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Saturday, November 30, 2013

A few more Missoula horizon summits: Blue Mountain, Jumbo, and Miller Peak

Missoula from Jumbo
It's been a dry November, so the low summits around Missoula don't have too much snow yet. You can still walk to the top of stuff that's 7000ft and below. Over the past couple of weeks, I've hiked Jumbo, Blue Mountain, and just today, Miller Peak. 
Pudge on the walk up Jumbo.

I actually had never hiked the trail that zigzags up the south face of Jumbo. It's my new favorite from-town-trail -- great views, easy walking, and not too busy.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a walk up Blue Mountain, which I had never done before. I drove up the road about 5 miles and started at the first switchback beyond the 'motor cycle trail head'. It was a nice walk, at about 3 hours and 10-12 miles. It's great to explore new areas; I've been overusing the Mount Sentinel trails.
Lookout on top of Blue Mountain.
And finally, today I hiked up Miller Peak. Getting to the start of this is a bit more of a trip, at about 20 miles from town. You drive up Miller Creek, the road turns to dirt, you pass all of the homes, the road changes to single lane dirt, then you take the first road on the left, and stay left at the fork a couple of miles in. You can actually drive this road to within a quarter mile of the top, but I stopped 6 or so miles from the summit and walked. There are radio towers on top and a stick that says Miller Peak. It was a cloudy day, but still a nice hike, if not a bit sketchy with all of the hunters out.

Miller Peak in clouds.
Miller Peak summit.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review: Brewster, by Mark Slouka

This book reminded me of the movie "Standy by Me" in the sense that it's a baby boomer 'coming of age' story. I enjoyed basking in the golden glow of nostalgia for a lost era (late 60's/early 70's) and for youth. But also, there's a dark current through the book, most prominently in the form of one of the character's relationship with his violent father.

It was a very pleasurable read, but at the same time wasn't mind/soul expanding. So if you're looking for a well-done escape, I recommend it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

OutKast and Arcade Fire: my current musical obsessions

Through the 90's, I aggressively avoided rap music, preferring instead folk and bluegrass. Little did I know that I was living through a high water mark for the art form, similar to the late 60's and early 70's for rock and roll. It's awesome to discover this music now, since time and perspective have clarified who the greats are. One of the greats is the duo OutKast, consisting of Big Boi and Andre 3000. This month a fascinating retrospective article on OutKast was published on Pitchfork. I've been listening to OutKast a lot over the past couple of weeks. Here's a Spotify playlist of their first 4 albums, all of which are considered classics.

Another album that I'm playing a bunch lately is Arcade Fire's new one, Reflektor. It's gotten great reviews and really holds up to repeated listening. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Baggin' a few low Missoula horizon summits: Woody, Mitten, Dean Stone, and Black Mountains

Bad cell phone shot of the Missions (left) and Rattlesnake (right) from Black Mountain.
Over the past week I've been getting out into the lower mountains visible on the horizon from town, which still only have a couple of inches of snow. Last weekend was Woody Mountain, which is the mountain you see straight ahead when you're driving on I-90 from Missoula to Bonner. To climb it, just head into Bonner, drive toward the mountain, and look for an access from the neighborhoods at Woody's base. The hike is straight up and strenuous, and the weeds are bad, but it isn't much more than a mile. However, Woody is at 6218 ft, so it's about 3000+ feet of up.

Woody Mountain
I also took an early morning and bagged Mitten Mountain (6004 ft) and Mount Dean Stone (6204 ft). Dean Stone is the mountain with the radio towers south of town, above the South Hills, and Mitten is the high point along the ridge 1/2 mile to the northeast. To get there, drive past Pattee Canyon trailhead, down Deer Creek Road 1/2 mile or so, and then turn right up the Forest Service road at the big switch back. Follow this road a few miles to the divide between Deer Creek and Miller Creek, park the car, gain the ridge, and walk out to these two high points. It's not too long a trip from the divide (~2 miles to Dean Stone), is moderately strenuous, and I think an upper Pattee Canyon trailhead start is totally doable.

Mitten (left bump) and Dean Stone Mountains
Finally, this weekend, I bagged Black Mountain (5951 ft), which is one of the prominent mountains on the west edge of town, just north of Blue Mountain. Actually, this was the most enjoyable of the three outings mentioned on this blog. I figured it'd be another bushwack, like the above two, but you head up O'Brian Creek, a mile or so beyond the end of the pavement, park at a trailhead, and have nice trail to walk, along south facing, open, grassy, and very Missoula-esque slopes, until the last strenuous half-mile bushwack to the summit. Actually, this is a really nice hiking area, suitable for late season walks. The views from Black Mountain are spectacular: Blue Mountain and Lolo to the south, and to the north, the Missions and Rattlesnake.
Black Mountain on the way up.

Blue Mountain and Lolo Peak, looking south, on the way down.

The Missions and Rattlesnake from Black Mountain summit.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Book Review: The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West

This is the last of a trio of books I've been plodding through for what seems like months.

As the title suggests, this book, written by Andrew Graybill, focuses on a family, in fact three generations of a Montana family, beginning with Malcolm Clarke, an early white settler who entered the picture at the end of the 'buffalo days'. Malcolm married a Blackfoot woman, Coth-co-co-na, with whom he had several children. In those early days, there were few white women on the frontier, so mixed race marriage was a common and accepted practice. Malcolm became very successful, owning a large ranch north of Helena, which is now the Sieben ranch owned by the family of Senator Max Baucus. He was even among the individuals that started the Montana Historical Society. Nonetheless, these were also the years in which the Blackfeet lost their traditional way of life due to white encroachment. So it was a stressful time that included Malcolm's murder by a Blackfoot Indian whom he had offended, and the Marias Massacre of a Blackfoot band by the U.S. Army.

The story then turns to Malcolm's daughter Helen, who navigates the changing world in which those of mixed ancestry begin to be discriminated against in Montana. Moreover, as a woman, opportunities are even scarcer yet. Nonetheless, she spends time on Broadway as an actress, serves as the superintended of public schools in Helena, and works as an allotment agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Midwest. She finally settles for the remaining decades of her life with her brother in East Glacier, on the Blackfoot Reservation.

The book ends with the story of John Clarke, Helen's nephew and Malcolm's grandson, who also leads a remarkable life. John loses his hearing after getting sick as a young boy. He has some good breaks in the schooling he receives at various deaf education institutions, becoming fluent in sign language, but never actually learning to speak or read lips. He returns to East Glacier at around 20, and never leaves, becoming a nationally known carver/sculptor, a craft he plies until the end of his days. His love for hunting and fishing in Glacier Park are also a major part of his life.

This is a very interesting and readable book, even if it is written by a historian. It shows how much things change over time. When you're living it, change seems slow, sometimes even non-existent, but looking back over three generation of this remarkable family, you can see the immensity of change, and also the resiliency of the human spirit.