The east side of the Zirkels is fairly unknown territory to me. When Bob proposed a trail work day at Lake Katherine trailhead, I looked for other hikes in the area. Just below the Katherine trailhead runs the Helena-Grizzly track. On the topo maps, a bicycle icon is shown. Oh how I wish it were so. There was evidence of motorbike tracks but I fear I would be pushing/pulling or carrying any type of bike more than I would be riding. Jon Meyers, the Parks Range ranger, said that folk carry chainsaws with them when they ride along this trail. It parallels the wilderness boundary, so this section of our hike was fairly clear (5 trees to skirt/climb over/crawl under).
After 1.5 miles along the Helena-Grizzly, we headed west into the wilderness. There are two miners cabins and tailings from the mine about .5 mile up the trail. After 4 or so miles and 38 downed trees, we stopped for the night with a great view down the valley with the lights of Walden in the distance.
The next day we left our sleeping and cooking gear at the campsite and walked further up the valley. We hit snowline at 10.250 and turned round at 10.500. There was no sign of the trail or the lakes.
We camped the next night near the wilderness boundary and met Bob and crew for trail work the next day.
I would love to go back and hike this to the Divide and then down to Gold Lake.
We saw wild clematis, many elk prints and one eagle.