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Monday, October 27, 2014

Mount Powell and Deer Lodge Mountain, Flint Creek Range

Mount Powell from Deer Lodge Mountain.
There are a few mountains that loom large in my psyche. One of those is Mount Powell near Deer Lodge. In college, at Montana Tech in Butte, I spent a lot of time in the Deer Lodge Valley, mainly on the southern end, near Fairmont and Anaconda, cycling and driving through to Discovery or Mount Haggin for skiing. From that end of the valley, Mount Powell is extremely prominent; you can't not notice it. It's actually kind of amazing that I hadn't climbed it until this year. And what a great climb it is, especially if you continue on from Powell to Deer Lodge Mountain, along the knife-edged ridge, another hour one way. You'll be spent at the end of the day if you do this, but I highly recommend it, both for the views as well as for an interesting walk. (BTW: I had lost these pictures, so this is a report from a trip I took some weeks ago.)

Getting there: Getting to the trail head is a bit tricky on this one; this is ranch country and the maze of roads is easy to get lost on. But here's how I got there. Get off on the Racetrack Exit, which is about nine miles toward Butte from Deer Lodge on I-90. Turn right off the exit and head straight (west) for about a mile to a T-junction. Turn right and then look for a major dirt road soon on your left, where you'll turn left heading toward the mountains again. After a few miles, you'll "T" into a road heading north-south, where you'll turn right, and then after a mile or so you'll meet another road at a T-junction with a big stone barn. Once here, you're basically home-free: turn left and then quickly right on forest service road FS 8507. There's a sign here with 8507 and Dempsey Lakes if I remember right. Stay on this road for 7-8 miles to the trail head. 

The hike: Getting to Powell from the trail head is pretty straightforward, though it does requires some off-trail travel. From the trail head walk up the road for several miles (the four wheel drive aficionado may actually want to drive this, but it's pretty darn rough). You'll leave the road at the first crossing of Dempsey Creek several miles in. The crossing has a wooden foot bridge, but you won't use it because this is where you'll take off toward the ridge on your right. You'll almost immediately come to a small, clear stream, which heads up toward the ridge. Follow it, avoiding excessive dead fall, until it peters out, then continue on up. Not long after gaining the ridge, things open up and it's easy walking through the huge summit meadows below Mount Powell.  

Pudge on the summit meadows
The Pintlers from the summit meadows
Flint Creek Peaks

Looking off toward Deer Lodge Mountain
Warm Springs Settling Ponds and Fleecer in the distance from the summit.
Summit Shot
The ridge walk to Deer Lodge Mountain -- awesome!
Getting closer

Looking back at Powell

Closer yet.

The final slopes to the summit of Deer Loge Mtn.

Looking back, again, at Powell, a true beauty.

And the ridge continues on down to the valley. This would be a great way to climb these peaks.

On Deer Lodge Mountain

Powell from Deer Lodge Mountain.
Some interesting rock and sky.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baldy Mountain, Salish Range near Plains, Montana

Mighty Missions from Baldy Mountain
Last Sunday, the weather was spectacular -- warm and sunny -- and this late in the year, I begin to think that it might be the last such day of the year. So although it took some doing, I got the family into the car early on Sunday and we took a trip to Plains, Montana to climb Baldy Mountain. Interestingly, if you measure mountains by prominence (the vertical distance between the summit and the lowest contour line encircling it and no higher summit), Baldy is the 13th most prominent peak in Montana. What this means is that even though the summit isn't that high, once on top you can see for miles. Anyway, it was a spectacular day, as the pictures show. The weather was truly perfect, the larch were peaking, and the family finally jived, even if it took an hour on the trail and was hard to get out of town. 

Directions: Plains sits on the Clark Fork River and Highway 200 about 1.5 hours drive west from Missoula. To get to Baldy, once in Plains, turn right on Clayton street (look for the sign) and then stay on that paved road nearly to its end -- you'll see Baldy ahead and to your right, so you can kind of follow your nose -- veering left on a Forest Service (FS) road with no marker other than a small sign with the number 2 on it. Alternatively, just drive to the end of the paved road, where all that's left are private driveways, turn around and take a right at the first road (not driveway) after about 1/8th mile. Follow this FS road for several miles, turning right at the road with the little brown sign with a white hiker symbol on it. Then stay on this road until you see the trail head sign, where you'll park. Hike 2.6 miles to the top.  
The kids with Glacier in the distance.
Glacier peaks are just visible.
Heading above treeline
Large colors on the hillsides looking south.
Old stone lookout foundation on top.
Alex with the Missions blurry in the background.
Looking off toward Glacier

Another lookout shot: Jen, Ellie and Pudge, and me.
Old foundation stone.
Heading down. Cabinet Mountains in the distance.

The kids circa Oct. 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stanley Hot Springs, Selway-Bitterroot, Date Trip

Jen on the hike in. I over-doctored this photo a bit.
Last weekend Jen and I took a Saturday night and hiked back in to Stanley Hot Springs. We've been wanting to hit Stanley for a long time, but it's a 5-6 mile hike in and the trailhead is 15-25 miles beyond our usual hot springs haunts, Weir and Jerry Johnson. Also, the kids are much more on their own, so we find ourselves alone on weekend nights more often than not. We have more time, and on this particular weekend, we decided to make the most of it.
Me at the start.
The hike begins at Wilderness Gateway, which is a large campground and Selway-Bitterroot trailhead about two hours drive from Missoula.
Beautiful fall colors off in the distance.
 We got a late start, not leaving Missoula until 3pm on Saturday and setting off on the trail at 5pm, so we walked in the late afternoon fall light.

At about the five mile mark you come to the first fork in the trail, where you take a right (we met a family going in that had kept going straight and missed the springs) and within a quarter mile cross a sizable stream. Just on the other side, we set up camp, because it was getting dark, and made a quick freeze dried food dinner.

Heating up dinner.
After dinner, we hiked the remaining way to the springs, and found them to be packed with people. It was surreal, with many camps all with fires, and one with an enormous bon fire. We soaked in the upper pool, which was empty but hot, and were soon over-heated. The next morning, when we returned, we found out that there were 25 people camped at the springs, so if you go be prepared to see people. The next morning we returned for more soaking. It's a wonderful springs. I highly recommend it, even if it is crazy-busy.
morning coffee and breakfast.
soaking in the upper pool.
Jen in the upper pool and other folks in the lower.
Crossing the steaming heading back.
Jen near the end.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

North Canyon Peak and Sheer Point, Bitterroot Wilderness

Kevin Joyce with Canyon Peak behind.
One of the parts of my job that I enjoy most is having PhD students. My current student is Kevin Joyce, and we have a lot in common; for one, we're both from Butte, which is a brotherhood of sorts. Kevin is also a great guy and is fun to spend time with. Last weekend, we spent Sunday hiking/climbing North Canyon Peak in the Bitterroots. North Canyon Peak is the little brother of Canyon Peak, one of the classic peak bagging climbs in the Bitterroots, but which is technical, requiring ropes to climb. North Canyon Peak, on the other hand, is straightforward, with only a bit of class 3 climbing at the summit. Michael Hoyt's, Bitterroot Mountain Summits proved an excellent guide along the way. After climbing North Canyon, we walked and scrambled the connecting ridge east to Sheer Point and then continued along the ridge back to where we had left my dog Pudge. All along we talked, about math and many other things. It was an outstanding day -- I hope the first of many peak bagging outings with Kevin.

Looking back down Canyon Creek toward the Bitterroot Valley.
Canyon Peak and Kevin.
Canyon Peak again. The standard route is up the north ridge you see on the skyline.
Kevin coming up to the summit of North Canyon Peak. Canyon Peak is in the background.
On the summit looking south, with Canyon Peak in the background.

On the summit looking north.

Sheer Point from North Canyon. This is where we went next.
The mighty Bitterroots looking west into Idaho.

Kevin walking the ridge down from North Canyon toward Sheer Point.

Kevin near the Sheer Point summit.

Walking the ridge beyond Sheer Point.