Twenty-five Days in Montana
It was my privilege to spend twenty-five days car-camping, day-hiking, backpacking, and just generally hanging out and visiting with my daughter and son-in-law in Montana, August 10 to September 03.
I could go on forever about how wonderful Montana is and how much I loved the chance to spend some extended time there... Just go to Glacier National Park, drive the Going-To-The-Sun-Road, and you'll be hooked.
Pics in my Gallery. (UPDATE: I created an album about 10:00 AM. Hope you like the pics.) Maybe in a few days, I will take the time to figure out how to embed those nifty, hot-linked thumbnails in my posts; then, I will come back and edit this post to include thumbnails.
I hung my Hennessy Expedition A-Sym throughout the outdoor portions of the vacation. I used the Hennessy UQ and the stock rainfly. My son lent me his brand-new North Face Elkhorn sleeping bag, which I used as an OQ. (synthetic fill, rated for 0*) I slept way warm, often shoving the bag to one side. Night-time temps never got lower than the high 30s. I slept comfortably through a few thunderstorms that offered heavy rain and high winds.
IMPORTANT>>> My Hennessy was enhanced by the 2Q/ZQ Zipper Mod #4. This was well worth the price. The mod made my hammock much more comfortable and convenient to use. I can happily recommend the mod. The workmanship is ___superb___.
Frankly, my hammock, rainfly, and UQ stood up to the foul weather better than my raincoat and rain pants. I conclude that my raingear is fit only to keep me mostly dry while I set up my rainfly and prepare to ride out the storm. I need better raingear. My Merrell Switchback Goretex boots were a lifesaver on stream crossings and on the rocky trails---dry feet all the way and no foot or ankle problems. (Smartwool socks) My REI Ridgeline 65 internal-frame pack handled a bit of an overload with dignity. Nite-ize Figure Nines handled tightening duties with minimal effort; large ones on the ends of my hammock; small ones on the side-tie-outs for the hammock and rainfly; a small one for the Dyneema we used to hang our food. (Thanks, Redden Marine! The discount code worked.)
Big Hole; Sawtooth Lake Trail
My daughter and I drove down to Big Hole, then over to the Elkhorn Hot Springs area. We car-camped at the Grasshopper Campground in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. (3.35 Million acres) The nightly fee was eight bucks, if memory serves. I ended up using a separate ridgeline. The trees were just a bit too close together. We visited the ghost town of Bannack, dug for crystals at Crystal Park, hiked the Sawtooth Lake Trail, and soaked in the Elkhorn Hot Springs.
On our way back, we visited Butte, Montana. The Mineral Museum has an astonishing collection of crystals of all kinds, including a nearly-500-lb. quartz crystal that is the largest found in Montana. It is a free visit. If you like crystals, this stop is not to be missed.
My daughter and I climbed (almost) all the way to the summit of Trapper Peak. At 10,157 ft., it is the highest peak in the Bitterroot Mountains. The trail to the top climbs 3,800 ft. from the trailhead. The trail is somewhat "old-school," in that it consists of very few switchbacks. Mostly, it is plain "up." The last 500 ft. of elevation require scrambling over broken, loose rocks ranging in size from "basketball" to "Volkswagen." We had to pull the plug about 300 ft. shy of the summit. The scrambling was slow going, and we were running out of daylight. Maybe next year, all the way to the summit...
OOPS! Is my face red! I nearly forgot to mention one of the trip's best days: My daughter and I rode bicycles down the Hiawatha Trail. (I added a few pics to the vacation album.) The Hiawatha Trail is a sand-and-gravel road (well-packed) that traverses roughly twelve miles of the old Hiawatha railroad right-of-way. (Another 31 miles are in the planning stages.) It is very gently downhill all the way; you scarcely have to pedal at all. Helmets and headlamps are required and can be rented; so can bicycles and trailers. $8 to ride down the trail and $9 for the shuttle-bus that brings you back up to the starting point. The trail was known as one of the most scenic train routes in the country; ride down it and you will know why.
Fabulous scenery, plenty of historical information, great views, ten tunnels, seven high trestles. We did it in about three hours. You could easily spend four hours on it, or even the whole day. Take a light lunch, take a supply of water. Be sure your bike is ready for the journey.
Huckleberries and thimbleberries grow along the trail. We ate plenty.
The St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest administers the National Forest land on which the trail is located. The Hiawatha Bike Trail is operated by the Lookout Pass Ski Area under a special use permit of the U. S. Forest Service. Websites for the trail are http://www.fs.fed.us/ipnf/rec/activi...iking/Hiawatha and www.ridethehiawatha.com
Glacier National Park; Many Glacier, Grinnell Glacier, Swiftcurrent Pass, Two Medicine Lake
Daughter, son-in-law, and I car-camped at Many Glacier campground. (I think it was $20 per night.)
We hiked to Grinnell Glacier---awesome, otherworldly terrain; great scenery along the trail. We actually got to touch one of the remaining ten or twelve glaciers in Glacier National Park. (They are melting fast.)
We took a stab at Swiftcurrent Pass but the steadily-worsening rain, cold, and wind forced us first to suit up in our rain gear, and then to turn back. We still had a great hike. As we neared the trailhead on our return, we met three Park Rangers heading up the trail with radio equipment and what looked like a shotgun. (Maybe a beanbag gun?) They informed us that a Grizzly had been "misbehaving," and that the trail was closed.
We took a boat ride across Two Medicine Lake and hiked the short trail to Twin Falls. Along the way, we enjoyed a few huckleberries.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex; Scapegoat Wilderness, Scapegoat Massif, Half Moon Park
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex comprises three wilderness areas: the Great Bear Wilderness, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the Scapegoat Wilderness. These three, contiguous areas contain over 1.5 million acres without a road.
"The Bob" is (to the best of my knowledge and belief) the largest unspoiled, roadless tract of public land in the Lower 48. It is part of, and is surrounded by, four National Forests: Helena NF, Lewis and Clark NF, Flathead NF, and Lolo NF.
You Can Get. Seriously. Away. From It. ALL.
My Son-in-law and I backpacked into the Scapegoat Wilderness. (The trailhead lies at the end of about 12 miles of gravel road that winds gently toward the Rocky Mountain Front through ranchland stretched far and wide. Then it is a 1.5-mile hike through private property to get to the border of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. THEN, it is another couple of miles of hiking to the Scapegoat Wilderness Boundary.) We stayed four days and three nights. We made one intermediate camp on the way in, then we crossed Welcome Pass, set up a base camp, and did some day-hiking. The Scapegoat Massif was awesome to behold. We hiked a loop that took us down through Half Moon Park, then back to our base camp.
We saw scat of Grizzly Bear, Black Bear, and Elk but enjoyed no direct sighting of anything but Elk.
We arose early on the fourth day. We had planned to stay another night but the clouds were ominous, so we pulled the plug. It turned out to have been a wise decision. When we got back to civilization, we learned that the weather had turned, with temps in the 30s, winds in the 20s, and snow above 7000 ft..
Next year, we want to do a cross-hike (East-West or West-East) through some part of The Bob. Ultimately, we want to do a South-North or North-South but that will need some planning, logistics, honing of gear, and some fairly serious conditioning. Oh, and some snakeskins.
I was not able to convert my son-in-law to hammocking but I did persuade him to try lying in my hammock; he agreed it was comfortable. Baby steps...
All in all, we had a great time. I highly recommend Montana.