Beautiful fall color on the Birch Lake Trail

Proceed With Caution at Malfunction Junction

It was the same old ocean-like waves in the road heading up to the Jewel Basin. The rough and bumpy ride up the gravel road made the seven miles to Camp Misery seem quite long.

It was beautiful weather, so it was a no-brainer that the trailhead parking lot was full. We found a spot, grabbed our packs, and headed off down the first leg of the trail. I wanted to walk to a favorite spot and pick huckleberries but David wanted to continue hiking.


Beautiful fall color on the Birch Lake Trail

Beautiful fall color on the Birch Lake Trail


He wanted to make the steep climb to Mount Aeneas because he wanted to go up on the ridge and feel the wind. The girls and I complained as we started off in that direction.

We didn’t make it to Mount Aeneas. Even though we hike the area every summer, and have been to Mount Aeneas before, we had a malfunction at Malfunction Junction. They don’t call it that for nothing. At Malfunction Junction, you have the choice of taking 4 or 5 different trails all heading in different directions. We took the one to Mount Aeneas, or so we thought. The trail was familiar but it wasn’t until we kept descending, instead of climbing up, that we questioned where we were. We realized we were going to Birch Lake.


Descending Birch Lake Trail

Descending Birch Lake Trail


Birch Lake provided a tranquil respite under clear skies to have a snack and watch fish jump out of the water.


Birch Lake, Montana

Birch Lake, Montana


David and I have since pondered the experience of being in the mountains…it’s like a whole other world.  I suppose going to Birch Lake was meant to be.


After standing on Mount Aeneas in the Jewel Basin in 1919, the Reverend Eugene Cosgrove would give a moving sermon on “The Secret of Wilderness” in Helena, Montana. He said….

“Hidden away by the Gods, like a necklace of pearls, among the crags and fastness of the [Swan] Mountains, lies the Jewel Basin, the enchanted land of this our Montana.

Friends, I have seen the sun set on the minarets of Spain, and make splendid the dome of St. Sophia in Constantinople. I have watched the play of color upon the desert of Egypt, with the Sphinx and pyramids. I have made a trail through the hinterland of the Canadian Rockies, to where the Aurora Borealis from the polar skies make the northern night glorious

… but for kaleidoscopic lights and shadows, for octaves of tone and color, for unending variety of the moods and forms of Nature, Jewel Basin is the most charmed and charming spot in all the world.”



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