Yesterday when reviewing a file of photos of an area in which I plan to do some backpacking next summer I ran across this photo that I had not posted before, and it’s one of several that I really like. I stalked this big guy for about a hundred and fifty yards on my belly through tall grass until I got close enough for this thirty-yard shot and then to realize that he had long been aware of my rather clumsy approach, and was just plain not afraid of me.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep photographed at the end of Sundance Ridge
Above the switchbacks, from 4,800 feet to about 6,000, trail 433 follows a steep ridge for a couple of miles to a mile or so below the peak. It is mostly hidden in heavy timber but happily sheltered from the wind, a pretty trail but without clear views of the surrounding terrain until the ridge top opens up and accommodates views to the north and east that are mesmerizing. I was captivated by the sun, the clouds and the sky as you can see in the following photos, which are offered with no further comments.
On Thursday October 8th, after looking forward to it for months, a friend and I hiked up to the old lookout atop 7005 foot Priscilla Peak in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. The peak itself is in the Sundance Ridge roadless area in Lolo National Forest and the lookout, which was constructed in the 1930′s, has sweeping, 360° views of many miles of the area’s back country.
There are two trail approaches to the peak and we chose the one from the southeast, USFS trail 433. It is an aggressive trail which has a total altitude gain of 4,400 feet spread over its five mile ascent to the peak, starting at 2,600 feet, about 3.5 miles past the West Fork of Thompson River or approximately 10 miles from Montana Highway 200. It is marked only by a Forest Service “hiking trail” sign without the advantage of having the trail number indicated. It’s up the the traveler to understand that it is the only trail around that heads toward the peak, although about a mile up the trail the trail number does appear on a small plastic diamond trail marker (the only one on the whole trail).
The attached photos were taken from the lower section of the trail where it climbs rapidly to around 4,600 feet through a long series of switchbacks to a high ridge that it follows to a point just before it ascends to the peak itself.
The sun rising over the high ridges to the south of Thompson River.
The over night temperatures in the lower 20′s left a frosty meadow on one of the shelves above the canyon, but maintained a comfortable temperature for a strenuous hike.
Taken facing to the south, these two photos capture the high country overlooked by the Big Hole lookout next to Big Hole Peak and the high country of the TeePee/Spring Creek roadless area. The lookout sits at 6,900 feet atop the third peak from the right.
Near the top of the major section of switchbacks and the start of the high ridge, this view is to the southwest looking down the Thompson River canyon. The mountain in the distance is in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains to the south of the Clark Fork River.
My next post will include some of the views from roughly the center section of the trail.
The Priscilla Peak Lookout sits atop 7,005 foot Priscilla Peak in the Sundance Ridge roadless area in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. I will post more photos and a story about yesterday’s hike up to it over the next few days (until most everyone gets tired of high country photos).