Saturday, October 15, 2011

734 miles in one year by Jake

A man has hiked every trail in Glacier Park in a single year.  734 miles of trails.  Jake is the first known person to have done this.  He hiked the final miles Saturday, October 15.

Jake is a very nice guy.  I had hiked with him once this year, when we hiked to Medicine - Grizzly Lake on July 19. 

I planned on hiking with Jake to Dutch Lake earlier this month but I canceled the morning of his hike when it was raining. Hiking 20 or so miles in the rain on a cool day didn't appeal to me.  But Jake went ahead and hiked to the lake.

Beacon photo

Here is a video of when Jake crossed the 'finish line' to complete his last hike:

Jake has a blog and a Facebook page.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wolverine sighting

I forgot to mention in my post about hiking to Tuchuck Mountain, but Patti and I saw a wolverine.  We saw it cross the North Fork road as we were driving to Tuchuck. I think we were just south of Polebridge, MT when we saw the wolverine.  At first we weren't sure what animal it was as neither of us had ever seen a wolverine before.  But that is what it was.

It was a treat to see a wolverine as they are very rare animals.

In case you want to know more about wolverines, here is a link to a PBS documentary on wolverines:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tuchuck Mountain

Saturday, October 1, Patti and I hiked up to the top of Tuchuck Mountain (elevation 7751 ft).  Last year, when hiking various mountains (Mount Wam, Stahl Peak, Lake, Nasukoin) in the Whitefish Range we always saw Tuchuck in the distance.  If we got the right mountain... it looked like a whale breaching and fascinated us.  Finally this year we had the opportunity to climb to the top of Tuchuck, and even if the weather was iffy, we took that opportunity.

There appears to be four trails to reach Tuchuck Mountain. All the trails come together by the time they reach Tuchuck Pass, which lies below Tuchuck Mountain.  Three trails of varying length leave from the Tuchuck campground along Forest Service Road 114 (Trail Creek Road).  The fourth trail (#19) left from Forest Service Road 114A and this route appeared to be a little shorter (I'm guessing 4.5 to 5 miles one way).  I had been on road 114A when I hiked up to the Mt Thoma lookout and knew this road was much higher in elevation than road 114 so I expected we would have less of an elevation gain than if we took a trail from the campground.  I have a feeling that it didn't work out this way.

We decided to take trail 19 from road 114A.

Here is our route shown on a 1971 Forest Service Map. (I can't find my current map of this area).  FYI - since this map was created road 114A has now been closed after where I marked "Start" on the map.  Trees are now growing in the road.

From Google Maps, here is what I believe our route was.

Looking at the Google maps view of Tuchuck Mountain I found the U.S. Canadian border interesting.  It appears to dip across Frozen Lake.  I wonder if the border really does dip?

The Western Larch trees (Tamaracks) were turning yellow and were quite pretty.

The following photo was taken from near the middle X on the above map. Looking south you can see the three lakes.

We had been walking three to four miles by now and hadn't seen Tuchuck Mountain yet.  The trail kept mainly to the south of the ridge blocking for the most part the view of Tuchuck Mountain.  On the return to the car, at one very brief point, I was able to see part of Tuchuck Mountain when hiking along the ridge.

The following photo was taken near the fourth X on the map.  This is where trail 18 (one of the trails from Tuchuck campground) meets with trail 19.  The two wooden signs in the middle of the photo were laying on the ground when we came and we didn't see them.  Not knowing where to go we went to the left and after climbing a third of a mile began to suspect something was wrong.  We got out Patti's map and figured out we were on trail 18.  I hiked to the top of the ridge and found Tuchuck Mountain.  We definitely were on the wrong trail.

We backtracked to where I took the following photo and then found the signs listing the trails.  We propped the signs up the best we could then headed to the right, where Patti is standing.

Tuchuck Mountain as seen from the "wrong" trail.

Tuchuck Mountain was seen from the "right" trail, trail number 19.

The photos with clouds were taken after it had just rained. We had a wet day.  It had rained before we started our hike.  Therefore once the trail got brushy after a mile or so of hiking, our clothes and shoes got wet.  Then as we neared the top of the ridge, and the first trail junction, we hiked in a light rain.  Fortunately once we got back onto the right trail the rain quit for the day and we even saw the sun briefly when we were on Tuchuck Mountain.

The preceding photos somewhat capture the steepness of the mountain.  At Tuchuck Pass, where trails 19 and 23 join, the trail then went down.  We followed it a short way then quit and returned back up to the trail junction.  Going down felt wrong when we could see how the ridge went up to the mountain.

We saw a cairn of rocks and began to bushwhack up the ridge.  After a bit we could see a few signs of a switchback trail further up the mountain side and continued up the ridge to reach the trail.  We didn't use the switchback trail.  The trail was old and narrow and we could only see some sections of it.  The trail would go into the trees on the other side and we couldn't make out where it came back from the trees.  On the way back down from the mountain top we tried to use the trail but found the trail kept curving around the mountain's east side well into the trees with no sign of the next switchback. We lost sight of Tuchuck Pass.  We felt more comfortable going straight down the mountain side as it was shorter and we could see our destination at all times: Tuchuck Pass.

The downside of not taking the trail up the mountainside was that it was very steep going up and slow going.  We slowly climbed up the ridge the best we could until we got to the top of the mountain.  Time was passing and we started to get concerned about getting back to the car before dark.  We had started hiking at 10 am and we didn't reach the top of the mountain until 2:13 pm.  We left the mountain top at 2:45 pm and got back to the car at almost 6 pm.  4 1/4 hours vs 3 1/4 hours.  That indicates the climbing we did during the hike.

When we started up Tuchuck Mountain, here is the view back the way we came.  We had started the hike at the middle of the left edge of the photo.  We hiked up just on the other side of the mountain ridge that goes from left to right.  At the right side of the clouds on the right side of that mountain, we descended to Tuchuck Pass.  Yes, I said "descended".  Quite a distance down multiple switchbacks.  Now I am not so sure we saved any elevation gain by starting at road 114A.  I suspect if we took trail 23 from the Tuchuck campground we may have had a similar amount of elevation gain as that trail joined our trail (#19) at Tuchuck Pass.

Tuchuck Pass is just right of center.

At the top of Tuchuck Mountain we found this marker.  We also found some broken glass and cable from where the old lookout once stood. Apparently the lookout existed from 1931 to 1957.

I've been to the top of a few other peaks in NW Montana and I think many of the other markers also were from the year of 1924.

The three following photos put together a 360 view from the top of Tuchuck Mountain.

View SE to almost West

View almost West to NE

View NE to SE

A short video made by another hiker from the top of Tuchuck Mountain:

Several other things of interest...

I'm not sure what caused this, but a number of small trees near Tuchuck Pass has this brown stuff on them.  I wonder if it was because of a late season snow melt?

And we found a quite number of huckleberries on the bushes.  Some still tasted good, others had no flavor due to how late in the season it is.  Here is a sign the bears were eating plenty of huckleberries.   We saw plenty of bear scat and also wolf scat on the trail.  So we often made noise to warn the bears we were coming and saw no bears.

These photos are just 1/3 of the photos I took. For more photos (67 photos, including the ones you seen above), go to my Picasa photo site:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Geiger Lakes and Lost Buck Pass

The metal and wooden signs indicating the trail seem redundant, but as the metal sign seems to often be mistaken for a deer, the small wooden signs may be necessary.

Friday, September 9, Patti, Joyce, Glenda and I hiked to the Geiger Lakes and Lost Buck Pass in the Cabinet Mountains south of Libby, Montana.  Glenda is Joyce's friend.  This is the first time I hiked with Glenda.  While everyone else wore shorts as the temperature was predicted to reach 90 degrees, Glenda wore long pants - blue jeans.  Even so, she did well.

We got a late start as I had to pick up my neighbor from the train station and the train was about one hour and forty-five minutes late.  Then it was a long drive to the trail head and we were slowed by traffic.  These two older men on motorcycles were going around 10 mph under the speed limit.  They were going so slow that a pickup pulling an RV travel trailer passed them and sped off before I took this photo.

We didn't get going on the trail until 11:40 am.  This was late start for a hot day and a trail that gained about 2334 feet in the four miles to Lost Buck Pass.  Maybe it is due to all the recent hikes with a decent elevation gain, but this hike did not seem steep.  It was a steady climb though.

  Start: Trail head                                     Trail End: Lost Buck Pass, junction with Cabinet Divide Trail 360
  Elevation: 3,666 feet                            Elevation: 6,000 feet
  Length: 4 miles

Directions: From Libby, 24 to 26 miles south on US 2. Turn right onto West Fisher Road 231 and continue for 6 miles. Turn left on the Lake Creek road, and after 1/2 mile., turn left again on the Geiger Lakes road.  Continue 2 miles to the parking area. The trail leaves the road about 100 feet before the parking area. Once you leave Hwy 2 the roads are gravel.  While the last 2 miles is on a rougher and narrow road, all roads are usable by any type of vehicle.

This trail (# 656) takes you past Lower and Upper Geiger Lakes.

Lower Geiger Lake is reached at about 2 miles.

The trail continues about another mile to near Upper Geiger Lake.

Trail 656 climbs and continues about another mile to Lost Buck Pass and Trail 360, offering scenic views including an overlook to the west into Wanless Lake.

A number of social use trails lead from trail 656 to Lower Geiger Lake.  A few trails lead from trail 656 to Upper Gieger Lakes.  The junction with trail 115 that goes along the 4th of July Creek is not marked but is easily seen.

Trail 656 is not brushy and appears to get plenty of use.  Most of the trail is in the trees and on a hot day provided relief from the sun.  About the last half mile is out in the open as it makes it final push to Lost Buck Pass.  Some - not many - trees are around the pass.

Near the start of the trail, where it crossed Lake Creek, is this excellent bridge.  It is larger and more sturdy than any other bridge I've hiked across in NW Montana.  Even the bridges in Glacier Park pale in comparison.

This was located on a switchback between Lower and Upper Geiger Lakes. The large flat rock must have inspired someone to pile the rocks like a grave.

We did not stop at the two lakes on the way to the Pass due to our late start, but did find that we had time to visit them on the way back to the trail head.   There were lots of mosquitoes at the Upper Geiger Lake so we did not stay there but for a few minutes.  No mosquitoes were at the Lower Geiger Lake.

We met three young men setting up camp on a higher knoll at the foot of Lower Geiger Lake.   Their plan was to fish the lakes with the goal of reaching Wanless Lake.  Two of the men had been to Wanless Lake last year.  Apparently there is no real trail to the lake but their route was to take a game trail from the side of Carney Peak at Lost Buck Pass until the trail petered out and they had to bushwhack the rest of the way down to the lake.

Wanless Lake as seen from the overlook near Lost Buck Pass.  Beyond the lake is Engle Peak.  The mountain on the left side is Goat Peak.

Carney Peak is to the north (right) of the Pass and people do hike to the top of it.  It seems doable but I did not see an obvious way to the top when I looked it over.  The two young men said they just scrambled straight up the scree when they climbed it last year.

Even though we stopped and picked some huckleberries on the way back to the car, we made good time and reached the car sometimes after 7 pm.    A few times we browsed on some huckleberries on the hike to the Pass.  It appears that many of the huckleberries had already been picked this year but we found some on the down-slope side of the trail where it was harder to get to.  With Patti and Joyce's help I picked a plastic sandwich bag full of huckleberries to take to my Uncle Curt and Aunt Cathy as thanks for letting me stay at their house before my Alaskan cruise.  Wouldn't you know it?  I forgot the huckleberries in my refrigerator when I packed.

More photos:

Below the foot of Lower Geiger Lake

Trees in Lower Geiger Lake.

The foot of Lower Geiger Lake

Upper Geiger Lake.  The mountain on the right is Carney Peak.  Lost Buck Pass is the saddle to the right of center.

Upper Geiger Lake

Upper Geiger Lake as seen from near Lost Buck Pass.

September and there is still snow near the pass.

A few interesting dead trees from near the overlook near Lost Buck Pass.  The mountain on the right is the 'backside' of the mountain in the photos of Upper Geiger Lake.

Here is an excellent video of the trail lakes and mountain from another person:    The video length is 8:50.