Montana Outdoors

March 11, 2010

A search for a trail

For two years, a trail has been on my mind. It’s name is “Fourteen Mile Trail” (AKA USFS trail 1714), and it extends from the Clark Fork River near the old ferry landing at Fourteen mile, about seven miles to the lookout at the top of 6,800 foot Patrick’s Knob in western Montana’s Coeur d’Alene Mountains.

Two summers ago while working as a volunteer with the Forest Service I helped clear about three miles of the trail from the top along the high ridge to where it begins its descent to the river. I understand that the middle part is very difficult to follow and it is practically unmarked. (It crosses some very rocky, open areas where there are no trees to hold the traditional blaze marks.)

At the moment, the top part is under about five feet of snow, and so now is a good time to search for the bottom end of the trail.

A week ago I visited the very bottom which is easy to find, and took the following photo at the river level: after about two miles however, it all but disappears.

Clark Fork on the cutoff

It begins to climb rather gently from the river as can be seen in this photo

TR 1714

but becomes very obscure when it reaches the gap to the left of the cliff. When I arrived at that place there were several sheep trails leading upwards into the high country to the left. While contemplating those trails and wondering if one was actually Trail 1714, I noticed a flat, arrowhead-shaped stone on the ground about a foot long. Someone had scratched “Trail 1714” on the stone and drew an arrow which points toward the best defined of the sheep trails. (If you look very closely, you can probably make out the marks on the stone.)

Trail marker TR 1714

A great clue, not conclusive, but it has been on my mind. Then today, a serendipity. At the local grocery store I encountered an old friend whom I haven’t seen for a year or so and who, out of the blue, invited me to go with her to search for the Fourteen Mile Trail! We chose to go on Friday. (Results of the search this weekend.)



  1. It’s so strange when those serendipitous events occur. It looks like it will be a lovely hike, have fun.


    Comment by Candace — March 11, 2010 @ 1:11 am

  2. I’ll be waiting for weekend pics… have fun!


    Comment by Cedar — March 11, 2010 @ 5:22 am

    • I’m sure looking forward to it. A year ago my son and I tried that area but were stopped by snow before we got very far. We did see a couple of big rams though.


      Comment by montucky — March 11, 2010 @ 9:10 am

  3. Sounds like a great way to spend a Friday. Hope the weather is as nice as it appeard in your pictures.


    Comment by DaveABirding — March 11, 2010 @ 10:30 am

    • I’d like a little sun for photos, but much prefer clouds for hiking. Lots of up hill there!


      Comment by montucky — March 11, 2010 @ 10:48 pm

  4. I hope you find what you are looking for. If the weather is as nice as it is here (mid 50’s) there is no such thing as a bad day in the woods.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — March 11, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    • We could hit the 50’s tomorrow according to the forecast. I’d actually prefer the 30’s.


      Comment by montucky — March 11, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

  5. Hope you find it. I don’t like wandering down game trails which looked like they were the actual trail I intended to follow. Hope you clear up where you’re supposed to be walking. 🙂



    Comment by knightofswords — March 11, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

    • I sure know what you mean about game trails. They are wonderful to hike but not dependable routes to get somewhere. My friend is a trail supervisor for the local Ranger District though, so she knows a lot about the trails. This one has some pretty sketchy parts to it though and we want to figure out those areas.


      Comment by montucky — March 11, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

  6. Wow! What deep rugged country! A small world yet universal synchronicity and fortunate you met up with an old friend to go in search of the trail. Looking forward to the photos story. Happy Trails to you and your friend.:)


    Comment by Anna Surface — March 11, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

    • Thanks Anna. I was as pleased as could be when she suggested that trail! It is indeed rugged. Over about seven miles it climbs over 4,000 feet.


      Comment by montucky — March 11, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

  7. Terry:

    What a fine adventure. Wish I could join you. Have a great day and take lots of photos.



    Comment by Chad — March 11, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

    • I wish you could too, Chad! This might be a trail you and I could hit next summer as a bonus after one of the other hikes. Once I understand exactly what it does, it would be a nice one day hike and fairly easy going from the top down.


      Comment by montucky — March 11, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

  8. A mystery–how fun!


    Comment by Bo Mackison — March 11, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    • Should be really enjoyable. I’m looking forward to it like I used to look forward to a fishing trip when I was kid.


      Comment by montucky — March 11, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  9. Oh how much I enjoyd the beauty of this landscape. It looks so different about that I have here.

    I have done great job while working as a volunteer, I appreciate it.


    Comment by sartenada — March 12, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    • I spent just part of one summer as a volunteer with the Forest Service clearing trails, but really enjoyed it and made some good friends there. I spend a lot of time on the high country trails anyway.


      Comment by montucky — March 12, 2010 @ 9:13 am

  10. I would trade you a day of work for those views anytime Terry, hope you enjoyed your hike !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — March 12, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

    • I got back a couple of hours ago and I’m pretty tired, but happy. We did find the trail and marked it. About 6 miles round trip with a vertical of 1400 feet.


      Comment by montucky — March 12, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  11. Hi Dad! I called today but mom said you were out hiking….guess I should have looked at your site sooner! I will call back tonight to hear about how the hike went! Love you!


    Comment by Juls — March 12, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

    • The hike was great, but tiring. I’m not is good shape yet. Love you too!


      Comment by montucky — March 12, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

  12. The first photo earns a big, “Wow!” Lovely scene, great colors.Love that bend in the river. The next one is great to, but doesn’t have that Wow factor. 😀 The trail-marker find is terrific. I can make out some of the information, but not all. Glad you are back safely from your hike. Looking forward to photos.


    Comment by Iona — March 13, 2010 @ 4:00 am

    • That trail marker is in a good place and helped us find what we were looking for a mile above.


      Comment by montucky — March 13, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  13. Beautiful country and beautiful photos! Thanks for telling us the story. I look forward to the results of your hike.


    Comment by victry1 — March 15, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

    • Thanks. I will post some photos of the hike, but they are not all that exciting. We did find the trail though.


      Comment by montucky — March 15, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

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