In the 1930′s when the Forest Service created pack trails to the peaks upon which fire lookouts were built they often encountered places where it was just too darned steep to hike straight up. When the incline exceeded a pitch of 15 to 20%, switchbacks were built to make the trail a little easier for hikers and pack stock to negotiate.
The top mile or so of USFS trail 340 to the Baldy Mountain Lookout is like that and that mile of trail contains 13 switchbacks as it climbs from about 6,400 feet to 7,464 feet. These photos were taken as the sun came up along that section of trail last Thursday morning and I have added the time of the morning at which each was taken just for the heck of it. I thought someone might find them interesting.
7:08 AM. This mound of rocks at the very top was the base upon which the lookout cabin was built in about 1934.
Yes, very much worth the effort. I hike and/or bike every day of the year to be able to get up these trails in summer. There might be very small patches left of some of these snowbanks by the time the new snows come. Right now some of those banks are still 20 feet deep and after all of the daily melt/freeze cycles of spring they are almost solid ice.
Love the second photo, you can just see how the glaciers have carved their way down. Such awesomeness. On a side note, you’ve got me wondering about what kind of critters do you bump into at 5:30 am or when you take beautiful pictures of the full moon in the middle of the night. Be bear-y careful, you’re important to me.
Thank you for being concerned. That’s very kind! I do see wildlife fairly often in the early morning and at dusk, hardly ever at night. In the more remote areas they are very wild and very shy and are rarely a threat or a problem, and I always carry a side arm: in Grizzly country I also carry bear spray. I would estimate that it’s hundreds of times safer in the wild areas than on the streets of a big city or on the highways and freeways.
And I thought I was an early riser! What a place to be at 5:42 in the morning. almost other-worldly, except this one is just so darn beautiful, and you remind us over and over again, for which I cannot thank you adequately. That sun rounding the ridge at 6:42, an hour later, would be world enough for me. I can almost hear the crunching of the rocks beneath your boots.
I have not been able to find an abundance of good information on most of the old lookouts. I get some from a book called “Fire Lookouts of the Northwest” written by Ray Kresek, who lives I believe in north Idaho. Baldy mountain actually had two different cabins, the first was a cupola cabin built in 1928 and then an L4 cabin on a 20′ tower was built there in 1949. I don’t know who manned it most of the time, but I know one of my uncles manned it for awhile in the 40′s. Here is a site that shows a photo of one of the cupola type cabins, and this is a photo of an L4 that is still standing on Big Hole peak, about 10 miles from Baldy.
I forgot to mention that the man who manned that lookout on Big Hole the summer of 1966 has become a good friend. It was a treat to hike with him to that peak a few years ago and see his face when he saw that old cabin after over 40 years!
Sometimes I will spend the night at the trail head, which lets me get out on the trail quite early and still be fresh. It works great! Early morning is one of the most pleasant times to be on the trail. I’m very pleased to know that you get a sense of the trip from the photos. That’s something I very much hope for!
They are very interesting! I am surprise that I don’t see smoke in any direction. The fire map shows lots of fire in Idaho this week. My daughter in Casper had smoke last week, I don’t know if it was from the Colorado or Montana fires.
Truly magnificent! I’m viewing these photos on my lunch hour at work. So while I’m stuck at my desk in an air-conditioned office with no windows, I just took a mini-nature hike with you and it refreshed my mind and soul. Thanks for sharing that hike with us!
I don’t know for sure, but I think the original one was replaced by an improved version (and on a tower), and then later that one was destroyed for “liability” reasons. The concrete bases of the tower are still there. I will have to put St. Mary’s peak on my hike list: I’ve never been up there. Thanks for mentioning it!
I’m just sure you’ve shown us the flowers in the first photo, but I can’t remember what they are. It’s wonderful to see them “in situ” – and I’m just entranced by the “rolling hills” in the second photo. They almost look like sheared velvet – such a nice contrast to the other, sharper rocks and ridges.
The flowers are bear grass. This has been a poor year for them for some reason. Here is a photo of them in a good year.
The second photo was taken looking north from the peak and toward the right side of the photo the sharp peak in Thompson Peak, another mountain over 7,000 feet high about 10 miles from Baldy. Here is a photo of that area taken in 2007 when that part of the forest (150 square miles) was on fire.
A bear grass plant flowers only once in 5 to 7 years, but there are usually a lot of them on the bloom cycle. This just seems to be an off year for them in general. I did notice though that the ones at the higher elevations just haven’t blossomed yet, they are still in the bud stage.
It sure seems like the top of the world: at least the top of that part of it! It’s a favorite place for me, partly because I can see many of the other peaks around that I have also visited and I love to see them from a distance and enjoy those memories too.
Actually, I slept in a bit. I had planned to start just before daylight to be get to the top before the day started to heat up. The surprise was though, it was very cool with a breeze most of the way up.
I don’t know why they did that. I’ve not seen it done on any of the other lookout sites that I’ve visited. I’d have to guess that it gave a little more height to clear the shorter trees around it. At a lookout to the west of there, they had to cut all of the trees on one side of the cabin for visibility. They have now grown back and you can see why they had to cut them when the lookout was in use.
This so beautiful ! I like everythinhg about this unique area. Most of all probably, the isolation that preserves such landscapes from being “constructed” in any way. The stones are very special too, very regular shapes and deep colours.They are different than ours at a similar altitude. Here they are more in grey and red shades, often covered with a thin layer of yellow lichen. Each one different and with a story of its own. Thank you so much Montucky for bringing us along, beautiful photography too.