of which connect to well-established Association trails on private lands. To learn more about MVSTA, go here – http://www.mvsta.com/.

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After our hike, a tailgate picnic while getting the fishing hook wet seemed the perfect finish to a wonderful afternoon.

Gone fishing . . . Patterson Lake

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