The KooKooSint trail (USFS trail 445) starts about a mile north of the junction of the Thompson River road and Montana Highway 200 and makes its way up to the top of the western end of KooKooSint Ridge. In about two miles of hiking through eleven switchbacks on the primitive, rocky and rugged foot trail you climb about 2,000 feet to the ridge top from which this photo was taken looking to the east over the Clark Fork of the Columbia River. Somewhere near this point was where the Copper King fire started this past summer.
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:
Nearly all of my photos result from my frequent wanderings in the mountains and forests of western Montana. The wildflowers in my previous post were encountered on the way to a hike to view the peaks of the Cherry Peak roadless area, something I choose to do at least once every year. After a ten mile drive from the valley to a starting point at 5000 feet and a two mile hike from there up an old road to 6000 feet I arrive at my preferred viewing spot with an open view of the north side of the peaks. Mountains are always viewed best from high places.
The road at 6000 feet
Wood violets (Viola glabella) in bloom just below the snow level.
View to the northwest over the Clark Fork River.
View of Koo-Koo Sint Ridge north of the river from the access road.
Here in the southeastern part of the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana a small stream flows down from the TeePee – Spring Creek Roadless Area at the end of KooKooSint Ridge below Big Hole Peak for about ten miles through tall old-growth cedars in a deep, steep and narrow canyon to where, in spring, it enters the Clark Fork River. In late summer, fall and winter, the stream disappears below ground several miles before it reaches the river.
This time of year however the stream is swollen with snow-melt and instead of simply flowing, it plunges, roaring, through several miles of steep cascades on its downward journey.
Here are a series of photos that were taken on the tenth of May of this year from the trail (USFS Trail 370) in the lower several miles of the canyon. The very first one though is from April of 2010 before the annual spring run-off when the stream flow was at a much lower level and was flowing at a much slower rate. It is posted by way of comparison.
I usually refrain from posting so many photos in a single post, but this is an attempt to provide the viewer with a visual feel for what it is like to walk the trail through the canyon.