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HOME OF THE 'TALL MAN'... (And you can see the blog pictures below in much greater detail simply by clicking on them)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Almost Baldy

So today I drove to about half a mile short of the locked gate on the road up Baldy Mountain and trundled on up. It's a steep bugger ... I'd forgotten how much so. This is the view coming back down the face of the mountain with a patch of arrowleaf balsamroot in the foreground and the ubiquitous Stonewall Mountain and its snow-capped neighbors across the Blackfoot Valley to the north.

It was a gloriously beautiful morning, and I parked where I did because of this patch of Indian paintbrush, one of the most vivid and concentrated I've seen. And there are blooming lupine among them.

As I said, I'd forgotten what a straight-uphill run this is. Fortunately most of it was in the morning sunshine, and I left articles of clothing along the route. (I remind viewers of this on a computer that you can click on the pictures to zoom them up.)

My altimeter app said it was about 900 feet from the car to the spot where I turned around (I didn't go all the way up today ... next time!).

I made it to the last saddle on the southwest approach to the top — that's the subject of the above picture — and it wasn't that much farther. I'd reckon I was a quarter to a half a mile and about 3-400 more feet to the top, but having gone kind of long just two days ago, I decided to leave that glory for the next time — maybe the next time such a beautiful morning presents itself.

I shot this on the way back down to show how the old road traverses the face of Baldy, one of those bare mountains like Sentinel and Jumbo in Missoula. I'm not sure why it's treeless, but the view of it dominates the south-southeastern horizon from Lincoln and environs. I made it today to the spot where the trees meet the baldness to the right of the peak, so you can see I was not that far from the top. I was, however, sucking wind when I got to that saddle.

And the "main" track goes on to the south from the saddle, onto some even higher mountains. Sometime I will follow that and see where it goes.

I'll close out today's photo album with a picture of the Swan Range, which constitutes the western edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The snowy mountains in the distance are about 50-60 miles from where I stood. I have another, even hazier, picture of the Mission Range, which is across the Swan and Clearwater valleys west of the Swan Range and is even farther from where I stood, but you get the point:

Because of the unrelenting steepness, I doubt if I met my usual measuring pace, so I'll call today's run a 7.5-miler.

7.5; 7.5; 109; 422
Posted by Mose, 10:30 AM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Loosening up

I've photographed this little stream in the winter, but aspen are almost as pretty in the spring as they are when they turn fluorescent yellow in the fall. I ran short today, along a snowmobile track that I've run many times before. I just went up a mile and a half (crossing a quarter mile or so onto the state land), then turned around and came back.

The boundaries of the little strip of state land are clearly marked. It's a nice day — 55 and only moderately threatening skies — but I waited until the noon hour to go out because C was coming through on her way home from daughter Caitie's (and her husband Sam's) law school graduation Saturday in Missoula.

I'm posting this picture taken from my car on the way home because it shows Crater Mountain, where I took the long, squally run yesterday. My route actually passed on the other side of the mountain you see here (though not far from the top), then went out the lenthy ridge that extends to the left out of this picture.

I'm a little surprised to see that I've already reached 100 miles this month, with an entire week to go. I'm not going fast, but I'm going pretty far.

3; 33.5; 101.5; 414.5
Posted by Mose, 12:27 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, May 23, 2015

High run cut short

I set out to explore a high ridge (north spur off of Crater Mountain) between two big drainages, and I did to a limited extent. The delimiting factor, unfortunately, was a series of snow squalls that I didn't expect and for which I wasn't prepared. This one is blowing in from the Continental Divide, to the east, and in addition to wetness it was windy. When I saw those coming, I cut short my exploration of what otherwise would have been a fascinating old mine site, maybe even a kind of ghost town.

This is a fenced-off mine adit and some kind of burner equipment that I couldn't identify sitting next to it. A lot of iron, in any case.

The piece of equipment looked as if it was ready for a really hot fire, but I have no idea of what it is.

There were several old buildings nearby, but the weather chased me back toward my car before I had a chance to explore them. The area of the adit and the buildings was clear of woods, and either was ever thus or had been cleared many years ago. A few roads wound around to several small peaks, which I did manage to visit.

The altitude of the entire run was above 6,300, and the highest point that I noticed was about 6,800.

If it had been a sunny, warm day (as I was expecting), this would be the spot where I'd spin in circles singing, "The hills are alive ..." As it turned out, I simply noted the presence of a number of beautiful meadows at high altitude.

I mentioned that the run took place on a high ridge between two relatively major drainages. This one lies on the east side of the ridge, and is Hogum Creek. There are cabins and other structures far below (probably 2,000 feet below), and the creek flows north into the Blackfoot River about seven miles east of Lincoln.

This is the drainage on the west side of the ridge, Seven-Up-Pete Creek. It joins the Blackfoot about a mile downstream from Hogum Creek's mouth.

This is the only structure (or ruin) that I photographed. Hard to say what it was — the roof of something — but its distance from the mine would suggest it might have been a house.

I plan to return to this spot sometime when the weather won't chase me away.

Although it was at relatively high altitude, it was not a particularly strenuous run. It had plenty of vistas and a number of interesting things that I want to poke around some more.

It also had quite a few flowers that I really liked. Here are more glacier lilies, a couple of shooting stars and, separately, a cluster of Indian paintbrush. I also saw bluebells, strawberry blossoms, arrowleaf balsamroot and many more.

I wore only light sweatpants, a long-sleeved athletic t-shirt with a short one over it, and a bandana on my head. I had neither gloves nor hat, which explains why I vamoosed when I saw the squalls rolling in.

I survived with no difficulty, but I was cold and lit a fire when I got home.

10; 30.5; 98.5; 411.5
Posted by Mose, 12:51 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, May 22, 2015

Small exploration; short loop

Today's run was in two pieces: 1st was a damp exploration of the area on the other side of a scenic impoundment that I've noticed for years near the road on Sucker Creek itself. There was no real trail, and the grass was very wet from last night's rain — thus the steam rising as the sun cooks off the moisture.

In order to get to it, I had to cross this little "bridge" on the embankment that creates the pond. In years gone by, I've studied this small impoundment for signs of fish, and I've seen people fishing in it, but I've never seen any sign that it works. Maybe some brookies? Don't know.

Anyway, I wandered for a mile in the meadows on the other side of the creek and pond. It was pretty, but I didn't find the hoped-for trail that parallels the road on the other side of the small valley. That must begin either back by the clubhouse on the trail network I've been exploring for the past week, or somewhere farther upstream.

I gave up, partly because my feet were soaked, and returned to the car. Then I drove to the trailhead for yesterday's run and took it again. This time I stayed on the "main" track and followed it around to a junction that took me past yesterday's "No Trespassing" sign and another marked gate. It turned out to be a nice 3.5-mile loop with about 300 feet of mild verticle, a decent short workout for days (like today) when I want to go short.

The loop includes even closer views of the burned area I photographed yesterday, as well as some nice valley views that are, as is often the case in Big Sky Country, enhanced by the sky.

I know I said I'd stop posting these redundant-seeming pictures, and maybe someday I will. This is looking south out into the Blackfoot Valley. No ticks today.

4.5; 20.5; 88.5; 401.5
Posted by Mose, 9:27 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Another climb

More friendly Montana residents mark their territory on the track I followed north of Sucker Creek Road today. I suppose I can't blame them, being out in the middle of nowhere as they are, and it didn't help that the book I'm listening to involves a social worker wandering in the remote Yaak in an attempt to "help" the son of a certifiable, back-to-the-land nutjob, a type that's not unheard of around here.

Along the way I saw the first blooming lupine of the season, as well as quite a few wild strawberry flowers.

The tracks appear to be a maze of old logging roads. I tried to keep going generally upward when I came to forks, but twice got blocked by "Private" or "No Trespassing" signs, which I didn't feel like testing. Then, along about a mile on a spur that seemed to be heading generally back toward my car, someone ahead was operating a chainsaw. I decided to stay solitary, so I turned around and went back the way I'd come.

That added more than a mile to my route for the day, but I was feeling good and it was beautiful — sunny and, by the recent standard, warm. I actually was running in a short-sleeved t-shirt.

At one spot, the track I was on basically ended, but the woods above it were relatively thin so I proceeded on up the mountain. After a couple of hundred yards, I hit another, larger road, which I followed up to the "No Trespassing" sign.

For just such an eventuality, however, I had laid out this crude arrow pointing out where my bushwacking route joined the road. Turned out I did use it on the way back down.

I hope the long string of cold (20s in the morning; 40s in the afternoon) is at an end. By now I'm ready to be running in shorts and a T, not sweatpants, hats and long shirts. I did pick up a couple of ticks today, which will continue for at least a month.

There were interesting views here, because this route was a little farther up the main road, not far from the trailhead that takes the long route to the top of Stonewall Mountain. In fact, the view below shows part of that route:

The gray at the top of the ridge is the site of an old forest fire, and the trail goes through the burn. I'm still not up to — or interested in — that run for now. I think I might return to the Divide this weekend, however. Maybe Saturday.

5; 16; 84; 397

Posted by Mose, 10:37 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

To the top

So I repeated yesterday's run only I kept going past the 2.5-mile mark to see how far up I could get. I made it to the top, where I was greeted by these old pallets. Who knows what the loggers had brought up on them — either that or they were just kindling for the old fire ring nearby. That might make sense except that the whole area contains probably 40 tons of deadfall per acre. Oh well.

The "peak," such as it is, is at 5,460 feet, which means the total climb was approximately 900. I think I passed by this spot on my meandering exploration on Saturday. There appear to be alternative routes down, including the north-face traverse that I stumbled into Saturday, but today I opted for going back down the way I came.

There were a few glacier lilies at the top, and lots of arrowleaf balsamroot en route.

I glimpsed my big bird again and it continues to mystify me. This was an even more fleeting view than Saturday's, but it confirmed that my color recollection was accurate: light tan, maybe even with some white. Were it not for the round-ish head I thought I saw Saturday, I might guess that it's a huge owl, but I'm still not sure. Definitely not a heron, however, despite seeing one in the area yesterday.

I also saw seven elk just over onto the state land, a little more than 2 miles into the run and at about the 5,100 level. They again calmly wandered on up the ridge, never to be seen again.

It was a pleasant enough run, but I continue to be surprised at the temperatures — in the low 40s. It's pretty good for running, but it is unseasonably cool, even for the mountains of Montana. We have touched 70 maybe twice all year, and the 60s only half a dozen times. Meanwhile it continues to freeze frequently at night (not that unusual).

6; 11; 79; 392
Posted by Mose, 9:53 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, May 18, 2015

Back up the hill

What work has been done in the area where I ran today (and Saturday) is a year old, if not more; I don't know if more logging is planned up there, but the sign — at a junction where I went up and to the left — remains.

Saw two interesting things along the way. Less than a mile into the run, I caught motion high in the sky and saw a great blue heron winging east, toward the mountaintop where I saw my giant mystery bird on Saturday. My memory of the bird I saw is of a bird with a wing span at least as large as a heron, but the color was wrong — mostly tan and white, whereas Herons are bluish gray. I suppose light in the woods can play tricks, but ...

Saw no vultures today, happy to report. They must have been passing through. The trail up from the sign reached a junction where state land lay off to the east, so I went that way. I wanted to limit my mileage today, so I turned around at another junction 2.5 miles up the mountain, but the exploratory options up there were plentiful. I'll be returning, I'm sure.

I didn't take exactly the same route up the mountain Saturday, but my bushwacking and meandering that day took me to a ridge line above 5,400 feet, whereas today I reached only 5,150. At that spot, I did see three elk in the trees above me. Below is a crummy picture of their butts — I have no idea why the picture (and I shot half a dozen) came out so dark.

The lighter spots near the middle of the picture, maybe a little left of the middle, are the dun-colored rear ends of two of the three elk I spotted this morning. If I pursue the trail eastward toward the ridge top, maybe I'll get closer to them — they didn't seem alarmed; just too far away for a decent picture.

And despite my vow last week to stop posting pictures of the distant valley floor, here's one more from near the top of today's run.

This would be looking straight south toward the eastern edge of Lincoln, not that you can see anything in the picture. As I said when I made the vow, these scenes always are far more impressive in person than in pictures. This is, once again, dull.

I am listening while running to a book by a guy named Smith Henderson, "Fourth of July Creek," and halfway in I am not liking it. We'll see.

5; 5; 73; 386
Posted by Mose, 9:46 AM | link | 0 comments |