Montana Outdoors

March 11, 2010

A search for a trail

For two years, a trail has been on my mind. It’s name is “Fourteen Mile Trail” (AKA USFS trail 1714), and it extends from the Clark Fork River near the old ferry landing at Fourteen mile, about seven miles to the lookout at the top of 6,800 foot Patrick’s Knob in western Montana’s Coeur d’Alene Mountains.

Two summers ago while working as a volunteer with the Forest Service I helped clear about three miles of the trail from the top along the high ridge to where it begins its descent to the river. I understand that the middle part is very difficult to follow and it is practically unmarked. (It crosses some very rocky, open areas where there are no trees to hold the traditional blaze marks.)

At the moment, the top part is under about five feet of snow, and so now is a good time to search for the bottom end of the trail.

A week ago I visited the very bottom which is easy to find, and took the following photo at the river level: after about two miles however, it all but disappears.

Clark Fork on the cutoff

It begins to climb rather gently from the river as can be seen in this photo

TR 1714

but becomes very obscure when it reaches the gap to the left of the cliff. When I arrived at that place there were several sheep trails leading upwards into the high country to the left. While contemplating those trails and wondering if one was actually Trail 1714, I noticed a flat, arrowhead-shaped stone on the ground about a foot long. Someone had scratched “Trail 1714” on the stone and drew an arrow which points toward the best defined of the sheep trails. (If you look very closely, you can probably make out the marks on the stone.)

Trail marker TR 1714

A great clue, not conclusive, but it has been on my mind. Then today, a serendipity. At the local grocery store I encountered an old friend whom I haven’t seen for a year or so and who, out of the blue, invited me to go with her to search for the Fourteen Mile Trail! We chose to go on Friday. (Results of the search this weekend.)

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