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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shoulder Season

I'm not a hunter, so November is a shoulder season for me. And there's a shoulder frame of mind: more peaceful, grounded, and unhurried. In the frenetic activity of summer and its extension into October, some key things are overlooked. November is a time to take stock, reassess, recommit, replenish stores. But time is flying and there's a lot left to do, so I won't be resting long.


Missoula Valley from the trail up to Lolo Peak.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Three peaks in one week, or wringing the last vestiges of summer dry

The Rattlesnake Wilderness from Stuart Peak.
October has been an extremely busy month for me. It kicked off with a week-long visit from Ralph Smith, a math professor at North Carolina State University, followed immediately for three days by my former PhD student Aaron Luttman, who is now working as a mathematician/senior scientist for the Department of Energy on nuclear energy applications.

October has also been extremely beautiful here in Missoula. In fact, it's been as nice of a fall as I can remember, probably in part because I've been able to get into the mountains a lot; as always, I feel a sense of urgency with winter looming.

On the weekend that Ralph left and Aaron arrived, the weather in Missoula was as fine as it gets, and so I took both visitors on separate hikes: the first on Saturday, with Ralph and current long-term visitor Heikki Haario (a Finn), to Lolo Peak; and the next on Sunday with Aaron to Cha-paa-qn Peak, which sits prominently on the northwest edge of the Missoula valley. We got an early start on both days, had spectacular weather and incredible views from the top.

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries on Lolo (the alpine larch and views were stunning), but a few of Aaron's pictures from Cha-paa-qn are below, but I do have pictures from my hike with Jen up Stuart Peak in the Rattlesnake (which I can see from my office window) the next weekend, on another perfect day. Those pictures are what accompanies this blog.
fall colors with Pudge the dog

view from the top of Stuart Peak to the west.

Pudge with Mosquito and McCleod Peaks in the background, from Stuart Peak, Mission Mtns far in the distance.
on top with Jen.

Twin Lakes from Stuart Peak.
Aaron on Cha-paa-qn

Bitterroots from Chapaaqn

Missions from Chapaaqn

Glacier Peaks to the north from Chapaaqn

me on the summit

Aaron from summit.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spanish Peaks with Al Parker

Spanish Peaks at Summit Lake.
This fall has been an excellent one for getting out into the high country, albeit usually without the family in tow. The weather has been stellar, various friends have shown an interest in joining me, and the kids have erected an effective stone wall for deflecting my attempts at planning family wilderness trips (with the exception of Storm Lake -- see the blog last entry). Jen reminds me that not many share my passion for wilderness.

Al Parker is an old grad school friend of mine. He's another PhD mathematician from Montana State U, but has taken a different path than I. He's now a statistician at the Center for Biofilm Engineering at MSU. He's got a sweet gig (maybe even better than being a professor), a sweet family, and lives in an amazing place, Bozeman.

The last time Al and I got together for a backpack trip was five or six years ago when we went into the Lolo Peak area and did the Sweeney-Lolo Peaks traverse.  This year, our plan was to meet in the Pintlers, but the smoke was so bad (this was back in mid-September) that after meeting for breakfast in Butte we continued east, away from the smoke, eventually settling on the Spanish Peaks near Bozeman, a place I'd been wanting to do a trip for some time. It didn't disappoint.

We hiked nine miles or so into the incomparable Summit Lake, spent the night, and then hiked the remaining 15 miles or so the next day, with a side trip to the awesome Gallatin Peak. The scenery was grand, the weather good, the smoke not as bad as in Butte and Missoula, and the companionship as good as it gets.
Al filtering water at Summit Lake

High on the Spanish Peaks
Summit Lake and Gallatin Peak

Al with the route to the summit of Gallatin Peak in the background, day 2.

Mountain goats day 2.

Looking back the way we'd come, Gallatin Peak.

Al and Indian Ridge.

Fall colors.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Storm Lake, Pintlers

Jen and Mt. Howe.
The weather over the past month or so has been consistently dry and sunny. That makes for great fall days, if not for the persistent smoke we've been seeing here in Western Montana.

This past weekend we got away from Missoula and went camping at Storm Lake in the Pintlers, less than a two hour drive from our house. It was incredibly difficult to leave town. First, there's the work of packing for such a short trip (Jen always says, "That's why people don't do this kind of thing."), and then the far more difficult work of making it happen in the midst of teenage misery at having to leave town with the family.

Once we got there, we did a short walk toward Twin Lakes to the divide separating the two drainages and then headed off-trail to a noname lake I like to visit when I can. It is a beautiful place, the alpine larch were turning, fall was in the air, and eventually harmony prevailed. 

MORE BELOW


Alpine Larch turning

Chillin at the noname lake.

Ellie near the noname lake

Alex and Ellie (hidden)
Chillin at sunset

Little Rainbow Mtn.
In the morning, I set the alarm for 5am and went for a walk up to the top of Little Rainbow Mtn. The first hour of the hike was in the dark, and then nearing the summit, the sky lightened. I went down the other side of Little Rainbow with the intent of climbing Mt. Howe, but cut the loop short. Pudge (the dog) was having trouble in the scree with his gimpy back leg and I was dreaming of breakfast at the Seven Gables. We were back on the road by 10am, a successful stay in the bag.
Morning hike up Little Rainbow.

sunrise shot

another

Kurt and Queener Peaks ('Come climb me," they're saying) with Upper Seymore Lake. 
same shot with the moon


Rainbow and the nearly full moon.
Pudge, looking down Twin Lakes drainage.