Abandoned Fire Tower Public Land Northwest United States December 31, 2015 – January 2, 2016
It is one thing to conceptually understand that you have the gear to bivy at 7,500 feet in the Northern Rockies with a forecast of six degrees below zero. It is another thing entirely to find yourself in circumstances where you end up having to do exactly that. And it was in such circumstances that I found myself on the last night of 2015. Perhaps I shouldn’t have turned down that invitation to a New Year’s Eve party after all.
I left home that morning later than I would’ve liked and drove for more than five minutes but less than five hours to the trailhead. Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming . . . all within striking distance given the equation of time and space using motorized transportation. Discretion is the better part of many things in life, including keeping special places special by not indiscriminately broadcasting their details on the Internet. Hoisting my pack and stepping into snowshoes shortly after noon, I began what would be one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever had the joy of undertaking.
Skiing to Hogan Cabin Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Montana December 24-26, 2015
In typical backpacker fashion, I did my solemn duty of taking off the Thursday before a federal holiday falling on a Friday to schedule a two-night trip followed by a day of rest. A stroke of good fortune allowed me to book Christmas Eve and Christmas night at a small, rustic Forest Service rental cabin in the mountains of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest . . . read more at TrailGroove Magazine:
Hike to Backcountry Hot Springs Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Clearwater National Forest Idaho November 26-28, 2015
Soaking in a hot spring and stargazing on a winter night certainly meets the definition of sublime. When the hot spring is reached after a delightful five-mile hike and you have it all to yourself, the charm of the experience increases exponentially. When there’s just enough snow on the ground to provide a lovely contrast to the lush evergreen forest without causing the slightest inconvenience to camping or hiking, then the setting and experience approaches perfection. It should go without saying that finding myself in such a blissful place on Thanksgiving that I was indeed grateful, peaceful, and content in the utmost. Continue reading →
Roaring Lion Creek Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Bitterroot National Forest, Montana October 24-25, 2016
Autumn is a great time for both backpacking and bicycling, so rather than choose one or the other I decide to combine them on a quick overnight trip to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Cool temperatures on Saturday meant that I could enjoy a leisurely morning while waiting for the day to warm up and the short distance to the trailhead (about 10 miles) meant that a postponed departure wouldn’t have significant consequences. Even thought the daylight was dwindling, sunset wouldn’t occur until around 6:30 p.m. My only plans upon reaching the trailhead were to hike as far up Roaring Lion Creek as my energy and/or trail conditions allowed and set up camp. Continue reading →
Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Montana October 7-11, 2015
Hiking from one beautiful place to another on pleasant and well-maintained trails is a great way to spend five days. Doing so with a good friend and cooperative weather makes a great experience even better. Throw in a few synchronous strokes of good fortune and you end up with an incredibly rewarding and memorable adventure. Continue reading →
Upper Camas Lake Bitterroot National Forest Montana September 18-19, 2015
A few days before the autumn equinox I took an overnight trip to Upper Camas Lake to give myself some time to admire the scenery and bask in the transition from summer to fall. Upper Camas Lake seemed to be an ideal destination given the relatively brief window of time I had for the trip. I’d passed the lake the previous weekend while on a dayhike with some friends; we summited Ward Mountain from the southeast side (the official trail approaches from the north side) and then worked our way down to the lakes and hiked out from there. The uppermost lake was an exceedingly appealing place for a camp and with the larches just beginning to turn I knew planning a trip sooner rather than later would be advisable if I wanted a decent chance at experiencing one of the highlights of fall in the Northern Rockies.
Upper Miner Lake, Rock Island Lakes and Little Lake Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Montana September 3-6, 2015
Labor Day Weekend usually means crowded trailheads and fairweather backpackers fitting in their last trips of the year, but that’s no reason not to plan a trip and take advantage of the extra day off work. Just something to plan around. I’d chosen a somewhat remote area of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest for a three-night trip in an attempt to lose some of the crowds, but I think the forecast did most of the work in ensuring me a good shot at solitude. Depending on the elevation, the forecast for Thursday to Sunday called for rain, snow, thunderstorms (or a mix of all three) and highs between 45 and 60 degrees. Lows would be dipping below freezing at the higher elevations. Not an ideal forecast by any means, but not miserable enough to completely cancel the trip. As the Scandinavian saying goes, “No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”Continue reading →
Kidney Lake Bitterroot National Forest Montana July 29-30, 2015
In the interest of making this blog as comprehensive a documentation of my backpacking trips as possible, I’m making this a brief entry of the last overnight trip Justin and I did when he was visiting Montana in July 2015.
We hiked up quickly to Kidney Lake, exchanged pleasantries with a family camped at the lakeside, walked out to the peninsula/island in the lake, set up camp, threw Frisbee, tried to stargaze but the moon was rather bright even though it was hiding behind the mountains, and went to sleep. The next day we hiked up Camas Peak, took a swim, and hiked out to the trailhead.
The next day, we got an alpine start (3:00 a.m.) to head to the Missoula airport, where we flew back to Louisville — Justin to head home and me to attend a friend’s wedding, which in addition to the matrimonial highlights and catching up with old friends, included a tour of the Willet Bourbon Distillery.
And that is the first non-backpacking photo to appear on this blog. Cheers!
[Redacted] Creek Canyon
July 23-26, 2015
Note: I decided to leave this canyon unidentified; it’s already well-documented in guidebooks and other resources and appears to receive substantial use as it is, no sense in drawing even further attention to it.
There are few things as humbling to experienced backpackers as barely making it a mile or so down the trail and finding yourself completely soaked from the knees down. Especially when the reason you are soaked was entirely avoidable. After several years of backpacking I suppose I’d become a bit complacent, or maybe I was just excited to be on another backpacking with my friend Justin; regardless of the cause I was wringing water out of my socks one mile into a six-mile hike. It was a perfect example of a few ounces of cure (i.e. rain pants) being worth a pound of cure.Continue reading →
Pioneer Mountains Mono Creek Campground, Backpacking to Torrey Lake Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest July 17-20, 2015
Experiencing a new landscape with an old friend always makes for a memorable backpacking trip. For this particular trip, the new landscape was the East Pioneer Mountains of Montana and the old friend was Justin, who I’ve known since we bussed tables in Louisville, Kentucky together over a decade ago. This would be Justin’s first trip to Montana and my first trip to the Pioneers. It would also be our first time backpacking together since a trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park taken shortly before I moved to Montana. I spent a fair amount of time planning this trip and I’d like to think the trip returned results equal to, if not greater than, the effort put into its planning.Continue reading →