Montana Outdoors

August 28, 2007

Trail 345W, the trail itself

Trail 345W is a U.S. Forest Service primitive foot trail which runs from the point where U.S.F.S. road 887 crosses the Weeksville Divide, follows up the divide itself to just below the old lookout atop Bighole Peak, a distance of four to five miles with an increase in altitude of about two thousand feet. It is within the TeePee-Spring Creek roadless area in western Montana’s Cabinet Mountains.

It’s a beautiful route for someone experienced in the back country, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a novice because there are several places where it would be very easy to lose the trail. Most of the route is well blazed (though some of the blazes are very old and difficult to see), but there are gaps that I don’t understand. At one place it took me about twenty minutes to figure out where the real trail was.

Here’s what a new blaze looks like:

Blaze marks

An older blaze (several years):

Blaze marks, old

And a very old blaze (maybe 50 years):

Blaze marks, very old

The trail looks quite flat on a map and fairly flat in these photos, but has a tendency to stand right up on end in several sections.

Along Trail 345W

Along Trail 345W

Along Trail 345W

At a later time I’ll post some photos of the views from the higher reaches of T345W.


  1. quick question before I comment (and geesh man I wanna know) what is a blaze? Is it a man made way of marking a trail? (sorry upfront for the ignorance)


    Comment by aullori — August 28, 2007 @ 11:53 pm

  2. A blaze is a mark or marks on a tree beside a trail to show where the trail is, usually made by chipping patches of bark off with an axe.

    For short trails usually a single blaze is used. For longer trails especially way into the back country, two marks are used. There are many places on T345W that it wouldn’t be possible to follow the trail if it were not for the blaze marks, and even then the old ones were difficult to see.


    Comment by montucky — August 29, 2007 @ 12:00 am

  3. Wow I did not know that… and have been hiking for a really really long time that is so amazingly cool. (However for the moment I’ll sit back and take your advice on not wandering down one unless supervised.) If I run into one over here I am so going to link you on this. Awesome. (p.s. any idea where this idea originated? loggers?) by the way pic four is my favorite and I love it. That’s the forest I know and love. 🙂


    Comment by aullori — August 29, 2007 @ 12:14 am

  4. I think the Indians blazed trails long before the time of Columbus, and certainly all of the first explorers did. There is a study being done on the East coast about ancient trails that were blazed by culturing trees to grow in certain shapes along the route. I read something about that a month ago but can’t remember where. Next time you run across a Forest Service trail, look along part of it for the blaze marks: they’re sure to be there. They have helped me keep from getting lost many times.

    I’m with you: I can spend day after day on trails like this. There was even one area near the top of this trail where a section of cedars was so thick you could have put a bedroll in under the branches and slept dry even in a heavy rain and on a mattress of fir needles to boot! It doesn’t get any better than that!


    Comment by montucky — August 29, 2007 @ 12:29 am

  5. That would be an awesome trail to hike Terry, but for a flatlander like me, I would have to get in real good shape before I tackled one of your trails.


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — August 29, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

  6. that looks like a great place to hike, though I’d have to go along w/ a guide! interesting about the blazing trails, (I didn’t really know it either aullori) the camping out sounds wonderful, but probably too many critters around for my comfort!

    lovely pictures


    Comment by silken — August 29, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

  7. Bernie,

    I know you’d love some of these places! Yep, getting into shape is almost a necessity. For a long time I planned a bunch of hikes this summer, so at the first of the year I started conditioning hikes, hiking nearly every day. So far I’ve hiked 946 miles this year and gotten into pretty good condition. It pays off in many ways when I’m in the high country!


    Comment by montucky — August 29, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  8. silken,

    Yes, if you’re not used to it, a guide would be a good idea, but I know you’d like seeing the scenery. You get used to the critters, and you’re actually much safer in these mountains at night than you would be in any large city, assuming you do know your way around a bit. I feel completely relaxed, comfortable and safe in the high country at night, but if I were to have to hike through, say, L.A. at night I’d be more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.


    Comment by montucky — August 29, 2007 @ 6:51 pm

  9. I used to do quite a bit of hiking. If I tried a trek like that now I’d probably be lost for weeks. Reason enough for some folks to think I should begin packing, immediately.


    Comment by Pinhole — August 29, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  10. I know exactly what you mean! Maybe that’s why my wife is so supportive of my hiking.


    Comment by montucky — August 29, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

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