This will be the last post in this series: after all, how much can be said about a three mile trail?
The Clark Fork of the Columbia River flows in a northwesterly direction for about three hundred miles from its source in the Deerlodge National Forest at the Continental Divide near the town of Butte Montana then takes a sharp turn to the right and and flows for twenty one miles due east before it again turns toward the northwest. This short east – west section is referred to as the “Cutoff”, probably because it’s a shortcut from the Bitterroot Mountains on the west, through the Coeur d’Alene Mountains to the Cabinet Mountains on the east, and there is a road which follows the river, Montana Highway 135.
As you travel downstream through the Cutoff you travel through a deep canyon where, to the right is the high ground of the South Siegel – South Cutoff roadless area (13,473 acres) and the North Siegel roadless area (9,208 acres). To the left is the Patrick’s Knob – North Cutoff roadless area (16,969 acres). About half way through is the trail head for USFS trail 205 which runs almost due north for (the Forest Service says) three miles through the Patrick’s Knob area at one of it’s narrowest points, from the river at an elevation of about 2,500 feet to the high ridge at about 5,000 feet just west of Patrick’s Knob Peak . (After hiking the trail myself, I came to believe that the person who declared it to be three miles has never even seen the trail, much less hiked it.)
The following photos will, I hope, give the viewer a little of the flavor of this particular trail and the beauty of the roadless area it traverses and a glimpse of what it’s like to hike through true wild country. It is only one of many such trails in many roadless areas, all of which need our protection if they are to continue to exist.
The trailhead at Montana Highway 135
An early part of the trail, perhaps a half mile from the trailhead.
From about a mile up the trail facing east along the Cutoff with the North Siegel roadless area in the background,
and from the same spot, facing south with the South Siegel – South Cutoff roadless area in the background.
A section of the trail itself about three fourths of the way to the top (It’s a good idea to pay attention to the blaze marks through here),
and, from about the same place, a view back down to the Clark Fork and Highway 135.
At the top edge of the roadless area and the top end of the trail is, what else, a road. In this case it’s called The High Ridge Road and also the eastern trailhead of the CC Divide Trail, USFS trail 404.
From the high Ridge Road facing north, Baldy Mountain in the Baldy Mountain roadless area can be easily seen ten miles beyond the small town of Plains, Montana along the Clark Fork which at that point is again headed northwest.
The previous photos were taken on the ascent. I also took a few on the hike back down.
A quarter of a mile behind this rather obscure trail marker at the top end of the trail (with my pack hanging on it)
is this trail sign, the only one to be found on the entire trail.
A mile or so from the top, where the trail takes a slight jog to the west is a nice view of the Bitterroot Mountains about thirty miles to the west,
and in a place where the only relatively level part of the trail occurs is a nice section of open forest which I’ll bet is a favorite feeding area for the local ungulates (deer, elk, moose and Bighorn sheep).
Half way back down is this pretty view of the Cutoff and North Siegel beyond it,
and the trailhead at the bottom, after seven hours on this six(?) mile hike is a welcome sight.