The top part of the trail. These photos were from the last hundred or so yards to the top of the peak. The next to last photo is of the location where the lookout once stood, which is now a site for a helipad (the orange markings). Just a few of the concrete support anchors now remain from the old tower.
Looking back down the trail
Toward the Clark Fork Valley
A first look at the Four Lakes Basin
Harebells on the trail
Site of the lookout tower built in 1935
The first peek over the top
During last summer I encountered seven black bears on my excursions into the forests and until this afternoon I was lamenting that this summer I had seen only one despite having hiked for over fifty miles in the past two months through excellent bear habitat in roadless areas away from any roads. (So far I have never encountered a Grizzly in the wild.)
This afternoon, just for a little exercise, I wandered a mile and a half or so up the Spring Creek trail. It’s in a deep and narrow although very pretty canyon full of pines, firs, large old cedars, with a small stream and all kinds of underbrush and the trail head is only five miles from my house. I hike there fairly often.
As I was returning to my Jeep, about half way back to the trail head I saw something I really like to see and also something I really didn’t want to see, at least at close range.
It was a thrill to see, to use a Steve Irwin phrase, a “drop dead gorgeous” black bear at a range of about fifteen yards. She had a rich, shiny, jet black coat with very long hair and a very pretty face and weighed I would guess close to two hundred pounds. She looked as though she had just been brushed and groomed to be shown in a fair exhibit. What a wonderful animal!
I was not exactly overjoyed however to see her cub much closer to me and between us, although he was a beautiful specimen, a spitting image of his mother and I would guess already weighing fifty to sixty pounds.
Black bears are very shy animals and truly wild ones are very seldom a problem at all; in fact they are so shy they are seldom ever even seen. The “problem” status can change dramatically however when there are cubs in the mix, especially at close range.
In today’s episode, we were all at fault for being careless and just about running into each other. It turned out to be an interesting and enjoyable experience though, at least for me. Hopefully it was a learning experience for the bears.
The cub, being closest to me, became aware of my presence about the same time as I became aware of his and, being a startled and frightened cub, ran in the direction of his mother (fortunately away from me) yelling at the top of his young lungs. Mother didn’t like his message and came to his rescue coming into my view at about twenty yards headed directly toward me where she perceived the threat might be.
I also love magnums and almost always carry one. One of their many endearing features is that they are loud; very loud, and produce a concussion wave much stronger than just the noise alone. I drew my .357 from its holster and fired one shot into the air above Mother’s head. Upon the report of the pistol, she stopped and violently shook her head, as I figured she would (I’ve seen it before). Magnums are especially loud in deep, narrow canyons.
Baby had by this time passed her on his way down the trail and she could see that I was not moving toward her so she turned and ambled after him. I backed up a dozen steps and waited. Soon she peeked out of the dense brush off the trail with a puzzled look on her face to see just what the heck made that awful noise. When I laughed and yelled “Get outta here, bear!”, she turned and ran as fast as she could, following her cub.
I’m still four bears short of last year, but the summer isn’t over yet!
This set of photos was taken as I ascended the part of the trail that appeared to continue directly up to the peak. It did not. It made a sudden turn to the left and after a series of steep switchbacks, reached Cube Iron Pass, still below the summit of the mountain where it intersected with trail 1512. In the next post we will follow trail 1512 a hundred yards or so and then turn onto a small, unmarked and unmaintained trail that leads to the top.
There will likely not be a post tomorrow because I will be leaving in a few minutes on another trek into the Cube Iron-Silcox roadless area four or five miles to the south of Cube Iron Mountain, into the area of Goat lakes and Mount Silcox where I understand there is some very pretty scenery too. (And huckleberries!) Spending a rainy night tonight somewhere near the trail head should help with getting an early start on the trail in the morning. (Tomorrow’s forecast is “sunny”. They can be right once, can’t they?)
Arrowleaf Buckwheat, Eriogonum compositum