Montana Outdoors

September 9, 2008

Clear Creek 3

Yesterday we cleared the final part of the Clear Creek trail, at least as far as we will go this year. At the top we reached Forest Service Road 4211, which is the remains of a very old mining road, at a point a couple of miles from the gate that has closed it to motor vehicle travel for many years now. The high ridges that run for miles above the old road provide fabulous elk country and I’m already planning to try a hunt there myself when the season opens.

The morning began with a quite pleasant hike up the two miles of trail that we cleared last week. That turned out to be the “flat” part of the trail! The rest was up hill for a mile and a half to two miles along a very steep sidehill with a lot of small trees down on the trail, probably from the weight of the heavy snow that fell there last winter and stayed until nearly mid summer. Just before we reached the opening in the forest caused by the old road at the top, I decided that I had not done that much work in many years, since late in the summer of 1908, to be exact.

The hike back to the waiting truck was much easier and much more pleasant, since it was nearly all down hill, and it was somewhere along that part of the hike that I began to think I might actually survive the trip. I also began to think that there are probably several million people across this country who simply would not believe that the kind of activity we had just completed is still going on in today’s America. The day’s total was nearly 8 miles of hiking involving a vertical climb of about 2,000 feet, wading across the creek a dozen times and leaving (in my case) a gallon or so of perspiration on the trail.

In the canyon bottom, the burned out remains of this huge cedar provide evidence that a wild fire had swept through the canyon perhaps a hundred years ago. (It’s a good three feet across its middle.)

Remains of a fire-hollowed cedar.

With a little effort, USFS Road 4211 at the top could still be used for fire or other emergency access into the high country as well as a viable route for hikers, hunters and back country horsemen. The blue of the sky gives testimony to the pureness of the air in this part of the country.

USFS road 4211

Ironically, with a half dozen or so stream crossings on the trail, this particular crossing was a dry one because of this old foot bridge over the stream. Someone, probably 80 years or so ago, sawed a huge tree lengthwise right down its middle to make it and it’s still solid, though covered with moss.

Footbridge on trail 6627

At the end of the long, long day, the unmistakable Forest Service green of our trusty steed was a very welcome sight!

Transportation, USFS style

Moving along toward fall

The transition between late summer and early fall is a very pleasant time here in western Montana. There are still flowers in bloom down by the river;

yellow ones, (Evening Primrose)

100_7810

white ones,

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and purple ones with bright red berries. (Bittersweet nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, [USDA: Climbing nightshade])

Bittersweet nightshade

The rose hips are extra large this year,

Rose hips

the early red colors are beginning to show,

Start of fall

and this pretty little visitor to our apple tree is a sign that the apples are about ready.

White tail

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