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.
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 →
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 →