The Lookout: A Snowshoe Trip to an Abandoned Fire Tower

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

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/

Advertisements

Skiing to Hogan Cabin

Skiing to Hogan Cabin
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Montana
December 24-26, 2015

Hogan Cabin.jpg

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:

http://www.trailgroove.com/blogs/entry/63-skiing-to-hogan-cabin-beaverhead-deerlodge-national-forest/

Backcountry hot springs, Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

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

23493933525_e8e6c23420_b.jpg

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

Chief Joseph and Gibbons Pass Area

Chief Joseph and Gibbons Pass Area (Cross-country skiing)
Bitterroot and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests
February 14-16, 2015
[This trip report was published in the March 2015 newsletter of the Bitterroot Cross-country Ski Club: http://bitterrootxcskiclub.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/March-2015-Newsletter.pdf ]

Pack and skis

Known for its classic cross-country ski trails and charming warming hut, the Chief Joseph Pass area is also an ideal destination for multi-day cross-country ski tours. After looking at maps and getting advice from people familiar with the area, I decided to attempt an ambitious loop using a combination of the groomed and ungroomed roads and trails. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-February I skied out Broadway with my winter backpacking gear, food for three days and a camera on my hip. Continue reading

May Creek Trail

May Creek Trail (cross-country skiing)
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
January 17-18, 2015

Beauty and Pleasure. Indifference and Power. Nature seems to have the inimitable ability to demonstrate these concepts in their most pure form; in their essence. While I’d dipped my toe into this notion on previous trips over the years, I experienced complete submersion on this particular cross-country skiing trip in the mountains of Montana. I can speculate on reasons why, but an accurate definition or explanation is beyond my combined abilities of observation and expression. Maybe next time. Maybe never. No harm in the pursuit. Ski along . . .

Mill Creek Canyon

Mill Creek Canyon Trail
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Bitterroot National Forest
January 10-11, 2015

Another weekend, another canyon. I had ambitious plans to hike five miles up Mill Canyon on the Mill Creek Trail, then connect with the trail leading to Hauf Lake, which is described in a guidebook as being “a brutally steep trail 2.0 mile long trail that is better suited for mountain goats than people”, and camp at the lake. I didn’t end up making it Hauf Lake, but my consolation prize was spending my first night in the 1.3 million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Head down the trail . . .

Blodgett Canyon

Blodgett Creek Trail
Bitterroot National Forest
January 3-4, 2015

Shortly before noon on the first Saturday of the new year I found myself at the trailhead for Blodgett Creek Trail. Unlike my last trip, I wasn’t skiing in to a luxuriously rustic cabin for the night. Instead, I was hiking into the mouth of a canyon that stretched over a dozen miles to the Continental Divide. This would be my first time camping in such a large amount of snow, so I came prepared. Snowshoes strapped to the pack, snow shovel stowed inside, extra-thick top and bottom wool layers for camp in addition to my usual mid-weight wool baselayer, thin fleece pull-over, hooded down jacket, liquid-fuel stove and a back-up canister stove, water filter and extra fuel to melt snow . . . you get the picture. So much for “lightweight”. Continue reading