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.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Quartz Lakes

Saturday, September 26, I hiked the Quartz Lakes loop in Glacier Park with Joyce, Patti and Gene. This is a hike I've been wanting to do for some time now.  As it is in the NW corner of the Park it is not the easiest to reach, especially as one has to drive 40 miles or so on the rough North Fork road.

The hike's distance was 12.8 miles.  We hiked the loop clockwise. We first hiked 6.2 miles over the ridge that lies between the Bowman and the foot of Quartz Lake gaining 1800 ft up before descending 1600 ft.  Then we hiked 3.1 miles along Middle Quartz Lake and to the foot of the Lower Quartz Lake.  The return to the start at Bowman Lake was 3.5 miles with another climb of 1000 ft over the ridge before dropping 1200 ft to the start.

The climb back to the ridge top from Lower Quartz Lake was less in elevation but much steeper than to Quartz Lake.  Now that I have done the complete loop I agree with Patti that the best part is the hike to Quartz Lake.

Patti had hiked this loop a few years ago and was willing to do this hike again with Gene, Joyce and I who all had never hiked the loop.  Even though I had been up the rough North Fork road a few days earlier I was willing to go on it again so soon.  Patti drove and her Subaru has a smoother ride than my car.

It was a slightly cool but reasonable morning when we started our hike.  With clear skies the sun warmed the day up to be perfect.  The forecast was for high winds in the afternoon because of a cold front and jet stream. While it became windy we were sheltered in the trees.  We could hear the wind in the tree tops and see them sway.

The hike up the ridge was through mature trees and thin undercover.

The hike down from the ridge top to Quartz Lake was through a young forest and we had good views of all lakes.

Once we reached Quartz Lake we were able to sit on the small pebble gravel beach and still be warm.  Patti, Joyce and I took our shoes off and waded in the lake and found it not to be as cold as we had expected.  Still no one went for a swim as we hadn't brought swim clothes. Naturally when I waded in the water I pushed the limit and got the bottom of my shorts wet.  In the warm sun they dried in the hour plus we were there.

The lake is quite beautiful with the mountains all around.  Several of us called this lake "Little Bowman" as the mountain views reminded us of Bowman Lake.

Gene is a big fan of Subway sandwiches. This year he decided to pack a sandwich along on our hikes as he never cared for eating his granola/power/energy bars.  He's always made a dry comment about cardboard when eating them.

The campground is right on the lake.

A camper was wading and fishing in the distance using a floater.  The other camper was an older man from Georgia who had came just to camp and relax three days at this lake.

When it came time to leave I asked the Georgia camper to take a photo of our group at the lake.  It wasn't until much later when the group was taking a break on the ridge before hiking back down to Bowman Lake that I realized I had left my flannel shirt behind at Quartz Lake. I had taken it and other stuff out of my pack and set them on a log while I got food to eat.  In my hurry to have the Georgia man take our photo I forgot to put my shirt back into the pack. 

Before leaving the lake we stopped by the patrol cabin and checked it out.  Bears must be a problem as the door was full of nails and the windows were barred.

The hike between Quartz Lake and Lower Quartz Lake was through a mature forest with a dense undercover, and area where one would not want to go off trail and bushwhack.

We stopped at Lower Quartz Lake to rest and snack.  Several groups were camping at the lake.  A young couple were fishing from fallen tree logs below the food prep area.  At one point he slipped off the log into the lake and used a naughty word when doing so.

While at the food prep area we had heard lots of giggling and laughing.  We met this group of campers when we left.  They were very early 20s people: three girls and one guy.  They moved off a narrow log bridge over the river outlet from the lake  so we could cross.  They planned to fish but I think they were having too much fun giggling and laughing.

The hike back up the ridge was through a young forest and the other side was back to the mature forest with the littler undergrowth.

There were more people boating on Bowman Lake than I expected.  When we started our hike several people left on motorboats, which I had never seen on the lake before. The campground host (a jovial portly woman volunteer from Ohio) was there to check that their motors were 10 hp or less.  When we returned, kayakers were out and about on the lake.

The Bowman Lake view was better in the morning than the afternoon as it was hazy from forest fire smoke.

On the way home we stopped at the Polebridge Merc so Patti and Joyce could buy some of the Merc's delicious baked goods to munch on the way home.  Gene and I soaked in the atmosphere of the store. Each time I visit the store I see something I never noticed before.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two Mountains, One Lookout, One Bear

Thursday September 24 I finally realized my long stated desire to hike up to the Mount Thoma lookout and also Mount Hefty.  I had to hike alone as I am wearing out hiking partners.

I have lots to write about and 238 photos to go through to save, toss and stitch.

In brief...
  • I didn't shake any of my teeth's fillings loose on the North Fork and logging roads (rough is an understatement!),
  • I climbed to the top of both Mt Thoma and Mt Hefty,
  • I didn't get lost (though I lost the trail briefly),
  • I didn't cross into Canada (other than to take a photo of that side of the U.S./Canadian border survey monument on the top of Mt Hefty's shoulder - in the middle of nowhere), 
  • I sank a little one time but did not slip off the logging road and down the mountain side as I drove, 
  • no rocks ripped out the under carriage of my low clearance car, and
  • the large bear did not eat me (the very closest I have ever been to a bear!!!  Let's say about 30 ft give or take. )
Yes... there is much more to my day of hiking and exploring.  And I'll leave you with that as I am off to bed after a long day.

Here is the east view from the Thoma Lookout.  Of the far mountains, the right half are in the U.S. (Glacier Park) and the left half are in Canada.  You can see it was a very smokey day from the forest fires.