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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Long again on Flesher, with pictures

I awoke early today (4 or so) and decided to do another Flesher Pass-Helena trip combo, and it was successful. Here, at about 6,800 feet three miles or so southwest from Flesher Pass (on Highway 279), I came across the season's first (for me) ripe whortleberries, or alpine huckleberries.

They were, of course, delicious, though I didn't stop to eat many (just these and a few others). These are the tiny cousins of huckleberries, and they're extremely labor-intensive per berry.

This route is paved with them, however, which probably explains why there be griz in the neighborhood (berries, plus the herds of sheep down below).

The juniper berries here (right) also were plentiful. If I wanted to start an alpine gin distillery, I think this might be where I'd start!

The Helena trip was mostly for a few groceries and some lights on sale at Costco. I've had my eye on them for a while for my new deck/porch. They'll provide what I'd call an Italian ambience to my little retreat.

This is the nice, if somewhat smoky now, view down Canyon Creek from a high point on the Continental Divide Trail.

This is just shifting the view eastward from approximately the same spot as the previous picture. These are the little hills you have to curve around on your way down the south side of Flesher Pass on the way to Helena.

The flowers along the way were beautiful, including these buttercups. I ran about the same as the last time I went this way from the pass, turning around at the 4-mile point, which is on a lengthy downhill.

Next time I come up here, I'll push on a little farther, I think. The trail appears to go down to my turnaround spot and maybe a little beyond, then it goes up over another ridge that promises some interesting views.

This stretch of the CD trail connects Flesher Pass with the next road-pass over the Divide, Stemple Pass. I've run it before (from pass to pass) but I don't remember the distance.

These are more of the showy daisies, which seem to be coming into their peak at the moment. As usual, if you're viewing this on a computer (and maybe on an iPad, I don't know), you can click on the pictures to zoom them up a lot.

Like the daisies, the harebells seem to be coming into their own at present. There are many thick stands of them, especially in the first couple of miles south from Flesher.

It was a beautiful morning, though cool and breezy. It rained on me a bit, too, but in truth it felt good.

I did a kind of sponge bath back at the (unoccupied) trailhead and changed into actual clothes before heading on to Helena. I note that this run took me over 600 miles for the year. Though I swear there's nothing OCD about me, if I continue on this pace I'll be over 700 by August, which will be an average of more than a hundred a month since resuming running.

I never dreamed I'd be able to do it, but so far so good.

8; 8; 27; 605
Posted by Mose, 2:16 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, July 06, 2015

Double skip!

I skipped Sunday because of my long Fourth of July run. I'm skipping today because I spent all day Sunday painting above my head, resulting in an upper body today that's so stiff I can hardly move my arms. There's a fitness lesson in this, but for now it's ibuprofen. Oh, also it was 35 degrees this morning. I actually went out to run and changed my mind.
Posted by Mose, 11:44 AM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Divide, with hikers and lots of pictures

Today I went early to Rogers Pass in order to run far and get back to town before the Fourth of July parade blocks the highway for an hour. I went south from the pass, which confirmed itself as still the most beautiful of the trails in these parts. This view gives you both the cliffs and rocks of the Divide and the prairie to the east. Note that it's a little smoky, and we're told it's from fires in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

At the trailhead, I met a young (35-ish) couple from Switzerland who were camped there, preparing to head up the same trail I was going up. They're hiking the entire CDT from Canada to Mexico. They'd started 18 days earlier at Waterton Park on the Canada border and planned to keep at it until late November.

Later, as I was coming back, I met another similar-aged couple from Helena out for a day hike (with a rifle strapped on the wife's back, presumably so the guy could get quick access to it. Silly.

This is a very altitudinous run, going from the pass's 5,610 (actually a little lower than the actual pass) to, today, around 7,000, and getting there fairly quickly. I did it no problem, happy to report, though I was breathing hard when I reached the ridge. This picture is the final stretch to the ridgeline after emerging from the trees after, maybe, a couple of miles.

The visual rewards once you're on the ridge are fantastic. This is looking ahead from one of the small peaks you cross to the next one that you go around. The trail mostly skirts the little peaks along the way, though it's a short hop from the trail to the tops.

The trail goes right to the cliff tops of the Divide in several spots, especially in the small saddles between the peaks.

The eyes are naturally drawn to the peaks, cliffs and prairie views when you're on this trail, but the view out toward Lincoln to the West isn't shabby, either. This is down one of the little valleys that comprise the headwaters of the Blackfoot River.

The trail actually crosses a few little springfed rivulets, one of them several times.

Here's one of the peaks that the trail goes over, and it's where I turned around today. I might try a longer one soon, but not on a day when the parade might impede my return to town.

Here's the view to the west of Red Mountain. Note again the haze, which is smoke from distant fires.

Red is the highest point in the three-wilderness Bob Marshall Complex, something just below 9,400 feet.

When I met the Swiss folks again as I came down into the trees, we talked again and I suggested to them that they camp on the high ground tonight at a spot where they can see down into the Blackfoot Valley. That's because Lincoln's fireworks — which have become legendary — might be pretty cool from this high-altitude vantage point 15 miles or so to the east.

The flowers to the right are a better example of harebells than the one I posted a few days ago.

Of course it occurred to me after I got down that I should have photographed the Swiss folks.

Anyway, the true distance of this run was probably closer to 8 miles, but I inflate it because of the vertical (aerobic) aspect, using my usual mph method of estimating distance. Therefore, I'm calling it 10.

10; 26; 19; 597
Posted by Mose, 9:25 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, July 03, 2015

Skipped today; long tomorrow

Tired and lots of work around here. Rogers Pass south tomorrow! Woot!
Posted by Mose, 7:49 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Old route; logging

This pasture is pretty in all seasons. It marks the turnaround for a five-miler from either of two westward tracks off of Sucker Creek Road just north of the cattle guard. I took the more northerly of the two today. It was pleasant enough, only small ups and downs and generally kind of boring.

I did come across this, one of the tallest mullein plants I've ever seen. They're one of the many European imports to North America, and they're pretty common all over the place. This one was at least a foot taller than my strapping 6-foot frame, which according to the books is about as tall as they ever get.

This is the route that takes me past a pretty marsh that I've described in the past as a pothole. Now its upper end is full of cattails, and the taller growth on the front makes photographing it not worthwhile.

The route also has lots of these nice-looking cutleaf daisies, which, like mullein, are common to "disturbed" areas. The main disturbance up this way is a logging operation that I could hear for the upper mile or more, but that is working just west of where I went. As a result, I was close to the loggers — and met a supply pickup coming up to it on my way back — but didn't actually see them.

It was an uneventful trot, not likely to be repeated anytime soon. I did see a couple of sandhill cranes out in the pasture (top picture), but they were too far away to photograph. Big birds, though.

5; 16; 9; 587
Posted by Mose, 7:59 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

New month; slow elk

Went back to the river today and cut it a little short, noticing that my legs were slightly rubbery after Sunday and Tuesday's longer and climbing runs around Flesher Pass. As the photo shows, though, it was a beautiful morning. This is looking north across the Blackfoot River toward (of course) Stonewall Mountain.

The only non-ground squirrel or -flying animals I saw were these guys, which an old friend always called "slow elk." There's a small herd — fewer than a dozen — wandering around the approximately five-square-mile piece of state land that runs down to the river.

Two notes from the weekend: I mentioned (and photographed) the large flock of sheep I ran into Saturday and saw up Flesher on Sunday.

1. I didn't mention yesterday that as I crossed Highway 279 on the pass to head up the CD Trail yesterday, I saw that the big flock had gone over the pass between when I saw them Sunday and ran Tuesday. Judging by the traffic-flattened scat on the road yesterday, I'd guess they'd gone over the top later Sunday.

2. A story in the newspaper today says that FWP officials killed a 12-year-old grizzly Sunday after it killed a sheep. The story wasn't specific about where it happened, but it said that the dead sheep was part of a large operation in which three herds (flocks?) had just been consolidated onto their summer ground "near Lincoln," and that the bear was a repeat offender that had been relocated into the south fork of the Flathead River (in the Bob Marshall Wilderness 50-100 miles from here). They said it came all the way back here, evidently because the pickings were good.

A good day — cool (50) at the outset and still just in the 50s when I was done.

4; 11; 4; 582
Posted by Mose, 8:09 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flesher Pass east

On my way back to the car, I got a glimpse of it far below from about half a mile (and 400 feet)up the trail from Flesher Pass. I ran there early this morning on my way to Helena for a little shopping. Sponge-bathed at the car (and off the highway) before heading onto the Queen City.

After the big climb up from the highway pass (700 feet or so in a mile and a half), there are some good views south down Canyon Creek.

Farther up the trail and closer to 6,900 feet elevation (800 above the pass), the view out into Little Prickly Pear from a red argillite cliff is beautiful.

For some reason this stretch of the Continental Divide Trail is better marked than most of the others I've run.

I ran it all the way to Rogers Pass a few years ago with my friend from Virginia, and it was wonderful. Today I went just 3.5 miles out to a vista looking across the Blackfoot Valley toward Red Mountain, which was barely visible through the haze. I wonder if we're starting to see smoke from area fires? There are a few in Montana and some bigger ones out in Washington.

And it's only (barely) June!

This small southeast-facing cliff is home to a big bank of moss and some scrubby juniper.

This large clump of horsemint straddled the trail around the two-mile mark. These were some of the biggest I've seen, earning their sometimes-name, giant hyssop.

It's a member of the mint family and the leaves smell like it, though they actually smell more like catnip. If I still had a cat, I'd bring home a pocketful to see how it reacts.

The sulphurflower along the way at fairly high, sunny altitude, was nearly fluorescent. I should have crushed a little — see if the name comes from the color or from the smell (I'm guessing from the color).

Finally, I've been seeing these the past week or so, and decided I needed to photograph at least one. It's a harebell and is pretty common all around here. Very pretty.

Nice morning, foggy in the valley because of some overnight rain (just a trace). Temperature when I started was in the mid-50s, and when I finished it was 74. Reached into the 80s by the time I was done shopping in Helena.

7; 7; 131.5; 578
Posted by Mose, 1:51 PM | link | 0 comments |