Montana Outdoors

June 23, 2011

On the second day of summer…

Filed under: Cabinet Mountains — Tags: , — montucky @ 11:42 pm

Soon after this morning began a friend and I embarked on an effort to find the TeePee Creek trail, which is an old trail, now abandoned, that goes up from Weeksville Creek toward Big Hole lookout. It would be a long, steep climb if we found it. After at the first half mile there was a creek crossing but with the high runoff from snow melt, crossing just wasn’t possible. Oh well!

For several years now I’ve wanted to see what Big Hole lookout was like in winter and of course it’s not approachable in winter conditions except perhaps in a small window in late fall and another in late spring, and since plan “A” didn’t work out, hiking the usual trail to Big Hole, trail 368, was a welcome plan”B”.

The road to the trail head became drivable about a week ago and I made an attempt then at the trail, turning back after a short distance because of deep snow. (The trail to the lookout covers 2.7 miles and climbs 1,400 feet in that distance.)

Today, as we approached the end of the first mile, we could hear loud claps of thunder coming from the west and very dark clouds began sweeping over us from the south accompanied with light rain. And then we hit the snow level. This is what it looked like to the south:

Big Hole trail 368 on June 23

We were equipped for the rain and the thunder died away (the ridge that the trail follows is definitely not a good place to be in a lightning storm) and so we continued on the next mile and a half of trail walking on four to six feet of densely packed snow until we reached a saddle on the ridge just below the lookout, a very good place from which to photograph it.

Even though the sky was still very dark and there was a little rain falling, I was happy to finally get to see the old lookout in a winter setting.

Big Hole lookout on June 23

Big Hole lookout on June 23

Soon after these photos were taken the storm reached us from the south, bringing with it a couple minutes of heavy sleet followed by more rain, but as we turned to head back down the clouds moved off to the north as quickly as they came, the rain stopped, and suddenly there was clear, sunny sky over head and the scene at the lookout completely changed. I think we saw the best of two worlds.

Big Hole lookout on June 23

Big Hole lookout on June 23

(The lookout photos were taken from the top of a 20 foot deep snow bank just on the edge of the big hole below the lookout.)


  1. One of your coolest posts ever, and certainly a terrific adventure. Really, really liked the lookout cabin. Especially the last shot where perspective tells the story. Just have to tell you that I appreciate the effort it takes to get these shots.


    Comment by Wild_Bill — June 24, 2011 @ 5:31 am

    • Thanks Bill. Getting up to the lookout is a fairly easy hike in summer, but yesterday the last mile was a little challenging, but the rather wild weather conditions and the anticipation of seeing the old cabin in (almost) winter conditions made it a sheer pleasure! I’m so glad that we have the cameras that we do now so I can bring back plenty of photos!


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  2. I have this thing about fire lookouts. The years spent by some of our finest writers in the Cascades is spellbinding stuff to me. Thank you for this photographic visit to this one. What a fun hike, storm and all. Yes, the best of both worlds in one hike. That feels like a fine gift from Nature.


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — June 24, 2011 @ 5:39 am

    • I love the old lookouts too and visit them whenever I can. This one is close, a 13 mile drive to the trail head and a 2.7 mile hike, and I visit there a couple of times a year. There are also miles of other old trails in the area. A few years back I met and have become friends with a man who manned this lookout in the summer of 1964. It’s a real thrill to visit it in his company when we can go together!


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 8:52 am

  3. It would appear that you still have more high water in your future. Those are sure great shots, I especially like the last one.


    Comment by Jim — June 24, 2011 @ 6:33 am

    • I think most of the real high water conditions are past. There are good snow levels at mountain top level and that should sustain the streams and aquifer this summer, but the snow level is just below 6,000 feet and the mountains in this area are about 7,500 so there isn’t a large area that’s snow-covered. It looked for awhile yesterday like we would be getting additional snow up there!


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 8:55 am

  4. Wow. I loved this one. That was one special day and you captured it perfectly with your words and great photos. Thanks so much for taking us along on your quest.


    Comment by anniespickns — June 24, 2011 @ 6:48 am

    • It was a very special day for me. I had a wonderful hiking companion, the winter conditions were a real treat, it was the first time this year when it was possible to access the high country, and the sky cleared at just the right time for some decent views.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 8:57 am

  5. Thank you, these are amazing.


    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — June 24, 2011 @ 7:18 am

    • This is an amazing part of the country, with beautiful scenes and relatively easy access for those who will exert a little effort.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 9:01 am

  6. Wow! Those are some dramatic shots! That sky is so blue!


    Comment by Roberta Warshaw — June 24, 2011 @ 7:24 am

    • When the clear blue sky appeared it was a real bonus after the storm swept over. The lookout is at 6,500 feet and the heavy clouds must have been not much more than 7,500 and so when they blew over it left just clear sky for a bit. That was just good fortune!


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 9:03 am

  7. Totally awesome shots, but I absolutely LOVE that last one… You should blow it up & frame it!!! =)


    Comment by Tricia — June 24, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    • Yes, I like that one too. I will probably have it printed.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 9:04 am

  8. Wow! Wow! Wow!


    Comment by mitambien — June 24, 2011 @ 9:11 am

    • It’s what I had hoped to see in an almost winter setting.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:04 pm

  9. This is a series I will come back to visit again. That first shot is ominous, the rest just plain stunning.
    Can you you get inside the lookout? If so, what is in there?


    Comment by sandy — June 24, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    • If you go to my Flickr site and search for “big hole lookout” you can see a series of photos of the inside of the old cabin.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  10. I love it! I’d like to go back there when I come home, if we can fit it in with all the other hikes. May I have a copy of that last photo? I’d like that on my wall! 🙂 Love you!


    Comment by Juls — June 24, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

    • Sure, we can fit that in! I emailed you a copy of that photo. Love you too!


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  11. Hi Montucky, Wonderful views of that magnificent scenery. You have snow and cool, and we here in TN have warm and thunderstorms. Oh well. Very nice post. Glad you are enjoying the hiking. Have a fantastic day tomorrow!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — June 24, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    • Well, it’s warming up in the valleys now. It was quite cold up there though.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  12. Snow in summer…. love it! 🙂
    You saved the best for last. Breathtaking!


    Comment by thedailyclick — June 24, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

    • I was very happy to see the sky clear and blue behind the lookout. Perfect timing!


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

  13. i sure hope no sleep walkers ever stayed in that cabin =o)


    Comment by Sandy — June 24, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

    • I’ve thought that too. It’s quite a view from the cabin looking right down into the big hole! There will be snow on that side all summer too.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

  14. This is a great series of photos! I love th photos of the look out. It almost felt like snow here (well, not quite, but it was 40 degrees this morning, very cool for this time of year.)


    Comment by kateri — June 24, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

    • WHen we saw the storm sweeping over we really expected a snow storm at the top. I didn’t have a thermometer along on the hike, but we have been in the mid-forties most nights in the valley and I would guess at the top probably near freezing.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

  15. That lookout looked like a log cabin at first glance. Shutters are down for the winter, and no need for stilt legs, when a lookout is perched on a cliff like that one.


    Comment by Kim — June 24, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

    • It has not been in service for many years. When it was, the trees were cut around it, giving it a good view over the Clark Fork river valley to the south as well as out over the cliff. The actual mountain peak is a quarter mile west of the cabin and a lookout west of this and across the Clark Fork had that area in view.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

  16. This day was a definite win for you… and for all of us blog viewers! Simply magical photos!!


    Comment by kcjewel — June 24, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

    • Yes, it was a great day for me! A very pleasant hike with a good friend and excellent weather for a few photos! I love that country up there anyway.


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

  17. That lookout sure is picturesque and very weathered. How cool tht the weather was so accommodating and you got two different perspectives in one day.


    Comment by Candace — June 24, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

    • The weather in the high country with its sudden changes and drama is one of the many things I love about being up there. It was a wonderful day!


      Comment by montucky — June 24, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

  18. In the first photograph I like the role reversal of dark sky and bright ground.


    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — June 25, 2011 @ 5:48 am

    • Those were interesting weather conditions. The photo was taken from the Cabinet Mountains and the storm was still about ten miles away, over the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and moving very fast. We were at nearly 7,000 feet and the storm wasn’t much higher than that. Makes for some dramatic conditions!


      Comment by montucky — June 25, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  19. I would never have believed there to be snow still up there. WOW! Wonderful images!!


    Comment by Marcie — June 25, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

    • That’s one of the delights of living in the mountains.


      Comment by montucky — June 25, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

  20. Nice pictures. I really like the old fire lookouts and wish somebody had the money to preserve them.


    Comment by knightofswords — June 25, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

    • This one was to be restored a year ago and the money was there. About half a dozen of us even volunteered to help with the work. Then I heard that a new archeologist took over this region and since it wasn’t his idea, he killed it. Chalk this one up to an ego-centric bureaucrat.


      Comment by montucky — June 25, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  21. what an adventure!


    Comment by silken — June 26, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

    • It was wonderful to be able to get up into the high country again after a very long winter!


      Comment by montucky — June 26, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

  22. Shocking photos!

    That was really great surprise to see “winter” photos in the middle of summer.

    Last weekend in Finland we had the summer’s biggest celebration – Midsummer celebration. We spent a long weekend in Jyväskylä and made a nice evening lake cruise on the boat which was built in 1906 in Jyväskylä seeing some Midsummer bonfires although the weather was not so beautiful all the time.

    I liked very much from those two photos presenting the old cabin.

    Thank You showing these awesome photos.


    Comment by sartenada — June 27, 2011 @ 3:43 am

    • I enjoy being able to go up into the mountains and find there is a different season there as was the case that day. It is not uncommon to see snow here at the higher elevations in summer.

      That was a great way for you to celebrate summer! I could think of several other celebrations here that I would be happy to replace with a midsummer celebration!


      Comment by montucky — June 27, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  23. Marvelous images! Alas, Ohio has no sign of snow this June 🙂


    Comment by Watching Seasons — June 27, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

    • Thanks! Some areas in Montana have much taller mountains than here and their snow is even deeper than the snow in these photos. A drought of ten years duration has now ended here and we are very thankful to have that snow pack up high!


      Comment by montucky — June 27, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

  24. WOW… marvelous images… especially the lookout under blue sky! And a wonderful story to go with the images. I’m glad I dropped by your older posts instead of just starting with your most recent ones. Busy day today so I’ll be back later for more catching up.


    Comment by Victoria — July 18, 2011 @ 5:53 am

    • I could use another trip like that at the moment: it’s in the 90’s here now.


      Comment by Montucky — July 18, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

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