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.
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 →
[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 →
Kidney Lake Bitterroot National Forest, Montana June 26-28, 2015
A simple description of a pleasant weekend: trail, fainter trail, lake, peak. Reverse. I’ll flesh that description out somewhat in this trip report, but will avoid waxing too poetic about the two-night trip my friend Chris and I took to a subalpine lake in the Bitterroot Mountains on an unseasonably warm weekend at the end of June. Continue reading →
Canyon Creek Trail Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Bitterroot National Forest, Montana June 19-20, 2015
Perhaps more so than any other trail along the west side of the Bitterroots, the route up Canyon Creek has a reputation as a brutally steep and unforgiving footpath. My experience on an early summer overnight trip verified that this reputation was well-deserved. However, the rewards were more than proportionate to the effort required. Rushing waterfalls, vibrant wildflowers, snowcapped mountains, serene lakes — quintessential Rocky Mountain scenery — made this hike one of the most charming, but also one of the most difficult, that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in the the Bitterroot Mountains. Continue reading →
East Fork Bitterroot River Trail Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Bitterroot National Forest, Montana June 5-7, 2015
As much as I would like to write a lengthy and reflective trip report about this two-night trip into the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, I’m going to stick to a “just the facts” approach this time around. With another trip coming up this weekend (June 19-20), and likely another trip the following weekend, I risk falling behind on documenting my backpacking trips if I neglect putting fingers to keyboard. I suppose even the most cursory narrative is better than no narrative at all. And after the lengthy Big Creek Lakes Trail to Unnamed Lakes trip report it might be a nice change of pace to maintain a more focused approach to writing about backpacking rather than exploring mental side-trails every few sentences.Continue reading →
Big Creek Lakes Trail to Unnamed Lake Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Bitterroot National Forest, Montana May 21-24, 2015
As a backpacker, few things are as gratifying as when a trip that looks good on paper exceeds expectations to such a degree that it barely resembles the trip you planned. The type of trip where for days afterward your soul glows with the deep, slowly dissipating pleasure of the experience before it fades and becomes internalized and eternalized in memory. The type of trip where you laugh out loud at how woefully unable we are to describe the overwhelming beauty of Nature; its subtlety and majesty. They type of trip that happens with a level of frequency somewhere between rare and seldom, perhaps just often enough to ensure it is never taken for granted. I was fortunate enough to have this type of trip in late May on a three-night solo backpacking trek to an unnamed lake in the Bitterroot Mountains. Continue reading →
Blodgett Canyon Trail Bitterroot National Forest, Montana May 1-2, 2015
A mere two weeks after my previous backpacking trip in Blodgett Canyon, I found myself returning for an overnight trip with my good friend John. Time constraints prevented us from venturing past the five-mile mark up the canyon, but an excellent campsite prevented us from feeling anything remotely close to disappointment. Situated out of sight of the trail, we pitched our tents in a grove of pine trees amidst scattered beds of glacier lilies. Not only was nature’s thermometer set to “Paradise” for our trip, but the wildflowers were near peak, a nearby waterfall rushed with snowmelt, and we caught glimpses of a moose on the trail and elk on the edge of our camp. Not a bad introduction to Montana backpacking for John, especially considering that step-for-step the first five miles of the Blodgett Canyon Trail are some of the most stunning and charming of any path that I’ve had the pleasure of treading.