The Big Hole lookout sits on a peak a little southeast of Big Hole Peak at an elevation of 6,922 feet, having been built there to provide better visibility of the surrounding forest than would have been obtained from the peak itself. It is an L4 type cabin and has stood there since 1930. It has not been actively used since 1972, but it is an excellent example of the L4 type cabin.
The peak and lookout are on the northeastern corner of KooKooSint Ridge within the TeePee/Spring Creek roadless area in the Cabinet Mountains of northwest Montana and can be reached by USFS trail 368. It has long been appreciated by a whole lot of folks from the local area as well as many other visitors over the years. It has been under renovation for the past two summers and completion of the project was expected to be this past summer. However, that project was suddenly interrupted by the very close proximity of the Copper King fire which burned all of August and September and covered about 45 square miles of the forest just to the east and north of the lookout. When the fire broke out, a crew was sent up to wrap the cabin with fire resistant foil, but many people feared that it would still fall victim of the fire. I’m happy to say that it survived untouched by the fire and now will await the completion of its renovation (I assume to be) in the summer of 2017.
Most of the photos in the previous post showed badly burned places within the area of the Copper King fire. The photos which now follow show many areas within the fire area that escaped the flames and which will help the whole area in its recovery. All photos in these two posts were taken from within the northeast sector of the fire area. The snow-capped peak that shows up in several of the pictures is Thompson Peak which is in the area of the Chippy Creek fire which burned 150 square miles in 2007.
At the end of July a fire named the Copper King started not far from my home in western Montana. After burning for two months and covering about 45 square miles it was finally contained about the end of September and the restrictions on entering the area where it burned were removed. Due mostly to adverse weather conditions, today was the first good chance I had to go into the burn area and look around.
This morning a good friend and I hiked for about two miles into the burned area on USFS road 17354 which branches west off USFS road 887 about 4 miles up Todd Creek from the Little Thompson Road. In the valley the temperatures was in the upper 20’s, and when we left the Jeep, at an elevation of about 4400 feet, it was colder and there was about 4 inches of snow still on the ground left from a storm a couple of days ago. Perfect hiking weather!
A forest fire is an awesome event, unpredictable, sometimes seemingly whimsical, and its effects are far from understood by even the “experts”. Fire has always been a part of the existence of the forest and part of its natural order. Its aftermath is fascinating to see.
Following are 20 photos taken today on a hike into the Copper King fire burn. The first photo shows a kind of overview of the variety within the area of a large fire, from areas which were extremely hot to areas where the fire left large swaths of vegetation practically untouched. The other photos are pretty much in sequence as we hiked along the road through one of the areas which suffered intense heat and burning. I will follow up later with another post with photos that show some of the variation of fire effects throughout the rest of the area in which we hiked.