A few days ago Sandy asked me if I’d like to lead the FSPW hike up “Practice” Mountain. I looked at him confused, until he explained that the original leader was unable to lead the hike due to family illness and that he had been planning to go to Missoula this weekend. Since I had just hiked “Practice” Mountain with Sandy and the students from Carden Academy last week, he assumed that I would be able to lead a group of adults up the mountain. Now if you’re wondering why “Practice” Mountain is placed in quotations, its because the mountain is really called Fatman Mountain and Sandy says he uses it to practice hiking, thus calling it “Practice” Mountain. Apparently it’s named Fatman Mountain because its supposed to look like a fat man lying on his back. I’m not sure I quite see the resemblance but okay.
So there I was, meeting a group of 7 adults at the junction of Blue Creek Road and Highway 200 in Montana on Saturday morning. As everyone got out of their cars to greet one another and to sign the necessary papers, I quickly realized that the group that I was supposed to be “leading” were all a few years my senior. They all seemed perfectly willing to trust me however as we loaded back into the vehicles to drive to the trailhead, even after I explained that I wasn’t completely familiar with the route.
The first part of the hike is fairly easy, you follow an old logging road around the eastern side of the mountain. We hiked a little spur around the mountain for a great view of Sawtooth Mountain and then headed back to the turn-off to go up the mountain. When I had followed Sandy a week ago on this hike I admit that I was more interested in examining the trees around me and talking to the parents of the Carden students, then I was paying attention to where we were going. There isn’t a trail that goes up this side of Fatman, Sandy just follows the elk trails. Well Sandy is much more familiar with Fatman Mountain than I am and after wandering around on a few elk trails we ended up back on the old logging road. At this point I decided that it was probably better for everyone if we just hiked up the old logging roads to the top instead of trying to scramble up the north side. Amazingly no-one seemed to have lost faith in me yet and we headed up the mountain.
As we climbed, the clouds began to clear and the day turned out to be beautiful! Once again I was amazed that a group of people who did not previously know one another could find so much to talk about. We discussed a number of things, ranging from the types of scat we were passing, to how to teach math. It was amazing to listen to all of the different backgrounds and hear all of the stories. We reached the point where we were supposed to turn off the logging road and start bush-wacking up the mountain (I was pretty sure) and my group of hikers faithfully followed me once again into the brush. I used the trick I had incorporated on Star Peak, when in doubt, keep heading up. Then, through the brush I saw the rocky mound that I knew was the top, we had made it! Yes, success! Never had I been so happy to see the top of a mountain!
We enjoyed our lunch, the company, and the view from the belly of Fatman Mountain and then headed back down. As we hiked back down, the rain clouds started to threaten but we made it to the bottom just in time. Spirits were high with the feeling of accomplishment as we waved goodbye to our fellow hikers and went our separate ways. I headed back to my house, feeling satisfied and a little bit relieved. We had made it!