Yesterday a friend and I hiked about 4 miles of USFS trail #98 in the Reservation Divide Roadless Area, which is in the southeastern end of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains in northwest Montana and part of the Lolo National Forest. This roadless area consists of 16,970 acres (26 square miles), is about 20 miles in length, varies in elevation from about 6000 ft to 8000 ft, and its northern boundary is also part of the southern boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The trail head for USFS trail 98 is at 5900 ft and is accessed by about 9 miles of Forest Service roads after taking off of Montana Highway 135. The following photos provide a sample of the views from the trail looking out over the Nine Mile Valley. Note: This area was the site of a very large wildfire in 2002 and it is in the long process of recovery.
A few words about Roadless Areas:
Simply put, roadless areas are natural areas without roads, but such lands in the US are covered by a term that is more specific and refers to Forest Service lands that are called “Inventoried roadless areas”.
Inventoried roadless areas can be roughly defined as undeveloped areas typically exceeding 5,000 acres that met the minimum criteria for wilderness consideration under the Wilderness Act and that were inventoried during the Forest Service’s Roadless Area Review and Evaluation process, subsequent assessments, or forest planning. They total to approximately 60 million acres of land, most of which is in the western US, Puerto Rico and Alaska. (The state of Montana for example contains approximately 6.4 million acres, or 10,000 square miles, of Inventoried Roadless land.) I am happy to live fairly close to 15 of Montana’s roadless areas and I spend as much time in them as I can. Roughly half of the photos I post on this blog have been taken in or next to roadless areas.
At a casual glance, the leaves of the Twisted-stalk look like those of the False Solomon’s seal, and for years I didn’t look at them any closer. Then in the Spring Creek canyon one day the sky suddenly opened up and the rain came pouring down, giving me only time enough to pop open a small umbrella that I always carry with me and crouch down under it so that it would keep my camera and most of me dry. That put the plant at eye level and I suddenly saw the little blossoms hiding beneath the large leaves and realized that the inadvertent “closer look” had revealed another plant that was new to me.
Four summers ago I encountered my first Clarkia high on a steep mountainside beside a little forest road that went nowhere. There at the very end of the road, while I was trying to turn the Jeep around in a space about a foot longer than it was, I saw it; just one blossom. Today a mile up a trail that isn’t there and about three miles from that first sighting I discovered a hillside full of them. This is the year to celebrate the Pinkfairies!