Hearst Lake

Jackson

I ❤️ GYE
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May 31, 2015
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October 16, 2021

Jessica and I spent a weekend in Anaconda back in mid-October so she could attend a yoga retreat at a nearby hot springs resort and so I could go hiking while she was there. We had been to Anaconda a few times in the past but had never gotten out to the mountains nearby.

She had to get on to her stuff fairly early in the morning, so we got breakfast before sunrise and she dropped me off at the trailhead, which was right at the edge of town. It was a little below freezing that morning and made for a nice chilly start.

The sun was rising within minutes of me starting.

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Sunlight starting to hit the high peaks.

I encountered one guy out for a walk on the lower section of the trail. Wasn't sure how many people I was going to see, but I imagined it wouldn't be many.

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The trail got snowier as I got higher up. Hearst Lake supplies the town's water, so the trail is actually a road that's just closed to vehicles, aside from ones on city business. There also is a prohibition on overnight camping at the lake and along the trail, which I found slightly surprising but very understandable.

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Looking back as I climbed up the path.

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Higher up, more in the shade.

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Getting closer. The trail/road stays in a very thick forest almost the entire time. Must have been a huge effort to clear all the trees to build the road.

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A lower "lake." I think it's much higher in earlier months.

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Some sort of formerly functional water-supply-related building near the lake.

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Looking down at the edge of the brick building.

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Back on the road.

I spooked an older man up right by the lake. He had a big, fully loaded 60-70L pack on, so I believe he probably spent the night up there. He didn't hear me coming around the corner and was surprised to see me. I think he didn't expect to run into anyone up there. We exchanged greetings, he asked where I was visiting from, and then he continued down the trail. He was the only other person I saw while I was on the trail.

I am still a little mystified by that guy because on my way back down, while I was still within maybe 1-1.5 miles of the reservoir, I was following his footsteps in the snow that were also headed down. However, at a certain point, I lost his footsteps, and I never passed him. I'm not aware of any other intersecting trails that high up, so I have no idea where he would have gone. My best theory is that he had just stepped back into the forest to relieve himself or something. However, that means he would not have walked very far in the hour or so that had passed between when I saw him and when I lost his tracks... I suppose it's possible given his age and heavy pack, plus the snow. Anyway, back to the main event.

I made it to the lake.

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Crossing over the dam.

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I enjoyed seeing the light illuminate the mountains.

I walked around the northern side of the lake and had a snack.

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I head back the way I came but stayed on the other side of the dam.

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Old rail cart.

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Views through a cleared section of trees.

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Looking into the water intake. Deeper than it appears in the photo. Felt very sketchy leaning over to look down into it.

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Big old piece of pipe.

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Headed back down.

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Nice fall day.

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Some aspens still in the process of changing.

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Almost back to town.

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Serious beaver action on the lower stretches of the creek.

Because Jessica was going to be at her yoga thing all day, I had planned to just walk all the way back to our AirBnb. It added an extra 2.5 miles, but I was excited to do an almost entirely human-powered trip.

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I took a final break at the ball park.

The rest of the walk was uneventful. Great half-day outing, and long enough to give me a nice kick in the butt. Anaconda is a great place.
 

Jackson

I ❤️ GYE
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Joined
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Come on up! We'll be learning at the same time though because this is the only time I've been!
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
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3,422
Ive got a interesting route thru there........
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
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Have to look for it..... Probly something easy....... Maybe not
 
Last edited:

John Goering

Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
474
I don't think Anaconda uses that source for the current municipal water supply. It is all now from wells. You should exercise a bit of caution in that vicinity. A lot of the area still has very high soil arsenic concentrations along with a really unhealthy dose of heavy metals. I spent about a decade around there sampling soils.
 

Jackson

I ❤️ GYE
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Joined
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I don't think Anaconda uses that source for the current municipal water supply. It is all now from wells. You should exercise a bit of caution in that vicinity. A lot of the area still has very high soil arsenic concentrations along with a really unhealthy dose of heavy metals. I spent about a decade around there sampling soils.
Great comment. Thank you! My comments about water supply were just based on the signs posted at the gate about a mile or two in stating the same. It's good to know they're on wells, especially in light of the information on the soil contamination. Would be nice if they also had a warning about arsenic somewhere along the trail... Glad I didn't decide to filter water from the lake.

Were you employed by the state at that time? Very interesting to hear about that.
 

Wyatt Carson

Desert Vagabond
Joined
Apr 15, 2015
Messages
328
The scenery is gorgeous and those water buildings are interesting and kind of crazy looking out there
 

John Goering

Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
474
Great comment. Thank you! My comments about water supply were just based on the signs posted at the gate about a mile or two in stating the same. It's good to know they're on wells, especially in light of the information on the soil contamination. Would be nice if they also had a warning about arsenic somewhere along the trail... Glad I didn't decide to filter water from the lake.

Were you employed by the state at that time? Very interesting to hear about that.
I didn't mean to imply Hearst Lake its self is contaminated. I have no information about that. That said, I would be really surprised if it didn't have elevated metals/arsenic. I do not know whether or not it exceeds water quality standards. Most of the smelter plume ended up over the Deer Lodge Valley but the area all around the smelter sites (both old works and the more recent at the stack area) is heavily contaminated. Mill Creek is sort of a disaster area. There have been many millions spent on cleanup efforts but little has been done on the more "fringe" areas. A lot of the "reclamation" involved just covering the stuff up (or amending it) and revegetating it. I'm predicting they will be revisiting a lot of those areas down the road when the applied soil cover/amended soil layer acidifys and the vegetation fails. The jury is still out on that. I worked for Montana State University.
 
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