Montana Outdoors

September 16, 2008

Chipmunk Creek trail

Yesterday we sawed out (cleared) USFS trail 688 through the bottom of Chipmunk Creek, which is another beautiful, clear and cold little stream that flows north from the CC Divide down into Prospect Creek and then east to the Clark Fork River near the town of Thompson Falls.

The lower part of Chipmunk Creek

Chipmunk Creek

The trail, while it is very pleasant to hike, stays well below the high ridges on either side, and I didn’t take many photos of the trail itself. However, I thought the base and roots of this large cedar were noteworthy, especially where it grew quite around a large rock.

Cedar tree

Because the trail was short and the blow-downs were all small, we cleared the trail by about noon and spent the rest of the day checking on trailheads from Chipmunk Creek on west to Thompson Pass at the Idaho border. Along the border, just barely on the Montana side is the CC Divide trail USFS 404 as it emerges from the back country and crosses the road right at the state line. The two mile section just to the southwest of the border is a gentle trail that gets a fair amount of traffic because it leads to Blossom Lake.

Trail 404 to Blossom Lake

Trail 404 to Blossom Lake

In the above photo, to the right of the trail, you can see the remains of a diversion ditch approximately four feet wide and four feet deep which was dug by Chinese laborers in 1883 to transport water across the state line from Blossom Lake over Thompson Pass to mining operations in Murray Idaho. Apparently it was never used however, because the dam at the mouth of Blossom Lake broke in 1887.

As this sign on trail 404 just off the highway points out, this area is habitat for Canadian Lynx, one of the rarest animals in the mountains of Idaho and Montana.

Canada Lynx habitat

From the continuation of trail 404 as it proceeds northeast of the highway, if you look back toward the northwest, you can look over the border, into the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and the Idaho mountains in the direction of Spokane Washington.

Northwest from Thompson Pass into Idaho


  1. Stunning views and fabulous trees! I get a natural high just looking at your photographs, so I can only imagine how good it must feel to be there in person. Did you see any chipmunks? 😛


    Comment by Tabbie — September 16, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  2. There’s no feeling I can think of that’s quite like being in an old growth forest way back in the back country.

    I’m glad you get a feel of the trees from the photos. They always remind me of my place in the natural world, as they reach up well over a hundred feet toward the sky, and as I think about the events that have taken place during their lifetimes. Many of them were already living peacefully in their ecosystem while we were conducting the war between the states.

    No chipmunks, but plenty of squirrels who are very serious this time of year about harvesting fir cones.


    Comment by montucky — September 16, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  3. Amazing photos, I would so like to hike those trails. I imagine that the tree roots grew around a rock that was in the soil. Then as time eroded the soil away it left the roots with the rock clutched in them, exposed to view. Nothing is forever, eventutally the tree will fall and the roots will let go of the rock. Ahhh,… time marches on in nature.


    Comment by Anonymous — September 17, 2008 @ 6:53 am

  4. You may well be right about the tree. There have been lots and lots of natural events since that tree first started putting down its roots perhaps 200 years ago.

    Hiking those trail is pure pleasure and a high privilege. Today I helped clear another two and a half miles of beautiful trail on a high ridge not all that far from home and all the while the thought was in my mind that there were others who would just love to be there too!


    Comment by montucky — September 17, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

  5. whew! I’ve learned a little of what you have been doing for a while…clearing fallen timber is hard work, and I’ve only done a few days of it!!


    Comment by silken — September 18, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

  6. Yes it is! Makes you very grateful to the person who invented the chain saw! When I was stationed in North Carolina we had two hurricanes visit and I remember the cleanup it took and they were both small ones.


    Comment by montucky — September 18, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

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