Bunchgrass Trail, 16 August, 2020
Five hikers ventured out for what promised to be hot weather: Dave W, Jane, Brent, Kathy, and Dave P (leader). The weather was indeed hot and also a bit smoky from a distant fire that made the sky pastel blue. We started up the new and unfinished trail from the Tony Grove Guard Station Winter Parking lot past a large new sign. The trail crossed Tony Grove Creek on a bridge just below Turner Campground and followed the creek downhill. Here and several places on the trail there were serious infestations of Canada thistle and hound’s tongue. The trail crossed from Tony Grove Creek to Bunchgrass and began climbing. We stopped for refreshments and to cool off in the shade by a strong spring below Goring Pond. Considerable trail work has been done above Goring Pond to re-route the trail to make it more gradual and better for mountain bikers. We saw 6 mountain bikers, 2 hikers, 3 horsemen, and 2 e-bikers on the trail. One of the horsemen had arrows mounted next to his saddle; apparently bow season has started.
We stopped for lunch in an aspen grove before heading up to the destination ridge. The ridge is a lateral moraine from a glacier that moved down White Pine Creek more than 10,000 years ago. We had called this apple tree ridge because the old trail passed by unusual trees that looked like seedling apples. But three hikers left the trail, walked up the ridge, and found that these trees are not apples but possibly grey willows (Salix glauca).
On the way down we were surrounded by a large flock of small brown birds that would not sit still for identification. They may have been feeding on coneflower seeds, which were maturing. The meadows also had tall Senecio and larkspur plants in both flowers and seed, and many butterflies and bees. We saw one group of about 10 cows, but the meadows were still in good shape. A ducky grouse paused cooperatively in the trail before calmly clucking off through the underbrush.