Saturday, August 8, 2015

Baldy Mountain

On Saturday, August 8, after completing our hike to the Big Hole Lookout (, since we were in the area Patti and I hiked to the top of Baldy Mountain.

5.2 miles round trip.
1500 feet elevation gain.

The climb was steeper than we expected.  The elevation went from about 5900 feet at the trail head to over 7400 feet at the top. About 1500 ft over 2.6 miles, which is not bad, but both Patti and I felt it.  Maybe it was because this was our second hike of the day.

As we hiked up we met one couple and their dog coming down.  They didn't make it to the top.  They were the only people we saw on the mountain.

The driving route from Kalispell

The driving route between our two hikes of the day

The driving route from Plains, MT to the trail head

Baldy Mountain as seen from just north of Plains. MT

Baldy Mountain

 The top mile of the trail is all made of loose rock, about the size of bricks. Good tough boots are in order!

Thompson Peak is the tallest mountain in the far background.

Cabinet Mountains in the distance

Our earlier hike, Big Hole Lookout, is over that way.

The following photo doesn't do justice to the great views,  The photo is washed out so it doesn't show the Mission Mountains, Swan Mountain Range, or the mountains of Glacier National Park in the distance.

Hot Springs, MT is out in the sunlight in the center of the photo.

We didn't hike down to Baldy Lake.

Baldy Lake

Big Hole Lookout

Waaay back on Saturday August 8 - before the smoke from all those forest fires put a damper on hiking - Patti and I hiked up to the Big Hole Lookout as part of a "Two summit day".  The second hike to the top of Baldy Mountain will be another post later.

Location: On Highway 200, 8 miles west of Plains is the Westville Creek Road 887. Off that road take Forest Service Road 875 approximately 8 miles to the trail head at the gate near the junction of Forest Roads 875 and 7578.

Big Hole Lookout Trail (368) begins at the upper gate on Road 875. The lower gate is closed to motorized vehicles from December 1 to May 15.

Distance: 5.4 miles round trip.  To me, the length felt less as it was an easy hike.

Elevation gain:  1422 ft.  The trail head is 5500 feet.  The elevation at the lookout is 6922 feet.

The trail is easy.  Unlike other Cabinet Mountain trails this trail doesn't climb steeply much of the way.  The only steep part is the final quarter mile to the lookout.

There appeared to be plenty of horse traffic on the trail until the turnoff to the Sheep Camp trail, which is a little over a half mile from the lookout.   Not so much horse manure, but hoof prints and a soft dusty trail from all the horse traffic.  This was probably due to this year's work on restoring the lookout, which was done the week before Patti and I hiked to the lookout.

This was the softest - and dustiest! - trail I ever hiked on.   Patti and I had to keep some distance from each other due to the dust raised by our walking.  The air was still so the dust hung there.  By the end of the hike my shoes and socks were filthy.  I even had to wash - soak! - my hiking shoes to clean them.  Earlier I had tried banging them together to get the dust off but on the next hike my socks were extremely dirty from the shoes, not so much from the hike.

We had hiked through lots of huckleberry bushes. Here and there the bushes were picked clean.  We found out why.  Due to the distance apart from each other I missed seeing the bear Patti saw.   She thought it was a medium black bear or a smaller grizzly.  It turned and ran when it saw Patti.   From then on we called out "Hey bear!  Hey bear!" as we walked.

Patti also saw a bear near the end of the hike.  I missed seeing that one to.

The very end of the hike was very strange.  Lots and lots of ravens circled overhead.  I wondered if we were unknowingly in the sequel to the movie, "The Birds".    29 seconds long.

The views from the lookout were very nice.

My 21 photos are at this link:

At the bottom of this web page is a little history, photos and videos about the ongoing restoration of the lookout.  The three YouTube videos explaining the restoration work in 2013, 2014 and 2015 are interesting.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cosley Lake in August

On Saturday, August 1, Patti, Lynda and I hiked to Cosley Lake in the Belly River area in the very NE part of Glacier Park. Cosley Lake is one of Patti's favorite lakes in Glacier Park which is why we made the long drive and long hike.  I also like the lake.

I have been to Cosley Lake twice before: once on a backpacking trip in the 1990s, and then in August 2009 with Patti and Gene (  Six years ago?!!!  Wow!  Time is flying!

It was a 3 hour drive to the trail head - the farthest point of Glacier Park from Flathead Valley.  Because the Reynolds Creek fire closed the Going-to-the-Sun Road we had to drive around the Park.   

Red marks how we drove to Cosley Lake.   
Purple indicates part of how we drove back home. 

We decided to take the 'purple' road as we had never driven it and wondered if a straighter road away from the mountains would be faster.  (The map doesn't show how crooked the road is between East Glacier and St Mary). While the mileage was more, and we had nice views, and the road was definitely straighter and one could drive much faster, I don't think the purple route was quicker.   

Yellow is our hiking route.

Trailhead: The Belly River Trail begins at a small parking area along Highway 17, just south of the Chief Mountain border crossing. From the trail head, the route descends for two miles through thick forest into the Belly River Valley losing 809 feet in elevation. The loss in elevation is a pleasant way to start the trip, but recognize it will be a hard climb back up at the end of a long hike.  While the two miles is among trees, on our hike back out the position of the sun was just so that we got very little shade as we hiked up and up.

After reaching the valley bottom, the trail changes little in elevation as it follows the winding river. The Belly River Ranger Station provides a nice landmark, about 6 miles into the trip.  A short distance after crossing the Belly River on a long suspension bridge one can take a short side trip to see Gros Ventre Falls.  Then it is a little climb up to Cosley Lake.

It was another death march as the distance round-trip was 17.4 miles on a hot mid 80s or warmer day. (Or a tenth or two more if I count the short side trip to Gros Ventre Falls along the way).  At least the trail was dry - it can get muddy after a little rain, and the horse/pack-train traffic to the ranger station doesn't help the trail any.

Cosley Lake looking west towards Stoney Indian Pass.

For 29 more photos, click here:

For a 38 second video of Cosley Lake:

Yes, it was a windy day at Cosley Lake.