Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Huckleberry Mountain Lookout

Wednesday, November 18, Joyce and I hiked up Huckleberry Mountain in Glacier National Park. 

The distance to the lookout at the top is 6 miles; 12 miles round trip.  Joyce didn't make it all the way as her back was bothering her and the snow was slowing her down.  She stopped about a mile short of the lookout.

Arnie planned to hike with us but he wasn't feeling well that morning and canceled.  Arnie is 83 years old.

As we drove up the North Fork Road some of the mountains were cloaked in clouds. Not a good sign. But Huckleberry Mountain was mostly cloud free.  Yay!  I could see snow well down Huckleberry Mountain. Ooohhh...  We had hopes the snow was mainly on the upper part of the mountain.   Nope. We had snow from the trail's start at the Camas Road.  In fact the Camas Road was snow covered.  By the time we got back to Joyce's car the Park had bladed the snow from the road.

We started from the trail head at 9:15 am.  The elevation gain to the Huckleberry Lookout is 3403 feet.  The trail wasn't steep, but it was steady for about the first four and a half miles to a saddle.  We hiked up along a valley and were in and out of trees.  The overcast skies lifted and then breaks of blue sky opened here and there across mountains and valleys creating sunny areas. A few times we hiked in the sunlight which was bright reflecting off the snow.  When the sun shone on us the temperature really warmed up.

While there was a decent amount of snow on the the trail enough people had walked on it and mostly packed it down, which was a nice benefit.

Near the saddle we could look back down the valley and in the distance see Lake McDonald.

Here is the view of the saddle.  (Just a little more and I'll be to the top and the lookout.  Wrong!!!)

We hadn't hiked this trail before so we expected the lookout to be near the saddle. The trail curved around another mountain with no lookout in sight.  At least the trail was now relatively level. You can see the trail in the photo below (the white line).

On this section of the trail it appeared someone had cross country skied it a while ago as the packed down snow has edges to it and occasionally I could see ski pole holes along the trail.  I also saw a number of deer tracks on the trail and sometimes crossing it up and down the mountain side.

On the west side of the saddle we could now see snow covered mountains off to the north.

The trail head is in the next valley off the right of the photo but you get the idea of the elevation of where we had started from.

It was on this section that Joyce decided to stop.  Even though the black bears should have denned in October, and the grizzly bears by mid-November, Joyce had two cans of bear spray along.  Even though I felt the bears had denned I still carried one of her spray cans.  When Joyce stopped to wait for me she asked for the can I was carrying.  Apparently she thought two cans of bear spray was better than one while she waited for me.  I gave her can back as I was sure there were no bears.

Off I went.

At the curve of the mountain the trail continued on curving around to another mountain.  Ah, but the lookout was on this mountain and I continued on.  (Note: I marked the location where I took this photo in a photo I later took from the lookout).

A cloud dropping snow showers came as I approached the lookout.

The lookout was the common structure of many of Glacier's lookouts.  A two story brown wooden structure.  It was closed and the windows boarded up for the winter.  One of the wooden window panel covers had come off due to two broken clasps and I was able to see inside the lookout.  The next day I called the Park office and reported that the panel was off.

It was a relatively windless day until I reached the last part of Huckleberry Mountain.  The wind wasn't too bad but I still ate my lunch and enjoyed the views more on the north and east side of the lookout where I was out of the wind. The views from the lookout were awesome.

View of the North Fork Road and North Fork River.  If the clouds weren't in the way I think - with binoculars - I would have been able to see the small town of Polebridge.

To the south I could see much of Flathead Valley and the north part of Flathead Lake.  The valley and the lake looked to be in sun.

Clouds were here and there around me adding to the drama of all the snow covered mountains all around. 

Here is a 360 degree view from the lookout.

Photo 1 is the views East / SE.  You can see my route to the top.  X is where I came over the saddle from the valley beyond the mountains.  The _____ is my route around the mountain. The beginning of the _____ is where I took the first photo of the lookout.  I then came on top of the ridge of white in the middle of the photo.

Here is the view to the west.  The mountain range across the North Fork road is the Whitefish Range and the Flathead National Forest.  One of the higher mountains across the way (center / center-left) is Standard Peak, which I hiked to the top of in 2010.

The view North/NE/East looking up the North Fork Road and Valley and of the mountains of Glacier Park.

After admiring the view and eating a lunch I reluctantly left and returned to rejoin Joyce.  She had alternately waited and hiked back to the car.  I caught up with her half way back to the trail head.  We got back to Joyce's car at 3:30 pm.

I found that the Huckleberry Mountain trail head was a very short distance away from where I had cross country skied to McGee Meadow last winter.