By Dave Reese
This was supposed to be an easy photo shoot.
Simply walk up Big Mountain a little ways, snap a few shots and call it good. But no. Hiking with Stormy Good can never be an easy jaunt. The long-legged 40-year-old has the boundless energy of someone 20 years younger. It's this breakneck enthusiasm for hiking that helped Good, of Whitefish, to produce her new "Day Hikes Around the Flathead" guide book. The book contains 85 easy to difficult day hikes, from the Jewel Basin, to Glacier National Park, the Whitefish Range, Mission Mountains and the Swan Mountains. The book was released last week.
Good has been working on the book since 1999, when it was released in pamphlet form. This year she doubled the number of hikes and self-published the book in full-color format with maps and brief but to-the-point, hiking descriptions. Through her work in retailing at Rocky Mountain Outfitter for the last nine years, Good recognized the need for such a book. People were constantly asking her for advice on where to take the family or the dog for a day hike.
"I was always pulling out maps and pointing at different places," Good says as we stop along the Danny On Trail on Big Mountain Tuesday night. Her dog, Skookum, a stray mixed breed that she found on the Strawberry Lake trail in the Swan Mountains, sits patiently at her side - on a leash, of course, as is the regulation on Big Mountain. The Danny On Trail, a 3.8-mile jaunt that stretches through varied terrain on Big Mountain, is one of Good's favorites and it's where she spends much of her hiking time. "It's very popular and it's so accessible," she said. A family of hikers passes us on the trail while Good is describing her reasons for publishing the book.
These people are, perhaps, the typical day hiker: a mother nursing her baby as she's walking, followed by her sons and another mom with a young boy. "Don't pet the dog, honey," one mother warns her son. Through her work at Rocky Mountain Outfitter, Good has witnessed the changing habits of hikers. People really don't backpack as much as they used to, and most hikers nowadays are interested in doing a challenging or scenic day hike rather than lugging 60 pounds of camping gear on their backs for multi-day trips. "People don't have the time for extended trips like they used to," Good said. "On a day hike, you can still get sweaty or it might rain, but you always know that at the end of the day you're going back to a nice cozy place."
Accompanying Good's 85 hiking descriptions is a brief lesson in the geology of northwest Montana. Dr. Lex Blood, a geology professor at Flathead Valley Community College, describes the geologic processes that helped form the mountain ranges of northwest Montana. Blood's text reveals how rocks in certain mountain ranges have predominant colorations. The Grinnell Snowslip and Shephard formations along the southern border of Glacier National Park, for instance, feature red-colored rock. This coloration, Blood says, indicates that the rocks were formed in a shallow-water, oxygen-rich environment, resulting in the presence of the mineral hematite (ferric oxide.) In the Swan and Salish mountain ranges you'll find a greenish-colored rock. This is due to the presence of chlorite, or mica, and was likely formed in the Precambrian era. The mineral was created in an oxygen-depleted environment, possibly due to deeper water, according to Blood.
Aside from her contagious laugh, anyone who has known Good for a long period of time knows she's an advocate of the environment. But in this book she softens her stance and promotes a multi-user profile. "Maybe it's part of getting older, but there is a place for everything," says Good, who has been involved in conservation since 1989. "We can all get along. These places need to be used, because if nobody is using them, nobody is going to be advocating for them. If nobody uses them, nobody is going to care about these lands and before we know it, they'll be developed and there won't be any places to take your dog, your kid or your horse." What ever kind of trail user they are, Good says, "I just want people to have that connection with the land." Good has personally hiked all of the trails described in her book, logging hundreds of miles on foot. One of the trails in the book is Columbia Mountain.
This is a multiple-use area near Columbia Falls, where hikers and motorcyclists co-exist to enjoy a spectacularly scenic - and difficult - trail. On a recent hike there, Good encountered about seven user groups; roughly half of them were on motorcycles, and included friends of hers from town. "These are people I know," she said. "They're nice people." One of Good's favorite places to hike is the upper Whitefish Range. This under-used area stretches from Big Mountain in the south to the Ten Lakes Scenic area on the Kootenai National Forest. Good outlines 15 hikes here, from Bluebird Basin to Krinklehorn Peak. Reading the book makes you want to go out and try each one. "The Kootenai National Forest has spent a lot of money on maintaining these trail systems, and nobody uses it," she said.
Good shied away from including many day hikes in Glacier National Park in her book, because there are many other quality guide books available for that. Plus, she says, Glacier doesn't allow dogs. If Good had to choose between hiking with her dog or carrying water, she'd likely choose her dog. Of the 85 hikes in her book, 70 allow dogs. Each hike description has an entry for dog guidelines and recommendations. As an example, the Stahl Peak Lookout trail in the Galton Range is rated as difficult, and under the category of "Dogs Okay?" Good writes: "Yes, but carry water for the doggies." In another hike description, in the entry "Dogs Okay?"
Her response is: "Howlll Yes!" A native of Great Falls, Good is a diehard outdoors person. Her other book is "Nordic Dreams," a guide to snowshoeing and Nordic ski trails in the Flathead Valley. In the preface to Good's hiking book is the phrase: "Quando a Roma vai fa come vedrai." This Italian phrase translates as: "When in Rome do as the Romans do." It could also translate as "Take a hike." "It's amazing how many people buy the book just to get their relatives out of the house for a few days," Good said, laughing. "For $17.95 it's well worth it, just for that."
The 192-page "Day Hikes Around the Flathead" is available for $17.95 at Rocky Mountain Outfitter, Snappy's Sports, Ski Mountain Sports, Lakestream Fly Shop, the Sportsman and Ski Haus, Stumptown Fly Shop, and local bookstores.