Since it was a gorgeous day and it only took me approximately 2 hours to bag my first summit of the day, I figured I might as well wander up a couple more summits before heading back to the concrete jungle. I drove a few kms back along Maclean Creek trail (hwy 549) before parking near another well site belonging to Pengrowth, along yet another access road. I chose to leave the snowshoes in the truck for this hike, and proceeded up the road in very pleasantly warm sunshine. I was questioning my choice to leave the 'shoes behind as I forked off the main (dry) road and started up an icy / snowy side track leading towards the lower Jack Hill. Thankfully this side road was mainly icy and I was following tracks which held up in the cool shade. It was only as I paid more attention to the tracks that I realized a pretty big Grizzly had made them!!
[Looking back over Maclean Creek trail from where I parked. Death's Head at distant right and Sinnot Hill at distant left here. ++]
[The initial road is wide and obviously cleared of snow but there's still an alarming amount of the white stuff beside it. I wondered if I'd have to go back to my truck for the 'shoes...]
[The side trail is covered in snow and ice but thankfully there's tracks and it's still pretty frozen.]
I have to admit to pausing a few moments to consider the odds of running into the large bruin and how much I felt like a solo bear encounter on this otherwise lovely, peaceful day. Hiking solo has its perks, but also major downsides - getting mauled by a hungry bear just done hibernating being among the biggest of these. Ah well. If I turned back on every hike with fresh bear tracks I wouldn't be nearing 600 summits would I? It was one of those "suck it up and keep walking" moments, so that's what I did. After a slight height loss, I finally started up Jack's Hill on bare grass.
[Hmmm. That's a pretty large sized bear print I've been following.]
[Starting up the grassy SW end of Jack's south ridge, looking over at Mesa Butte which I ascended in February 2014.]
[Easy grassy slopes and NO SNOW!!]
[Nice front range scenery in this view west to the higher Mesa (Square) Butte.]
[Final slope to the treed summit.]
[Looking back down the south ridge with the cutline that I approached on visible at lower center.]
I thought it was interesting that the views from Jack's Hill were much better than Death's Head as I easily crested the summit and looked back. I didn't linger too long in the warm sunshine, as I knew I'd be back on snow towards the higher Jill's Hill to the north.
[Looking south (L) and west (R) including Mesa Butte at right with Death's Head to it's left. Sinnot hill somewhere left of center here. ++]
[The obvious forms of Banded and Glasgow peaks.]
[A tele-pano looking west towards peaks such as Burns, Bluerock, Cougar, Rose, Threepoint and others. ++]
I was right about the snow to Jill's Hill! Thankfully it still held my weight for the most part (even without snowshoes), at least until I found myself wallowing knee to crotch deep right at the col and for the first part up Jill's Hill. That sucked a bit, but was so short it didn't really matter. My head was still on a bit of a swivel as I followed sheep detritus up Jill's Hill - I really didn't want to run into a recent Griz kill or anything. Thankfully that didn't happen and soon I was enjoying the view from just under the high point, which I tagged and returned to the lower point for the better views.
[Wading through the suck in the valley between Jack and Jill's Hill.]
[Huge trees had blown over in this little valley - strange that none of the smaller ones seemed affected?]
[Out of the suck and heading up Jill's open and dry south ridge.]
[Decent views back down the ridge.]
[The highest point on Jill's Hill is still a bit treed - the views are better just under the summit.]
[Views down the south ridge towards Jack's Hill with Mesa (Square) Butte at right. ++]
After a nice break in warm sunshine and very little wind I decided to trek back. I descended the south ridge of Jill's Hill before taking a 90 degree turn to my right and intersecting another exploration road running through the valley to the west. (There were no obvious trails on either hill - just a very faint track in the grass that could have been from the many ungulates in the area.) I followed the network of roads back to my approach track, which I followed back to the dry road and my waiting truck. I was tempted to add a fourth summit to the day with a hike up Sinnot Hill, but the amount of snow and the warm air around me kept me from this plan.
[Arg. Back in snow on return to my approach track via a wide road. Thankfully the snow wasn't too deep.]
[Warm sun == muddy roads.]
All in all, it was a great spring day in the foothills. There's still more snow out there than I've usually experienced in later April but the fresh air and exercise hasn't changed any. I highly recommend these hikes as training days or short afternoon / evening rambles in the summer when bigger objectives might not be feasible.