Montana Outdoors

July 12, 2008

Penrose Peak, Part 6

The last section of trail 385 to the top of the peak is about a mile and a half long. It starts at 5,700 feet, reaches 7,073 feet at the top, and gets there rather aggressively. In the next photo, Penrose is the peak to the left and the trail roughly follows the crest of the ridge on up to it, although it does break out into the clear on the left several times, and several other times it was necessary to pick my way through the open area because the trail was still covered with snow, sometimes ten feet deep (20 feet near the top).

Penrose Peak

When in the open, the views were spellbinding. The high country to the left is an un-named peak adjacent to Penrose. Here the trail is fairly easy to see.

On Penrose Peak trail 385

Some of this area is part of Mother Nature’s flower garden. There are many of the natural elements that I love so much in this photo.

On Penrose Peak trail 385

This Forest Service Location Poster is still fastened to a tree beside the trail and at the top is scratched the date “8/23/30”. The tree that it’s fastened to has been dead for perhaps 20 years.

On Penrose Peak trail 385

This section of trail, shaded a little by the fir trees, still holds enough snow to obscure the trail itself, but the old blaze mark on the tree in the foreground shows exactly where it is. I would guess the blaze mark was made perhaps 80 years ago and the tree looks to have been dead for up to 50 years.

Trail 385 to Penrose Peak

Here the peak, which is steadily getting closer, can be seen through a thicket of skeletons of sub-alpine firs. They appear to have been fire-killed, probably from a small fire started by a lightning strike, a fairly common occurrence in this type of country.

Trail 385 to Penrose Peak

In this photo, the coarse-looking grass in the foreground is beargrass that isn’t blooming this year, next, part of the forest at this elevation which is nearly all Sub-alpine Firs, the valley is that of the Clark Fork River, the mountains just beyond it are the eastern end of the Cabinet Mountain range and the dimly visible mountains at the horizon are the Missions. I got a lot for my money in this photo!

Trail 385 to Penrose Peak

I will end this post by a couple of photos of a beautiful little Spruce Grouse (1 – 2 pounds) who paid me a visit while I was taking a rest and scenery stop prior to the final tough climb. Her curiosity and actions told me that she had probably never seen a human before and I hope I didn’t disappoint her too much. 




  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog and the pictures are awsome….feel as if I made the trip also.


    Comment by jonwen45 — July 12, 2008 @ 10:31 pm

  2. Simply amazing! The history and the beauty — including the old metal poster and blazemarks, the snow on the ground in July and the visiting Ptarmigan — are fascinating to the nth degree.


    Comment by Tabbie — July 13, 2008 @ 1:02 am

  3. Montucky,… your shots are beautiful. My fave in this post is the one of range upon range of mts. in the background with the dark spiky trees on either side. What a view. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures,…


    Comment by Cedar — July 13, 2008 @ 7:08 am

  4. Thank you Jonwen! I’m glad you felt that way about it. Thanks for the visit!


    Comment by montucky — July 13, 2008 @ 8:26 am

  5. Tabbie,

    I wish I knew more of the history of Penrose, but information on it is very hard to come by. In another post I’ll show some of the remains of an old lookout up there, but I’ve been unable to find anything on it. I still have a couple of leads to check out but so far nothing. It’s just old enough too, that the local folks who might have had first-hand knowledge of it are gone now.


    Comment by montucky — July 13, 2008 @ 8:31 am

  6. Thanks, Cedar!

    Those kind of views are usually my favorites too. I’m a little sad that the air wasn’t very clear that day: we have had some smoke coming in from the fires in California, just enough to give our skies a hazy look and limit visibility to about 50 miles.


    Comment by montucky — July 13, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  7. What a wonderful trip – the old with the new. Still snow – wow! And the ptarmigan is totally neat.


    Comment by Bo — July 13, 2008 @ 8:38 pm

  8. It’s a gorgeous place up there and a lot of the attraction for me is the 59 square miles of roadless area which is excellent wildlife habitat.


    Comment by montucky — July 13, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

  9. Oh, oh!! Gorgeous! And a ptarmigan, which is just so cool! And those mountains!

    I’m almost speechless with how gorgeous the photographs are and with how *amazing* it must have been for you to see and experience with all of your senses.


    Comment by Sara — July 14, 2008 @ 8:01 am

  10. Yes, the actual experience is incredible. Photos and words give only a small glimpse of what it’s like to be in that country. As you mentioned, “all your senses” are constantly in use.


    Comment by montucky — July 14, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  11. I can see the blaze mark in that photo. love the wildflowers! pretty cool that you saw that rare bird. got a nice shot of her too!


    Comment by silken — July 15, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

  12. Yes, there were lots of interesting things on that trip, at least for me. The Ptarmigan was very obliging and it was a real thrill to see her so close!


    Comment by montucky — July 15, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

  13. Wow I didn’t know Ptarmigan lived in your area, I thought they only lived in the far north, great post and images Terry !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — July 16, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

  14. I think we’re on the fringe of their range and lately you will see them only in rather remote areas.


    Comment by montucky — July 16, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  15. I hate to dampen people’s enthusiasm but your White-tailed Ptarmigan is a female Spruce Grouse (Franklin’s race). White-tailed Ptarmigan, as the name implies, have white tail feathers year round (although the upper tail coverts are brownish in summer).

    Nevertheless, the name of the bird doesn’t change it’s nature.


    Comment by Paul Hendricks — July 29, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

  16. Thanks for correcting me, Paul. They look similar, but after more reading I think you’re correct: she is larger than a ptarmigan would be.


    Comment by montucky — July 30, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

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