The Lookout: A Snowshoe Trip to an Abandoned Fire Tower

Abandoned Fire Tower
Public Land
Northwest United States
December 31, 2015 – January 2, 2016
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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.

Full report here . . . www.trailgroove.com/blogs/entry/64-the-lookout-a-snowshoe-trip-to-an-abandoned-fire-tower/

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Backcountry hot springs, Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

Hike to Backcountry Hot Springs
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
Clearwater National Forest
Idaho
November 26-28, 2015

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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

Roaring Lion Creek
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
Bitterroot National Forest, Montana
October 24-25, 2016

Junction

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] Canyon, Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Montana

[Redacted] Creek Canyon
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
Montana
July 23-26, 2015

Unnamed Lake

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

Torrey Lake, Pioneer Mountains

Pioneer Mountains
Mono Creek Campground, Backpacking to Torrey Lake
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
July 17-20, 2015

Wildflowers

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 and East Camas Peak

Kidney Lake
Bitterroot National Forest, Montana
June 26-28, 2015

Lake

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 Lake and Wyant Peak

Canyon Creek Trail
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness
Bitterroot National Forest, Montana
June 19-20, 2015

Canyon Lake

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