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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Castle Crag, Bitterroot Wilderness

Castle Crag
It's Labor Day weekend and the family is all, basically, gone. Jen took Alex to Fernie, BC, for the Wam Bam Dirt Jump Jam, and Ellie is joined at the hip with her friends, so I made plans for a backpacking trip. The plan was to go up Big Creek in the Bitterroots and climb a peak, but about 1/2 mile into the walk, I realized that I had forgotten dog food for Pudge, so I turned around and decided to drive a few miles further down the Bitterroot and day hike up to Castle Crag, which lies at the top of Sheafman Creek, up out of Corvallis.

Sheafman Canyon is beautiful and because the trailhead is a ways up off of the valley, the five mile hike into the upper lakes isn't as brutal as many others in the Bitterroot. You'd think that because of this, it'd be pummeled with use, but it isn't.

Anyways, here's the beta for my trip. Just past the first lake (Sheafman), heading up to the second lake (Knaack), I followed the first obvious passage to the ridge-top on your left. From the route description on Summit Post, I see that it would have been easier to first reach Knaack Lake and only then gain the ridge. Once at the ridge top, I had to lose elevation down the backside before beginning the steady scree traverse up to the peak. This portion of the walk was long and slow going. After a ways (regardless of where you gain the ridge) you'll see your first large, vertical rock fin, stay below it to the left, and then do that again for the next large rock fin, the top of which is the summit. The views from the top are amazing. 

Doing this trip in a day was a tough 14 miles. I was staggering as I reached the car about 7.5 hours after starting. 

Here are some shots from the top:
Looking east down Sheafman canyon.
Looking north. I'm not sure what the nearest peak is, but I think on the next ridge, left, is Sky Pilot, and further away, right, are the Heavenly Twins, and then right along the ridge is Saint Mary. In the far back is Saint Joseph.
Another view down Sheafman and Mill Creek on the left, with Knaack and Sheafman Lakes below. 
Looking south.

Just to prove I was there.
Pudge, my wilderness companion.
At the end of the hike. The Bitterroot Valley, looking north from the trail. What a place!
I can see why the Salish were so sad to leave it when they were forced onto the Flathead Reservation.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Triangle Peak, Rattlesnake Wilderness

McCleod Peak from Triangle Peak, along the northern edge of the Rattlesnake Wilderness.
An item at the top of my to do list this summer was to summit Triangle Peak, which is the next peak east from McCleod Peak along the northern edge of the Rattlesnake Wilderness. It's easy to postpone such a difficult trip; probably the best way to get there is to bike back the 14 miles to the Wilderness boundary along the Rattlesnake corridor road and then continue on foot four miles, on the Rattlesnake Creek trail, until it peters out, at which point you head east/northeast up a steep slope, through a burn all the way to the summit. Take a map! See my Strava of the trip from the Rattlesnake Trailhead to the summit at the end of this blog.

Whenever I make it that far back into the Rattlesnake, I'm struck by how wild it is and how far I am from civilization. At one point, on the way down from the summit, hiking through the burn down a steep slope, I thought, "If something were to happen to me here, I don't know if I would even be found." It's remarkable that we Missoulians can access such wildness so easily. Anyway, it was a good way to end the summer. Work started for me the next day.
The Missions in clouds.

McCleod again.

Stuart Peak (left) and Mosquito Peak, I think (right).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mountain Biking Fernie with the Family

Our main family trip this summer was up to Fernie, which is only two hours north of Whitefish, across the Canadian border in BC, and only a five hour drive from Missoula, stops included

The riding in Fernie is great. They have a trail system of about the same size and quality as we have in Missoula. The forest is much wetter, with different tree species, and the trails are mostly mountain biker built, so it's a very different type of trail. After a season of Missoula riding, it's refreshing to ride some new terrain. 

We rented a condo up at Fernie Alpine Resort through vrbo, rented a trail bike for Alex, and did a bunch of mountain biking around the area. For the first few days we did trail rides together, and then on the last day, Jen and the kids got lift tickets and rode at the resort. Here's Jen's edit containing mostly footage from that day.

I loved the trail riding. Our first ride was in the Ridgemont area, which is accessed from downtown Fernie, and then we did several rides in Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. This park was only a 3 mile ride from our condo and contained some really great trail. I explored the park fully, but we didn't get around to riding Castle Mountain or Swine Flu, which came highly recommended by many. I'm glad to be leaving something for next time. 

mountains of Fernie

At the dirt jump park. Alex was bummin' not to have his dirt jump bike.

Jen raced in the local DH Thursday night series.

a rare picture with me in it.

Fernie Alpine Resort. We stayed at the base.

adjusting Ellie's fork

Final Fernie mountain shot.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Glacier Backpack Cancelled/Dearborn River/Embracing Disappointment

Our place from above.
I spend a lot of time planning back country trips; it's one of my escapes. It's also a big time sink, especially when I consider how many of the trips I plan actually happen. This is especially true when the family is involved. 

We are currently on our summer 2014 family trip, and the original plan for our first four days was to backpack from Many Glacier, up in Glacier Park, over to Goat Haunt, where we planned to take the ferry into the town of Waterton on the Canadian side, and then travel on to Fernie, BC, for some biking. I had scored a hard-to-get permit, with the some of the best back country camp sites in the Park, the necessary equipment and food purchases were made, shuttles arranged, the backpacks were packed, and then the day before we left, Alex injured his foot surfing in the Clark Fork River. As we drove up to Glacier the next day, after some prying and watching him walk, it became apparent that he was hurting pretty bad. Finally, just after Polson, we made the decision that a four day, 30 mile walk with a heavy pack was probably going to be too much for him, and so we turned around. 

Back in town, we dropped the packs, loaded coolers for a camping trip at our property on the Dearborn River, and made it out of town that evening. Time at the Dearborn is sedentary, at least for me. I probably do 50% of my yearly reading in the ten or so days I spend up there a year. It wasn't really what I was looking for, but it is always good to be up there, and anyway, that's life. With some experience under my belt, I am convinced that success in life is at least as much (and probably more) about moving through failure and disappointment as it is about actually experiencing success. So although I'm bummed that we missed out on what was sure to be an awesome family bonding experience in Glacier, I embrace that it went the way of most of the other trips I've planned, existing only in my mind and on the maps spread out on my dinning room table, remaining in the realm of the still-yet-to-be-done.      

Looking downstream from our camp.

camp fires are always a highlight
Looking up stream.

The kids playing horse shoes.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Recent Listening, August 2014

It's been a summer of music here in Missoula. I've been scrounging around Spotify using the first top ten list on this Pitchfork web page as a quirky guide, as well as some great shows we saw at the Top Hat Lounge in July (Seun Kuti and Charles Bradley). The result is this mix constituting my recent listening. 

We also saw Paul McCartney play in Washington-Grizzly stadium in early August. It was a fantastic concert. I'm so glad Jen found those last minute tickets.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Devil's Backbone/Gallatin Crest Traill

I met Al Parker while working on my PhD in Bozeman, and our lives have remained intertwined ever since. We've gotten together at least once a year to do a hike or backpack; we've written a couple of math research papers together; and we both lived and worked in the same place, and with the same guy (Colin Fox), in New Zealand. 

Al was introduced to doing 20+ mile days on the trail by a former statistics professor at Montana State University named Robert Boik. He has a few routes around Bozeman that he's done several times. One of them is the Devil's Backbone, or Gallatin Crest Trail, which stretches from Hyalite Peak, just south of Bozeman, all the way to Yellowstone Park, along the top of the Gallatin Range. The furthest north 25 mile stretch ends (or starts, as was the case for us) at Windy Pass, which is about as far south as Big Sky. 

Al and his buddy Justin wanted to hike the route in anticipation of a Devil's Backbone trip they are leading later in the month, through the Montana Wilderness Association. I jumped at the chance to go. Even better, I was able to bring another old friend along, Matt Roscoe. Matt is also a math professor at the University of Montana; he's a big wilderness guy; and as with Al, our lives have been intertwined for years. 

Matt and I left Missoula at 4pm last Friday, made it to Bozeman by 7:30pm, had dinner with Al's family, and were in bed around 11pm. I was so ramped up that I didn't really fall asleep by the time we were awake at 3am. We picked up Justin on the way to the trailhead, which we got to at 5:30am. The trail to Windy Pass and cabin was about 2.5 miles and we made it up there quickly. I was not prepared for the terrain that followed: high grassy meadows along the Gallatin divide, all at near 10,000 feet. The views were spectacular: to the west were the Madison Range and the Spanish Peaks, and to the east was the Absaroka Range. We walked and walked and walked, saw lots of mountain goats, and finally reached Hyalite Peak at around 3pm. Then it was down the last 8 miles to the car, which we got to at 6pm. My ankle was sore through it all, but hung in there. Once back at Al's, Matt and I hit the road, stopped for pizza along the way, and were back in Missoula at around 11.30pm. It was a truly awesome and exhausting day.
starting out

gaining the ridge

first stop

Madison Range

Lone Peak/Big Sky

Madison Range & Al

Looking south, Gallatin Range into Yellowstone

Walking through high meadows

Al & Spanish Peaks

Al & Justin. Madison Range

Justin with The Sphinx in the distance

Hyalite Peak in the distance, out along Gallatin Divide

Spanish Peaks & Me

wild flowers

looking back along the way we had come

food stop

looking for animals

mountain goat herd

Matt & Mount Cowen.

Justin in big country

Al & Absarokas

Gallatin Skyline


stopped for a swim

wildflowers & Hyalite Peak

on Hyalite summit, 20 miles in.

Al catching the view from the summit