Montana Outdoors

August 2, 2010

Thompson Peak (1)

Two weeks ago I visited this peak for several reasons, one of which was that I had never been to it before and always wanted to go, and another was because I wanted to see what nature has been doing to this piece of wild country that was right in the middle of the huge Chippy Creek fire (150 square miles) in 2007. I will write a series of posts about the trip and the photos in those posts will be simply in the order in which they were taken, in an attempt to show what the trip was like.

In this photo taken a few days before the trip from it’s neighbor Baldy Mountain, Thompson peak is the one with the sharp peak just about in the center

Thompson Peak seen from Baldy Mountain

and this is what the peak looked like on August 4, 2007. It is nearly obscured by the plume of smoke which was nearly 20,000 feet high and extended about ten miles from left to right.

Thompson Peak area during the Chippy Creek fire in 2007

(The route to Thompson Peak that I chose was by hiking trail 310 from the trail head on Forest Service road 5582, then taking trail 1309 to trail 291, then 291 to the top, a hike of three to four miles. The trail head is at 5,700 feet elevation and the top of the peak is 7,460 feet. As a result of the fire the trails are a bit rough in places.)



  1. The cloud in the 2nd photo looks like a volcano has just erupted. Looking forward to the photos of the hike!


    Comment by kateri — August 3, 2010 @ 5:00 am

    • It was on the order of a volcano. At times I could see flame from the explosion of gasses far up into the smoke plume.


      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2010 @ 6:51 am

      • I didn’t read the text before I commented. So it really is smoke.


        Comment by kateri — August 3, 2010 @ 6:49 pm

        • The smoke plume this fire did look like storm clouds at a distance.


          Comment by montucky — August 3, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  2. Wow…especially the smoke photo…


    Comment by burstmode — August 3, 2010 @ 6:51 am

    • When this fire was in progress I found a ring-side seat on an equally tall mountain and ended up with about 200 photos of it.


      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

  3. Both are fabulous captures. Amazing how long it takes for a nature to renew after a fire.


    Comment by Anna — August 3, 2010 @ 7:14 am

    • The recovery is in progress now, but it will be a hundred years before the forest is again a forest.


      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  4. Amazing… Beautiful… Breathtaking country!


    Comment by Tricia — August 3, 2010 @ 8:55 am

    • It is a beautiful area, and the peaks are situated such that there are great scenes from their tops.


      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

  5. I think it is a great idea to photograph the changes after that fire! Such forest and brush fires were a annual event where I used to live in Southern California!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — August 3, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    • I’ve been in the burn area a few times, but this was the first into the middle of it. I’ve seen many though and they are similar except that this one was so large.


      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  6. Wow, that is kind of scary. How long would it take for the fire to travel to where you were?


    Comment by sandy — August 3, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

    • My vantage point was about 9 miles away and so quite safe. The wind direction was also perpendicular: had it been blowing south it could have gotten to where I took the photos in a day or two. The fire did cover 10 miles east to west and 15 miles north to south. There were spot fires to within a few miles of where I was.


      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

  7. What a scary, terrible, but yet beautiful scene you’ve captured?


    Comment by Preston — August 4, 2010 @ 3:54 am

    • Those thoughts went through my mind also, Preston. The whole thing is part of the natural process though, although in this case the fire was human caused.


      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  8. Very powerful images Terry, great idea going back to see how nature has recovered !!


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — August 4, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    • Well, it’s starting the recovery process. Very slow in our timeframe, but pretty normal in nature’s.


      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

  9. At first glance, I thought this was a volcano erupting, then read your post. Fires give me the creeps (a few months back we had a very tiny one in comparison to those, on a hillside a mile or two from our house, that was scary enough – you’d not have thought it was small by the number of emergency services at the site, though.

    The thought that goes through my head is – all that smoke – what does it do to the birds, the wildlife, the atmosphere? Can’t be good.


    Comment by Val Erde — August 4, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

    • As a firefighter myself, I’m used to fire, but one of this magnitude is awesome, at once the devastation, then the start of the recovery which won’t be complete in our lifetimes.

      The smoke is dispersed by the wind, diluted actually, and spread over hundreds of miles. Maybe not very good, but compared to some of the things we humans put into the air, well… During this fire, there was a fairly strong wind which moved the smoke out and away and diluted it considerably right away.

      The air where I live has a lot of smoke in it right now, enough that yesterday from a mountain top I could barely see ten miles. It is coming from some large fires now burning in British Columbia, hundreds of miles away.


      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

      • If trees were planted where the fire took them out – how long would they take to grow?

        Interesting that you’re a firefighter. I’ve always had a very healthy respect for fire…


        Comment by Val Erde — August 5, 2010 @ 7:15 am

        • I understand that there has been lots of new trees planted in this burn area, but I didn’t look specifically for any and none were obvious along the trails that I took. I would guess that Lodgepole Pine will pretty much reseed itself and the plantings would be Larch, Fir or other Pines. In this area there is not a lot of precipitation and so the trees will grow slowly. It will be 50 to 100 years before new seedlings even begin to become a forest. Larch, for example has a lifetime of up to 900 years.


          Comment by montucky — August 5, 2010 @ 8:01 am

  10. I always feel so badly for the animals, too, during a wildfire, as well as for the land, too, of course. But the smoke photo is gorgeous. I look forward to the series.


    Comment by Candace — August 4, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

    • Most of the larger animals escape the fire to return later (its’ surprising how soon). Some of the smaller ones can survive in their burrows, but I’m sure many don’t make it. I was very pleased to see lots of deer and elk tracks on the higher parts of the trails on this trip. They are starting to use the burn area already. For years now it will be a great place for the elk because of the new growth that follows a fire. I remember in northern Arizona the old burn areas were always thick with elk that would feed there during the night then retreat to the nearest thicket to sleep during the day.


      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

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