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Monday, June 12, 2017

Mountain Biking: New Deer Creek Road to Miller Creek Link-up

Here's my route from Strava
On Friday, the day before leaving town for two weeks, I went out for a long, slow mountain bike ride. I had the vague notion of trying to ride to the top of Miller Peak from town, but I got a late start and ended up exploring around at the very end of Deer Creek Road instead. In my exploring, I came across a sequence of rock cairns and flagging that lead me on trail to an old logging road descent into Miller Creek. It was a piece of cake to follow the route: ride Deer Creek Road to its end at a Forest Service gate; go through the gate and keep your eyes open for a rock cairn on your right, about a mile after the gate; then follow the cairns and flagging to an old, but well-constructed logging road that switchbacks to the bottom of the Little Park Creek drainage. On the way out Miller Creek, I flatted and a couple of fellows gave me a ride into town. They were saying good-bye to their family home, which they were putting on the market as their parents had both recently passed away. Not surprisingly, they had a melancholy air about them.

I am reading the Jim Harrison book "The Road Home" for book club. It's a great book. Here are a couple of things that have struck me in my reading. These are from the first narrator, an old man:

  • The sense of proportion in good and bad experience loses its appeal. Bad is bad and you let it go. Good you cherish as it wizzes by.
  • We think of life as a solid and are haunted when time tells us it's a fluid.
Also, I've been putting together a music mix of stuff I've been listening to through spring. Here it is.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Spring Skiing: Lolo Peak, Pyramid Peak, and Matt Mountain

Matt nearing the summit of Pyramid Peak.

I'm always slow to transition between seasons, resistant of both the heat in spring and the cold in fall. With these last couple of 80-ish degree warm spells, the summer season seems to be upon us, and as usual, I am finding the heat to be oppressive, but I'm getting used to it. The valleys are green; pollen is in the air and my throat is itchy; and the sunscreen is flowing. Nonetheless, I'm still keen to get up where the snow lingers. Over the past week-and-a-half, I skied Lolo Peak, Pyramid Peak, and Matt Mountain. 

Lolo was the Sunday before last, on a bluebird day, and there must have been 30 people up there. I got a late start and was in a hurry to get up and down. On the way down to the car, I hooked up with Joshua Phillips and Aaron Teesdale, and we had some good conversation.

I did Pyramid with my friend Matt Roscoe mid-last-week, and we weren't in a rush, but got an early start and were back in Missoula by 3pm. The access to Pyramid is straightforward from Pyramid Pass trail head. Matt is my age, but he has young girls and is several years behind me in his academic career. Thus he's in a different stage of life than I am. As was the case when I had little ones, Matt is happy to recreate on the margins of life, only backcountry skiing a couple of times a year. I remember feeling the same when my kids were little, finding enough fulfillment in work and family that the activities that once defined me faded into the background. And honestly, I miss those times, when the kids were young and my duties were clear. But, I'm also happy to be free again, rediscovering my old (and some new) passions!

And finally, this week, I drove up to Condon on Memorial Day evening and stayed at Ashby Kinch's cabin. We chatted, hit the hay, and then drove back down to Seeley and skied Matt Mountain on Tuesday. Matt Mountain is just north of Pryamid Peak on the Swan front, and the trail that accesses it is quite close to the Pyramid Pass trail head. It was another nice outing, with great views into the Bob and some enjoyable skiing. Also, Ashby and I have a lot to talk about, as we are in the same stage of life: our kids are roughly the same age and we started at UM the same year. All in all, it was another great day in the mountains. 
Skinning up Pyramid.

Summit views into the Bob Marshall.


Walking the west ridge. In hindsight, we would have skied over to the south ridge and to the top.

Skiing down.
Lolo Peak

Pudge on Lolo's summit.
Ashby on top of Matt Mountain with the Bob Marshall behind him. I forgot my camera, so this is the only shot I have of the day, thanks to Ashby.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spring Skiing: Saint Mary Peak, Bitterroots

Pudge on the summit, looking south.
I was telling Jen today that I feel a bit adrift. The semester was so full, and now suddenly there's much less going on. To fill days with work, I've got to be self motivated, whereas during the semester, there was always something that needed to be done, and soon.

A while back, on a bluebird day, I went and skied St. Mary Peak in the Bitterroot with Pudge. It was a beautiful day, a straightforward ski, and only took about 1/2 day. 

Then yesterday, after the snow storm dumped over a foot of snow in the mountains nearby, I went and skinned up Snowbowl after a half day of work. I made my own skin track up, and tuckered myself out, the snow was so deep and wet. 

Needless to say, I've been enjoying the heck out of the spring skiing this year. I do, indeed, love the back country ski gear and the ability to travel in the high country in such a beautiful way this time of year.
And again looking north.

And yet again looking east.

And north toward the Missions.
Pudge at the top of Snowbowl.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Butte: Jack Mountain, Chancellor's Medallion, and Mountain Biking

The family up at Montana Tech.
I got an award last weekend from Montana Tech, called the Chancellor's Medallion. Many Montana Tech graduates go on to huge success in the oil and mining (and other) industries, but the current Tech Chancellor, Don Blackketter, wanted to also award people like me, who've achieved success in higher education, so he created the Chancellor's Medallion. It was an honor to get the award. I found out after the fact that one of my old Butte High/Montana Tech/Montana State classmates, Becky Johnson was behind nominating me, which makes the award even sweeter. Thanks Becky!

I went over to Butte for the festivities Thursday afternoon. In between engagements on Friday, I went and climbed Jack Mountain outside of Basin, Montana. Jack is a P2000 (2000+ feet of prominence) summit. I'd never been in this area before, and it was cool to see it. The route to the summit followed a road and was on snow, but it was a hot day, so the snow was unconsolidated making the outing strenuous and the skiing poor. Still it was good to get out and bag another P2000 summit.  

Finally, after commencement on Saturday, and a barbecue with an old friend, who happened to be there for the graduation of his son, Jen and I rode the Beaver Ponds and Toll Mountain from the top of Pipestone Pass. Butte has such great mountain biking, and the Beaver Ponds are where I got my start mountain biking back in the early 90s, so it was nostalgic to be back. 

Jack Mountain behind me.

Pudge on the summit. It was a tough day for him.

Jack Mountain summit, looking southeast, toward Bozeman.

Jack Mountain summit, looking northeast, toward the Elkorn Range.

The climb up Toll Mountain.

The Highlands from Toll Mountain.

Happy mountain biker on cherry Butte single track.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Skiing: Sweeney Peak, Bitterroots

Pudge on Sweeney's summit looking at Lolo Peak.
In my quest to keep skiing deep into spring, this past Saturday I went and skied Sweeney Peak, while Jen did the Montana Hell Ride and Ellie was hanging with friends. It's the right time to ski Sweeney, as you can drive to the trailhead, where the snow begins. Because the trailhead is high, the elevation gain isn't too monstrous, at 3500 feet. The route to the summit follows the summer hiking trail to a saddle, at which point you head off trail and follow the east ridge to the peak. Along this ridge, there's tons of great looking skiing in the north facing bowls, but I was alone, so I skied the ridge back down, saving more interesting skiing for a day with a partner.

Selfie with Little St. Joe (left) and St. Joseph Peak (right).

And the peaks again without me blocking the view.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Skiing: Gash Point and Trapper Peak, Bitterroots

The group on the summit of Trapper on a blue bird day.
During the winter, I did most of my skiing at the resort, but since they've all closed, I've been trying to get out into the back country once a week. Two weeks ago, I went up to Gash Point, which I last visited two years ago on snowshoes. After summiting the peak, I skied mellow slopes down, saving the steeper bowls for a day with a partner. This past weekend, I joined The Rocky Mountaineers on a trip up Trapper Peak. Alden Wright has organized a spring trip up Trapper for over 15 years and turned 75 years old on the day after this year's outing.

I love getting up into the high mountains this time of year. The peaks are chock-full of snow, making them as beautiful as during any other time of year. The snow also becomes more stable in the spring, making travel easier and avalanche conditions less worrisome. And of course, it's great to be making turns well into spring.

Summit bench mark.

Laurie Stalling reaches the summit.

Ed Stalling follows soon after.
The rest of the group approaches.
Summit chillin', literally, it was cold.

Dave Patterson and I are both Professors in the Math Department.
Heading down: Piquett Mountain in the background.

Gash Point summit selfie.

And Pudge.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Trip to Butte and Fleecer Mountain

Fleecer about a mile or two in from the car.
For the past several years, I've been thinking that I need to make more of an effort to visit my mom in Butte. It's a stages of life thing: my kids are getting older (this month Alex will be 20 and Ellie 17) and need me less, while my mom is also getting older (she's now 67) and would like me to visit her more. So last weekend, I took a quick trip to Butte, skied Discovery on the way over, hung out with Mom in the evening and the next morning, and then bagged Fleecer Mountain the next day before heading home. 

Fleecer is a high prominence (2000+ feet) summit to the southwest of Butte that you can see from uptown. It sits massive to the west of I-15 about a 20 mile drive from Butte. To get to Fleecer Road, get off of I-15 at the Feeley Exit and head west toward the peak. It's a nice place to go this time of year. I was able to drive, easily, to about 6400 feet on the Fleecer Road. Then the last 3000 feet to the summit took 2.5 hours on foot, then snowshoes. There was another group on the mountain, who had snowmobiled part way up and then switched to backcountry ski gear. I regretted not bring mine, but it was a great day nonethless, and an enjoyable trip to Butte. I look forward to more of the same in the coming years.     
The Highlands to the east of Fleecer.
Looking north toward Deer Lodge and the Flint Range from the summit. Mount Haggin is on the eastern edge of the picture.
The Pintlers from Fleecer.
The Pioneers to the south from Fleecer's summit.
A panoramic video from the summit.
Words to live by hanging from Mom's bathroom wall.