33 Photos - Jun 13, 2015
Photo: The arrow marks the location of the hike featured in this album. The volcanic field (mountains) is just south of the asterisk. Each asterisk marks the location of hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com.Photo: Here is the area I explored - between Cascade and Simms. I've been on Crown Butte many times, but was curious about the 4 buttes near the center of the map - Fishback, Haystack, Birdtail, and Lionhead.Photo: I parked on a gravel road mid-way between Crown Butte and Buffalo Falls (buffalo jump). From the falls, I followed the dike to Fishback Butte and then turned west to explore the other three buttes, before completing the loop to my car (21 miles). 

The pink area is the remnants of a volcano(es) that was active 70-80 mya. The blue lines (dikes) are places where the magma caused cracks and then moved through those cracks. The buttes are locations where the magma pooled underground and hardened (laccoliths and sills). Over the last several million years the softer sedimentary rock has eroded away, exposing the intrusive (plutonic) formations.

Simplified geologic map of the Adel Mountain volcanic field. From: Stephen S. Harlan, Lawrence W. Snee, Mitchell W. Reynolds, Harald H. Mehnert, R.G. Schmidt, Steve D. Sheriff, and Anthony J. Irving.Photo: Parked on Birdtail Road - hiked to Buffalo Falls (upper right of this map), then to Fishback, Haystack, Birdtail, Lionhead, before hiking along Birdtail Road back to my car. I encountered a bear as I was starting down from Fishback Butte - more about that later.Photo: Morning light on Crown Butte - I did not hike onto Crown Butte today (took a little side trip to get this photo). Left Helena at about 4:45 am, returned home around 7 pm.Photo: Here are the four (L to R) - Fishback, Haystack, Birdtail, Lionhead (along right edge of photo)Photo: Buffalo Falls Buffalo Jump - According to the state archeologist, there are over 300 bison kill sites in Montana, and a VERY small percentage of them are jumps. Its just that the most famous kill sites are the jumps. The igneous rock that makes up the jump is an intrusive formation known as a "sill".Photo: This is where the bison would have gone over the cliff. That is a pool of water. I wanted to get out of here before it warmed up enough for the snakes to come out.Photo: View from above - The bison had a great view in the seconds before they ran over this cliff. That is Square Butte on the horizon.Photo: Another view of the jump from the south rim - you can see my shadow. There's that pool of water at base of the cliff. This was about when I realized I had forgotten my cheap sunglasses down there. I did not return for them.Photo: Buffalo Falls Buffalo Jump with Birdtail Butte in background. If I could time travel, this would be an event I would like to watch.Photo: Parting shot of the kill site with Crown Butte in background. Next up - Fishback Butte.Photo: View from Haystack Butte - I followed the ridge (igneous dike) to Fishback. All total, I ended up walking 21 miles with 4,000 feet elevation gain.Photo: View of Crown Butte from the summit of Fishback Butte. On the way down I encountered a bear.Photo: This is the bear that inspired me to climb a tree. We were about 100 feet apart when we noticed each other. It "huffed" at me to tell me it didn't appreciate my presence. When it started moving closer, I climbed the tree. This location is 11 miles south of Simms and 10 miles WNW of Cascade.Photo: Zoom shot - the closest it came was 50 feet away. I was ready for rattlesnakes (wore snake gaiters), but didn't bring someone slower than me, and forgot my bear spray as well.Photo: Shadow of me up in the dead tree - WAY up in the tree! I spent about 10 minutes up there, waiting to see what the bear was going to do. Eventually it wandered up and over ridge. - I know bears can climb tree, but I just wanted to make it work harder if was going to get me. Actually, it could have probably pushed this dead tree over.Photo: Parting shot of Fishback Butte where I encountered the bear. Glad he lost interest, because there are no trees between the buttes.Photo: Photo by Otto Tymer - Lionhead on left, Birdtail on right, Rocky Mountain Front on horizon.Photo: Looking down from Birdtail Butte - I climbed to within 20 feet of the summit. The last 20 feet were too scary. Nice view of Haystack Butte with Fishback Butte partially hidden.Photo: View of Crown Butte from near the top of BirdtailPhoto: View of Birdtail, Haystack, and Fishback from Lionhead Butte. I was able to get water from the spring that fed the water trough that those cows are gathered around. Then  that dirt road led me to Birdtail Road.Photo: Taken as I was walking back to the car - Birdtail Butte. It looks like the tail-feathers of a bird that took a nose dive into the ground.Photo: Taken from Birdtail Road as I walked toward my car. Birdtail Road used to be the stage line between Ft. Benton and Helena - I wonder if this was a stage stop.Photo: All of the buttes in the area are made of this Shonkinte porphyry - an igneous rock formed as magma cooled beneath the surface. To learn more about the geology of this area go to http://www.formontana.net/cb.html (does not open on many mobile devices).Photo: Use your keyboard to advance to the next  photo.Photo: Abandoned ranchhouse with Lionhead Butte in background - taken as I was driving SW on Birdtail Road.Photo: Now driving east on Mission Road - Remains of St. Peter's (a.k.a. Birdtail) Mission 1866-1918.Photo: I drove past Fishback Butte on my way home. My bear encounter was just below the saddle on Fishback. This photo was taken from Mission Road right across from the St. Peter's Mission.Photo: Compare to next photo - There many more trees than there were in 1900.Photo: Photo of mission taken between 1896 and 1908 - Compare to previous photo (not exactly the same vantage point).Photo: I found the cradle of Christianity! ;)Photo: Here is a photo of the buttes taken during a fall trip to nearby Crown Butte. Buffalo Falls is between here and "Fishback" - NOT "Fishtail" (I labelled it wrong!).