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Monday, January 12, 2015

Sonyok Mountain, Flathead Reservation

Flathead River, Mission Valley, and the Missions from Sonyok Mountain.
Sheep's Head, McDonald, and Sonyok Mountain Lookout
Sonyok Mountain is yet another Flathead Reservation Peak on the list of Montana Peaks with 2000 feet of Prominence. This one took me two tries, not because it's so difficult, but because on the first attempt, I didn't drive close enough to the summit. And I almost didn't make it the second time, since I'd gone up to hike Red Sleep Mountain in the Bison Range but was informed that hiking isn't allowed in winter, so I continued on to Sonyok. I didn't hit the trail until 2pm and had to push it to make it back to Missoula by my 7.30pm deadline. This is stark and beautiful country down low, but then nicely wooded up high, and Sonyok Lookout might be the nicest I've been to, with one of the best views anywhere. The view of the Missions on what was a sunny winter afternoon was something to behold. We live in such a beautiful place. For directions on how to get to Sonyok, see below.
Sonyok Mountain Lookout.

The amazing Missions with the Flathead River below.
Another Missions with the Flathead below.

Looking north.
Looking west at Baldy (middle) and Deemer (left) in the distance.
The Snake.
Mighty McDonald.
Baldy Mountain
Directions: drive west on Highway 200, past Dixon to Perma where the turn off to Hot Springs, Montana is. Turn here, cross the Flathead River, and turn right immediately. Drive this road several miles to a large abandoned ranch (one mile beyond regular plowing in winter). See pictures of the ranch below; this is an interesting spot. From here drive another four miles, approximately, to a gate with a spring on the right, and a left turn in the road. Here's where I left the road and headed up, bearing right. This will get you to the ridge containing Sonyok. Once there, it's another 1.5 miles, or so, to the summit. I could have driven further up the road, and in summer, you can drive nearly to the top.

Some pictures from the first outing are below:
The Missions in the distance.

Big old abondoned ranch. I'd love to know the history.
Pudge rolling out the cobwebs.
Three Lakes Peak across the Flathead River on the reservation divide.

The summit we did reach, Peak 4856 feet with 400+ feet of prominence, so I'll count it as a peak bagged.
Sonyok still several miles in the distance, another 3-4 hours round trip from Peak 4856.
Deemer left and Baldy right to the northwest.
The Rattlesnake to the southeast.

Bathtub rings of Lake Missoula and Missions in the distance.
Flathead River below and Three Lakes Peak above from Peak 4856.

Mount Baldy.
Stark country.
The old ranch on the way out. What went on there?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Pistol Creek Lookout, Arlee

The Southern Missions in winter from Pistol Creek Lookout.
Another year down and another to look forward to. 2014 was a great year, though I found myself in new and unexpected territory. For one, Alex is leaving this coming summer, and the acceptance of that and the associated changes has been difficult. Jen and I are beginning to enter a new stage of life, one in which the kids are increasingly on their own, and we are increasingly alone together. In hindsight, it's obvious that this change was coming, but it nonetheless has caught me by surprise. And as far as my work goes, after achieving Full Professor last year, I no longer have another rung to strive toward, which is an odd feeling that I also wasn't really prepared for. And finally, my 40th year was one of reflection on life and of the changes that are occurring. Acceptance seems to be one of the themes of the year.   

Ch-paa-qn and the reservation divide on the way up. 

The Rattlesnake. McLeod Peak looming.
Pistol Creek Lookout.
Peakbagging is a passion that came into full bloom for me in 2014. Who knows how long this passion will last, so I want to make the most of it in 2015. So on New Year's Day, after sleeping in (we were up until 2am) and getting a late start, I snowshoed up to Pistol Creek Lookout from the outskirts of Arlee. This mountain was not on my radar until Dan Saxton told me about it about a month ago. It's a remarkable peak because, though it's not tall, it has nearly 2000 feet of prominence, and also because the view of the Southern Missions from the top is the best around. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and my phone & tablet ran out of juice on the way up, so I didn't get a picture. Ugh! (I went again two weeks later on another clear day to get the shots you see here.) Coming down in twilight was beautiful, with Ch-paa-qn and other Reservation Divide peaks across the Jocko Valley and the evening star (Venus) reminding me of the timelessness of the human spirit. 
Bitterroot Valley and the Bitterroots in the distance
Northern Missions with Glacier Park peaks in the distance.
Lookout shadow and the Missions.
Gray Wolf Peak
Getting to the trailhead from Missoula is easy: drive north from Arlee, cross the Jocko River, turn right on White Coyote Road, then left at the T-junction, and drive to the end of the road, park your car, walk through the gate and gain the ridge immediately on your right. which you'll follow to near the summit. This is a great walk that's close to Missoula and less than 5 miles round trip. Highly recommended!

Pudge on the summit.
On the way down.