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Friday, December 19, 2014

Deemer Peak, Flathead Reservation

Pudge catching some rays on the summit after a tough climb.
The semester is over, and it's the end of the year, which is always a time when I take stock. How did the year go? Did I accomplish what I wanted? Are my relationships where I'd like them to be? Things are changing fast, so continual readjustment is needed. In fact, I've come to expect that it's just when I think, "Hey, things are really good!" that new difficulties are coming.
Deemer Peak from Camas Prarie.
So in the spirit of this unique time of year, I took Pudge with me for a hiking/hot spring trip onto the Flathead reservation.  For the hike, I chose to climb Deemer Peak from highway 28 to the north. Leaving from the pass at Rainbow Lake is appealing, but I learned a lesson: don't take a forested north ridge to a summit if you don't need to. For about 1/2-3/4 mile, near the summit, the fir trees got dense and the bushwhacking slightly desperate. At one point, I finally said, "Okay, ten more minutes of this, and then I'm turning back." Fortunately that was enough for things to open up. The summit was excellent. In hindsight, and after looking at the map again, the south ridge would have been a much better route. 
The Missions in the distance above a Mission Valley inversion.
As much as I don't enjoy bushwhacking, especially when it isn't necessary, there's something sweet about those outings when I'm brought to the point of saying, "I don't know if I'm going to make it." Then I know that I'm getting my money's worth.
A closer view: Calowahcan on the left and Sheep's Head/McDonald on the right.
And closer still: Mt. Calowahcan, which I climbed in the late summer with Dan Saxton. What a Peak!
You may have asked, "Why Deemer Peak?" It's on Montana's Top 100 Prominence List, but I also like an excuse to visit Hot Springs for a soak. Next peak bagging trip, though, is going to be with company.
Baldy Mountain, which I blogged about a few months back, from the ridge on the walk down.
One of the neatest parts of the trip was seeing the Giant Ripples of Camas Prairie again, both from the summit of Deemer (see the next picture), and as I drove through the valley on the way home. What awesome geological features! If you don't know about them, take a moment to read the description below. If you want to feel your smallness on this great, ancient planet, contemplating these ripples will help get you there.  
Giant Ripples of Camas Prairie from Deemer Peak. 

The ripples from ground level. 

After the hike, I took the small detour to Hot Springs, Montana to soak in the Camas Springs there. I have been visiting the springs since we moved to Missoula in 2003. Hot Springs is a cool, out of the way place. One of those towns that I'm glad to know exists. Finally, on the way home, I couldn't help but to make the small detour up highway 93 to the top of the hill overlooking the Mission Valley and St. Ignatius for this next view of the Missions. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Morrison and Gold Creek Peaks, Blackfoot River/Gold Creek Country

Pudge with Sheep Mountain looming in the distance and Stuart Peak less visible on the right.
It was finals week last week, and though it was a busy one, on Thursday morning I had an opening. So at the last minute, I quickly got my things together and, after dropping off Ellie at Hellgate, got out of town for the morning. My destination was Morrison Peak, which is the high-point on the divide between the Potomac Valley and the Blackfoot River. By peak bagging standards, it's a mellow outing, but it's a beautiful walk. To get there, turn off of Highway 200 at Johnsrud and follow the road to Whitaker Bridge. Park at the gated road just before crossing the Blackfoot and walk up the road about 1/2-1 mile to Red Rock Flat (see the map), at the end of which a ridge comes down to the road. Gain this ridge and follow it up through beautiful, open ponderosa grassland, with big views of Sheep Mountain and the rest of the Rattlesnake behind you as you climb. Once you reach the Potomac/Blackfoot divide at peak 5602, walk the ridge line west to the wooded Morrison Peak.  
Potomac Valley

Open grassy ridge to the divide and peak 6502. Morrison Peak is out of view to the left.

Pudge and Gold Creek Peak on the skyline on the right.
A few days later, on Sunday, the kids were busy and Jen was selling art at the Made Fair, so I decided to head up the Blackfoot again, this time to climb Gold Creek Peak. To get there, turn off of Highway 200 at Gold Creek Road, just a few miles before the turn off to Johnsrud (this is the way in to the backside Rattlesnake Wilderness Trailheads). Stay on the main road 126 for around eight or nine miles (not exact) until you turn off onto FS road 4224, which you'll follow to the first switchback. Park at the switchback and walk up the gated road about 5-10 minutes. After the road crosses a stream, gain the ridge that goes all the way up to the peak on the map. It's a bit of a bushwack at times, but straightforward otherwise. The snow probably made this route easier than it would be in summer.

PS: The skiing is getting good up at Snowbowl, so these peak posts are likely to end before long.

Summit snowshoe tracks

summit view

Pudge readying for the descent

Gold Creek country.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Musical Explorations

Madvillain, 'Madvillainy' is a critically acclaimed hip-hop album from 2004 that was recommended to me by my colleague Jesse Johnson from the Computer Science Department. I finally got around to listening to it, and it's been in more-or-less constant rotation ever since. It's 'under ground hip hop' that reminds me of J Dilla, but with an MC: low key, not made for the radio, challenging music that rewards repeated listening.  

On the 'Indy Pop' front, Jen and I have been listening to the new albums by TV on the Radio and Real Estate.

And finally, Jeff Tweedy's solo album, with his son on drums, Sukierae, is better than I expected. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Charity Peak, Reservation Divide

Charity Peak from the south.
It was my birthday on Friday the 5th, and to celebrate, I wanted to bag a low summit in the Missoula area on Saturday. I chose Charity Peak, which sits above Evaro, to the west, at 6559', and which came to my attention when it was added to the Missoula Horizon Peaks list this year, put together by the Rocky Mountaineers. 

During the past couple of falls and early winters, I've enjoyed exploring lesser known summits and their surroundings in the Missoula area. It's a bit of a unusual hobby, I admit. The mountains are often known by few, aren't particularly spectacular, and require some research and rough travel to get to. In a way, these peaks are an excuse to spend a day in the mountains, but I also like the feeling that I'm getting to know my back yard well.

My route came up from Evaro on Flathead Reservation land. I had intended to gain the ridge to the north of Frog Creek, but I ended up on the ridge to the south (it was cloudy and hard to navigate), which ended at a cell phone tower located at the summit 6229' just south of Charity. I was surprised to find a couple electricians up there working on the tower. They informed me that the road to the tower, owned by AT&T, is kept plowed through the year. 

It was very cloudy on top at the tower, and so I couldn't see the true summit of Charity to the north. After chatting a while with the electrician fellows, I started down. But a Rocky Mountaineers' facebook post had shown a large cairn that I wasn't able to find, so I had a suspicion that I hadn't actually reached the summit. I stopped after 5-10 minutes of descending and brought up the Rocky Mountaineers facebook page on my tablet to read their Charity Peak trip report. In one of the pictures, the cell phone tower sat below in the background, so I knew that I hadn't reached the peak after all. 

I turned around and climbed up to the cell phone towers again. By then the clouds had cleared and Charity's summit was visible to the north.The walk over and up to the top was the best part of the outing. The sun came out, and it was beautiful country up on the ridge line. 
Pudge and the summit cairn with the Mission Valley in the distance.

The last steps to the summit. The cell tower is just visible in the clouds.

The cell tower in the clouds.

Pudge resting.

Heading down, Pudge leading the way.

Looking back at Charity.

Last push back up to the cell tower before descending.
On the way down, Missoula Valley in the distance.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Missoula Area Snowshoeing, November

Ch-paa-qn from the north.
Mount Calowahcan (thanks Nathan Noble) just over the ridge
The Missions above the Mission Valley.
With the snow and cold that descended in early November, announcing winter's unquestionable arrival, I wondered how to keep my joyfull trips into higher country going. In a typical year, during this shoulder season between the beginning of winter and when there's enough snow up high for good skiing, my outdoor activities have typically been restricted to the occasional run. This year, I thought I'd get snowshoes and extend the hiking season through November, and maybe even beyond.

So over the past few weeks, I've gotten out a few times on the weekends. The first trip was on a spectacular day, up to Burnt Fork Pinnacle, which is about 20 miles up the Ninemile Valley. My real goal was Three Lakes Peak, but I had gotten too late a start. Still, it was a stunning day, and the Reservation Divide is spectacular country. Ch-paa-qn sits prominently to the southeast, and the views down the Ninemile are memorable. This is a greak hike or snowshoe in a little visited area.
Ninemile Valley. Stark Mountain on the right.
Three Lakes Peak on the left, the Reservation Divide, Ch-paa-qn, and Missoula Valley in the distance.
Baldy Mountain, out toward Plains Montana.
The peaks of the Reservation Divide, with the Rattlesnake in the background.
Pudge and the Great Burn in the distance
Ninemile Valley on the way down. Stark Mountain on the right.

Pudge loves snow.
This past weekend I went up Allen Creek Road, just up in the mountains from Turah, and explored around for a few hours with Pudge. I didn't have enough time to explore very far, but I hope to go back for a long walk soon. The sun was shining and the views of Stuart Peak and Bonner Mountain were great from Allen Creek Road and the small summit I reached standing sentinel over Turah.
Woody Mountain with the Rattlesnake behind.
Bonner Mountain, which I climbed last weekend, a massive mountain

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lake Mountain, Scapegoat Peakbagging

Mission Mountains and western Scapegoat/Bob Marshall from Lake Mountain
After last week's snow, I figured the hiking/peak bagging season was over, but then we got another little window today, Saturday Nov. 8, and with some gentle prodding from Missoula mountain biker Sam Schulz, I decided to take advantage of the weather and get out for one last peak bagging day. Kevin Joyce, who joined me on the North Canyon Peak hike a month ago, came along as well. It was a great day in the mountains with friends.

The trick of the trip was choosing a peak. Looking at the Snotel sites in the mountain ranges around Missoula, it was clear that a poor choice would mean a long snowy slog or even getting turned back. For example, the Stuart Mountain site reported one foot of snow in a single dump last week, and I knew that the Bitterroots and Missions were chalk-full. The Snotel sites in the Scapegoat, however, reported less snow. Also, last year I got a late summit of Red Mountain, so I figured we could make it up something with a south facing approach in the Scapegoat. I ended up choosing Lake Mountain, which is about 4.5 miles and 3500 feet up from the North Fork of the Blackfoot trail head into the Scapegoat. It's a beautiful trail along a ridge, with exceptional views all along. The views from the summit are, of course, awesome. I highly recommend it, especially in spring or fall.

Note that these pictures were taken with my tablet as I forgot my camera.
Kevin and Sam with Scapegoat Mountain behind them.

The last rise up to Lake Mountain.
Summit shot Sam. Rattlesnake on the left, Missions and western Scapegoat/Bob Marshall behind and to the right.
Summit shot Kevin, looking the opposite direction.

Looking south, Flint Mountains in the distance.
Similar shot this time with Sam.
And yet again.
Heading down.
And the long ridge walk down

Looking across the North Fork of the Blackfoot valley.
Love this shot