By Jamie Balke Explorebigsky.com Columnist

A few weeks ago, a couple of friends and I visited Fairy Lake in the Bridger Mountains. I’d never been there before, and it was right before the first week of cold weather in October – a perfect fall day.

The drive to the lake involved quite a bit of stopping to take pictures. The further we went, the more beautiful the landscape became. While dodging and weaving up the uneven road in my friend’s sedan, we passed trucks and SUVs filled with hunters.

The parking area was dusted lightly with snow. After a quick walk to the lake, we sat down to prepare our picnic. Luckily, one of my friends had the foresight to bring a tarp, and a delicious if nontraditional assortment of fruit, cheese, bread and Doritos.

As we set up, a couple of families and their associated dogs began the short hike around the lake. Their boisterous laughter provided a peculiar background to a place that felt wild and remote.

After nibbling and gawking at the mountains around us, I immersed my hands in clear water, re-confirming that high elevation lakes are indeed frigid. The incredible green color of the lake is reason enough to visit.

Once I shook the feeling back into my hands, we started the hike around the perimeter of the lake. It ended up being less a hike and more a slow-motion photo shoot. A pattern emerged: We’d take a few steps, gape at the view, exclaim excitedly, and then shoot a slew of photos. I’m generally not a speed-hiker, but this pace was unusually slow. I was okay with it. In fact, I was delighted.

Highlights, other than the aforementioned lovely scenery, included a woodpecker spotting and my dramatic tumble over a good walking stick while actively looking for one for my friend to use.

Before departing, we took a spin around the recently renovated campground. All I could think about was how much I didn’t want to leave. If fairies did exist, I wouldn’t be surprised to find them in the Northern Bridgers.

Jamie Balke moved to Bozeman in the fall of 2009. She can generally be found behind the cover of a book, meandering down a trail or desperately trying not to kill houseplants.