It’s a beautiful day just north of Seeley Lake in northwest Montana, but the clouds are getting thicker as we drive to the Morrell Falls trailhead. Picture perfect cumulus clouds with patches of blue give us hope of sun rather than rain on our hike today. Then again, the saying in Montana is if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. Heeding the warnings and the fact it is still spring in the Rockies, let’s grab the bear spray, our packs, and go!
These woods are somewhat different from home with widely spaced trees offering lots of open space under the canopy. The trail is crossed and lined with the shallow roots of Lodgepole Pines. We have to be careful not to trip along the way.
Seeing more mushrooms than flowers speaks of damp days and warming nights. Let’s hope we don’t get wet today, but I think I just felt a drop.
The violets are popping up all over this moist, wooded area they love. Those pretty faces are showing the raindrops that have started to fall. We may be getting wet, but our spirits will not be dampened. We are about half way to Morrell Falls, a 200-foot double waterfall, but today we will be seeing the thundering 90-foot lower falls. Onward!
As we come to Morrell Lake on the right, the rain has changed to hail and it is visible as ice balls hitting the lake’s surface–not to mention our heads. This won’t last long, it is getting warmer so ice in the sky melts on the ground very quickly.
On either side of the trail are beautiful Trillium with icy spots on their leaves. Lovely white flowers turn to pink then purple as they age. A single flower, with quite a showy center, is framed by three large egg-shaped leaves.
There’s the wooden bridge across Morrell Creek and the crashing water that can only be the falls is getting louder. What’s that flitting along creek?
It’s an American Dipper, also known as a Water Ouzel. A songbird who lives like a waterbird. His lovely song can be heard over the loud, swift, rocky streams they make home. Catching most of their food underwater, they “fly” underwater and walk on the bottom to overturn rocks as they search for bugs of all types and even fish eggs. Sometimes you see them swim on the surface picking up floating bugs. They are called Dippers because they bob up and down as they stand on rocks or logs midstream.
Just a little further to go, the sound of the falls is thunderous now. There it is, Morrell Falls.
We are wet–it is raining harder in addition to the mist created by the falls crashing down the rocks. Who cares? What a magnificent sight! The spring runoff has bloated the falls to its full glory. Then as the water reaches the bottom of its fall, the creek widens and the water slows to a peaceful float. What contrast. Having found a dense canopy offering some protection from the rain, let’s enjoy the noise, the moisture, and the contrasting fury and peace of this place.
Retracing our steps to return to the trailhead, we see a pond that doesn’t look familiar.
We missed our turn a little ways back, but it stopped raining and this petty pond reflects our calm surroundings. This mistaken side trip is lovely. Correcting our missteps, we approach Morrell Lake reflecting the break in the clouds and the end of the rain.
As we head back down the trail, it is warming up and our damp clothes have all but dried. What a beautiful day in the woods with a stunning reward at trail’s end.