Wednesday was the coolest day here in a couple weeks and a friend and I finally made a quad ride up to Stony Lake that we had been planning for some time. This small cirque lake (located at an elevation of about 6000 feet) sits above the west fork of Fishtrap Creek and is the only one of the cirque lakes in this region (that I know of) that has a road up to it. Warm jackets and rain gear were in order.
To access the lake, turn north from Montana Highway 200 about four miles east of Thompson Falls onto the Thompson River Road (USFS road 56) and follow it about fifteen miles to the Fishtrap road (USFS road 516) on the left, take it nine or ten miles to the West Fork of Fishtrap road (it is plainly marked) turn left on it and follow it about four miles to USFS road 7675 which forks to the right. Follow it up to its end at the lake. It is a good rock and gravel road although rather steep in places and can be very hazardous when snow covered or icy. (I always recommend when traveling in the back country in this area to take a copy of the Lolo National Forest Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger district map along.)
I first saw the lake while elk hunting last fall when it was quite cold, the lake was nearly frozen over, and there was a little snow on the ground. (The last photo in this series, taken on November 5, 2015, will give you an idea of what it was like then.) Ever since that first trip I have been looking forward to seeing it in summer time and I was not disappointed. Following are a few photos of it now in its “green” season.
On Sunday, July 31 a wild fire started up at the west end of KooKooSint Ridge about 8 miles east of the small western Montana town of Thompson Falls at about 3:00 PM. In the first few hours it grew to 200 acres.
Meanwhile, a close friend was working with a contingent of volunteers on the restoration of the lookout cabin on Big Hole Peak which is located about three miles from the fire and directly down wind from it. At about 5:00 the restoration crew was evacuated from the lookout so my friend (who had hiked up to work in the morning) had the pleasure of another three mile hike back down to the staging area and return to the valley leaving most of his equipment behind.
On Monday morning the Forest Service sent a crew by helicopter up to the Big Hole Lookout to retrieve all of the equipment and wrap the cabin with fire resistant material. By then the fire had grown to 700 acres. While we had nothing much else to do we decided to see if we could go get a good look at the fire, and made the drive up to the Eddy Peak lookout which is on the other side of the Clark Fork Valley about two miles due south of the fire. That lookout is manned and has a road up to about half a mile from the lookout itself. We arrived at the tower just in time to see an air tanker drop its entire load of retardant on the fire. I had barely enough time to change my camera to a telephoto lens before the retardant run began. It was a great opportunity for a few photos and a rare opportunity to photograph a big air tanker run from above. (The fire was at an elevation of about 5500 feet and the Eddy Peak lookout sits at about 7000 feet.) The photos of the tanker run were taken from the lookout tower.
The air tanker is a four engine jet I believe to be owned by Neptune Aviation in Missoula Montana and it’s a BAe 146 (#02) aircraft which carries a load of 3000 gallons of retardant (about twelve tons).
Photos from the base of the Eddy Peak lookout overlooking the Clark Fork Valley:
Sequence of photos of the air tanker retardant run: