Saturday, October 25, 2014

Upper Two Medicine Lake

Saturday Oct 25, Patti and I hiked to Upper Two Medicine Lake.  This hike was chosen for several reasons:
  1. It was opening day of hunting season and Patti felt safer hiking in Glacier Park where hunting is not allowed.
  2. As a change of pace Patti wanted to hike to a lake instead of a mountain top.
  3. We hadn't been on the east side of the Park this year for a hike.  Because of the shorter and shorter daylight, now is better than later for a long day of driving and hiking.
We both had hiked to Upper Two Medicine Lake before.  For me it was October 17, 2010.

As we drove along Hwy 2 through the mountains we saw lots of vehicles parked in many of the road's pullouts. Hunters were out in droves.  I later read a news story where a hunter from Minnesota and later another hunter shot at a grizzly bear that charged them near Marias Pass.  Apparently the hunters had surprised a grizzly and her two cubs who had been feeding on a poached moose and her calf.

Two Medicine Lake was mostly still as the wind was mostly calm. Unusual as the Two Medicine area is usually windy.  The upper mountains were draped in snow.   Winter is coming.

The distance to the lake is about 4.8 to 5 miles one way.  The elevation gain is not much at only 350 ft.

Red line was our route.

The temperature when we started was 37 degrees.  The sky was mostly cloudy.  It appeared like the clouds were breaking up near the start of our hike but that stopped and it was cloudy all day until shortly before we got back to Patti's vehicle.  Then the cloud bank started to leave and the sun came out.

On the trail we met Patrice.  He is originally from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean but now lives in Seattle where he teaches at a French school.  When Patti and I saw what looked to be somewhat fresh bear scat we waited for Patrice and hiked with him for the rest of our hike.  Safety in numbers.

It was good we hiked together as Patrice had an interesting background and was pleasant company to hike with.

Search Google images for more awesome photos of Reunion Island.

Twin Falls (between Two Medicine Lake and Upper Two Medicine Lake) is not far off the trail so we stopped to see it.  This time I noticed a user path on the left of the left falls and followed it up the twists and turns and extra falls to almost the top of the falls.

We hoped to see moose as my previous hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake had multiple moose sitings.  No moose this time.   Here are a few photos from my previous visit where I saw moose, including the last photo where the moose blocked the trail for a while.

Other than a few birds and squirrels close by the trail, the only other wildlife seen was with Patti's binoculars. While eating our lunch at the lake I used the binoculars to spot mountain goats and two bighorn sheep up on the rocky mountainside of Pumpelly Pillar

Follow this link for more photos:

For a video of Twin Falls we passed along the way:

For a video of the falls of water shortly after it exits Upper Two Medicine Lake:


Friday, October 24, 2014

Mission Lookout

Friday, October 24, Joyce, Kendra and I hiked to the Mission Lookout in the Flathead National Forest. The lookout, constructed in 1959, is at an elevation of approximately 3,700 feet. It is a 15-by-15 facility atop a 40-foot tower.

To reach the lookout:
From Swan Lake, travel south on Highway 83 for 3 miles. Turn west onto Porcupine Creek Road 10229 (mile-marker 68). After passing Forest Road 9714, turn right onto Forest Road 9803 (2.2 miles after leaving the state highway). Continue on Forest Road 9803 for 1.4 miles, to a gate. The gate may be opened. If not, it can be opened with the same combination code as the tower. The tower and parking area are located just beyond the gate.

The gate was open so we could have driven all the way to the lookout but we parked Kendra's car near the intersection of roads 10229 and 9803 and walked a little over a mile to the lookout.

We gained about 400 ft in elevation.

This lookout was also closed.  We were able to climb the tower until we reached a (combination) locked 'door' in the platform floor.  While this lookout is taller than the Napa lookout, the trees are taller.  So our view of the Swan Mountain Range from just below the cabin floor was merely ok through gaps in the tree tops.

This lookout is a rental lookout.  A fire pit is nearby.  Propane tanks are also nearby with a metal pipe going up the tower to the lookout cabin.

A sign on the tower warned of pack-rats and recommended leaving your vehicle's hood open so pack-rats would not build a nest in your engine compartment.

There is a modern restroom/outhouse at this lookout.

Little Napa Lookout

Friday, October 24, Joyce, Kendra and I hiked to two lookouts in the Swan Valley. First we hiked to Little Napa Lookout in the Swan River State Forest.  Then we hiked to the Mission Lookout in the Flathead National Forest. Both lookouts were relatively close to one another.

Both hikes were short. 2 miles each round trip for a total of 4 miles.
Napa Lookout had an elevation gain of about 540 ft.

I did not see a restroom / outhouse at this lookout.

Napa Lookout:
Near mile marker 62 on Hwy 83 turn onto Center Loop Road.
Drive on Center Loop road for about 4 miles until to get to an intersection.
Turn left and drive a third of a mile until you get to another intersection.  There is a sign here indicating to turn left for Napa Point Road.
Turn left and drive for a little over a mile until you see a road on your right.
Turn right onto this road and drive for a little more than a tenth of a mile until you see a gated road on your left.  This is the trail head.
Red is the roads were drove in on.
Blue is part of the road (Goat Creek road?) we drove out on. We had missed a turn. We ended up 3 miles further south (mile marker 62) when we got back to Hwy 83.
Purple is where we seen the fire activity sign.
Orange is the trail to Napa lookout.

Trail head

The "trail" is a road.

Lookout with Mission Mountains in the background

The lookout was closed for the year.  Solar panels indicates it is used.   A difference in most other lookouts is that metal sheets are used to cover the windows when not in use instead of wood panels.

I don't know what is in the wooden structure under the lookout.  Most likely supplies.   The metal box is unusual.  Not sure what it is for.  A sign mentioned radio frequencies.

Fall colors

Swan Mountains in the foreground.  Mission Mountains in the background.

Mission Mountains

Mission Mountains (left).  Swan Lake.  Swan Mountains (right)

Mission Mountains

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Holland lookout cabin

Sunday October 19 Patti and I hiked up to the Holland lookout cabin.  This is a destination Patti and I each have wanted to do for a long time.

Trail to the lookout cabin

 Saturday's clouds and rain moved on and Sunday morning it was a completely clear sky on a relatively warm Fall day.  A perfect day to hike up on top of a mountain to a lookout.  That is, if the mountain top was not snow covered.  Otherwise, Plan B was to hike to Upper Holland Lake.

During the drive down the Swan Valley we looked at the mountains for signs of snow.  It was hard as we were sort of looking into the rising sun and many of the mountains were in silhouette.  Some mountains had snow and others did not.  Not quite a rhyme or reason to it.

It didn't appear the mountains we would be hiking on had snow, but we wouldn't really know until we climbed up there.  We were fortunate as there were only a few small patches of snow in the shade of trees near the trail on high.  Nothing to really write home about.

At about 9:30 am we weren't really early but there were only a few vehicles in the trailhead's large parking lot.  Many trails leave from here and this is a popular hiking area.

Holland Lookout
Established with a camp in 1921, this 14x14' stone & shake cabin, built in 1931, was abandoned in 1953 and is still there.

The distance to the lookout (cabin) was 6.3 miles one way.
The elevation gain was about 4001 ft.  I don't remember much level ground on the trail; it was mainly up to the top which appears to be at 8074 ft.

3 hours 45 minutes to hike up to the lookout and 2 hours 15 minutes to hike back down to the car.  We spent quite a while at the top as there were mountains all around us.  The Bob Marshall Wilderness lay to our east.  Great Northern Mountain could be seen in the far north.

The calves on my legs were a little sore the next day from the up and down hiking.

Half way up the mountain we were passed by a young man with a young dog on a leash.  He was still at the top when we arrived.  He verified which mountain was Holland Peak. He had hiked to the top of Holland Peak last year and we talked about difficulty.  It is doable without technical means.  If you remember, Holland Peak was the mountain I attempted over a month ago before running out of time.

Holland Peak is the far white peak behind all the other peaks.

Patti and I were getting close to the top when we were passed by a young 20-something man who was running up the trail.  He was gone from the top when we arrived.  The guy with the dog told us the other guy went running along the ridge to the mountain to the NW of us.  Even though he was wearing a florescent yellow shirt we never saw him.  He caught back up to us when Patti and I came back down the mountain and were near the junction for trail 42 and 42.1.

There are plenty of trails in the area and during the hike down we missed a trail junction somehow.  Once we came to a tall stand of Canadian Thistle we realized we were not on the right trail.  We apparently weren't the only ones to miss the trail junction as a short distance away was a steep user created cut-off trail connecting the two trails.

Look at all the beargrass!  I have never seen so much, especially over a large area.  It must have been fantastic when it was in bloom this Summer.

The lookout appears to have been recently worked on.

A bit of a climb.  The trail head is near Holland Lake at 4001 ft below.  The Mission Mountains are on the horizon.

For more photos follow this link:

For a 360 view from the top follow this link:


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hidden and Avalanche lakes

 Winter is coming.

On Saturday Oct 18, Joyce, Sue Ann and I hiked in Glacier Park.  Originally Joyce and I were only going to take Sue Ann out for her 70th birthday as we hadn't seen Sue Ann for a while; in my case not since Tammy moved to Montana.  But Sue Ann wanted to go hiking with us instead.

Sue Ann chose to go to Logan Pass in Glacier Park - she even offered to drive.  Sue Ann and Joyce settled on Saturday.  I tried to get them to change to Friday or Sunday as Saturday was forecast for rain.  A slight chance they said so let's go on Saturday.  Umm... I tried to convince them that a slight chance usually means the mountains have a good chance of rain and to go on Sunday, but to no avail.

Joyce and I met Sue Ann at 10 am on an overcast day.  Sue Ann had me drive her vehicle into the Park.

We stopped at the Loop on the Sun Road.  Heaven's Peak and the top of the ridge with the lookout were in the clouds.  Below the clouds for a little ways was snow.

At the Loop we theorized and guessed at where the woman pushed her new husband over the cliff to his death a few years ago.

We also walked the short distance from the Loop to the creek. 

The Fall (yellow) colors were out.  The overcast sky made the colors pop, even the earth tone rock color.  I was disappointed as I don't think my camera captured the vibrant colors.

Not a whole lot of people were at Logan Pass.  The mountains were all in clouds.  Above the visitor center was snow.  We hiked to Hidden Lake.  The boardwalk part of the trail was snow covered and icy and was hazardous when walking back down later.

We saw a few groups of young (teens / 20s) people.  Some were really enjoying the snow and were rolling around in it.  Others were huddled as they walked as they weren't dressed for the cold temperatures and snow.

It started to rain lightly on our hike.  Sue Ann put on rain gear.   Joyce and I got wet.

No mountain goats on the Hidden Lake trail this time.  Guess they moved on now that the tourists are gone and Winter is coming.

Hidden Lake lived up to its name.  From the observation deck all we saw was white.

Yes, Hidden Lake is down there.

Back at Sue Ann's vehicle I turned the heater on high to warm up and dry out.  The car indicated it was  41 degrees outside.  Eating granola bars and chocolate helped.

On the drive down from Logan Pass we passed the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake trails. Since it was no longer raining (only at Logan Pass) we decided to just hike the Trail of the Cedars.  Then just go up above to look at the Avalanche Creek gorge.  As I took photos Sue Ann convinced Joyce to hike to the lake. I was up for it.

I have been to Avalanche Lake many times but apparently not in the late Fall.  The lake's water level was the lowest any of us had ever seen it.  Of the seven main waterfalls, two were in force, two were light, and three were harder to pick out.

After our hikes we stopped at the Back Room restaurant in Colombia Falls to have supper.  A 103 year old woman was having a birthday celebration. 48 people were in her party.

For more photos follow this link:

For a minute and a half video of Avalanche Creek:


Friday, October 10, 2014

Coal Ridge lookout

On Friday October 10, after Kendra completed another radiation treatment,  Joyce, Kendra and I hiked to the cabin and lookout tower on Coal Ridge in the North Fork near Polebridge, Montana.  With the around eight miles that I did on this hike, I have now hiked over 100 miles for the year so far.

I had first learned of this lookout from a story in the Hungry Horse newspaper about a recent restoration project.

Here is a link to the group that did the restoration.  Look for the Moran Patrol Cabin section.!2014-projects/c1nlq

Coal Ridge actually consists of three lookout points along the ridge-top. The first was a cabin at the west point (7285') in 1928. A 24' pole platform tower was added in the 1930's 1.5 miles southeast of the cabin at the 7100' level. Then in 1935 a 20' pole L-4 tower was constructed 1 mile southeast of the original cabin at the 7105' level. Used for emergencies in the 1960's, it has obviously not been maintained for a number of years.
Here are a couple of historic photos of the platform and tower lookouts.

There are several ways to reach the lookout and cabin, but the easiest way is to use the Moran Creek Trail, trail number 2. From the North Fork Road go on Forest Service Road 376 (Hay Creek).  Then go on the Moran Creek Basin road: Forest Service Road 5241 until it ends at a berm in the road.

The trail head is six to seven miles from the North Fork Road which was over 30 miles from Columbia Falls.

Trail 239 is a shorter trail at 1.9 miles long, but a much steeper trail with about 3100 ft of elevation gain.

The trail head is only marked with a small rock cairn on the side of the road a short distance from the road's end.  The trail is not the closed road beyond the berm.  There is no trail head sign or post.

Moran Creek Trail number 2 is 3.04 miles to the junction with trail 14.  The junction is between the cabin and the lookout tower.  The cabin is a little farther away and higher than the lookout tower.  The cabin might be a half mile or more from the trail junction.

I don't know the elevation gain on trail 2.  The trail starts out with a quick elevation gain from the road to get the heart racing, but then settles into a steady but not steep climb. The trail goes along the mountain side until it gets closer to the head of the valley.  It passes by a few small streams that were easy to cross at this time of year.  We also crossed a few muddy seeps that had us go off trail around them.  There was only one recent downed tree across the trail.  From signs of other downed trees the trail appears to be maintained.

Trail 2 ends at trail 14 which runs along the top of Coal Ridge.  The trail junction is at a saddle on the ridge, the lowest part of the ridge.  The steepest part of the hike is on the ridge to the cabin and to the lookout tower.  Kendra ran out of gas on the hike along the ridge to the cabin and did not make it there.  Joyce joined me at the cabin.  Joyce and Kendra then started to hike back to my pickup while I hiked up to the lookout tower.

The lookout tower is not as it appears in the historic photo.  The roof had blown off and landed upside down against a grove of trees.  The roof was mostly intact. The tower's floor walls were gone into a pile of wood at the base of the tower's legs.   The tower's legs were still standing but who knows for how long.  One of the legs no longer was on its concrete pad and several cross trunks were gone or broken.

The tower's structure is different from most lookout towers in that the legs (support structure) were made of tall thick tree trunks bolted together.

When we had gotten to the junction of trails 2 and 14 we could not see the tower or cabin and had to trust which way to go.

The cabin can be seen from the road's end and from a point close to the trail's beginning (as shown in the photo below).  Otherwise you do not see the cabin again until either when you begin the hike to the lookout tower and look back, or at the end when you approach the cabin.

As we got closer to the ridge we could smell smoke.  On the ridge we could see smoke from beyond the next ridge from what appeared to be a controlled burn.  Without the smokey skies we would have had awesome views of the Glacier Park mountains.  This day they were partially obscured.

At the trail junction you can finally see over the ridge down into the Coal Creek valley.  It is a long way down and I don't doubt it would be a 3100 ft climb from the floor to the cabin.

Coal Creek Valley with smoke from the fire.

From the cabin I had great views of the Whitefish Range Mountains and could pick out the ones (Tuchuck, Thoma, etc.) I had hiked on. The skies were not as smokey in that direction as the breeze had not blown the smoke that way.

The cabin was not locked. It was clean and stocked.

From the ridge there were lots of views of the Moran Creek Basin.  I could easily see where the forest had been logged some years ago.  Above that line the trees were all green with a troubling amount of old dead trees.  Below the line the forest was a healthy green with lots of yellow from Western Larch.  The trails were above the logged line so one did pass by a number of snags standing over the trail.

There is no trail to Moran Peak but it doesn't look like it would be difficult to hike to the top of that peak for more views.  I also did not have time to hike east past the tower lookout to search for the platform lookout.  I imagine that would be ruins also.  I also didn't see an obvious trail (trail 14) east of the tower lookout though it also did not appear to be difficult to walk east along the ridge.

If you are interested in what happened after the hike was over, follow this link.

For more photos, follow this link: