Montana Outdoors

February 28, 2009

In search of a trail (2)

Yesterday my son and I tried again to find the lower end of the Fourteen Mile trail (USFS trail 1714), this time in 4 inches of new snow, and tasted a little success with the discovery of some old blaze marks on a tree a few hundred feet above the river. We lost it soon after because of the snow but I’m sure now that with the appropriate topo maps I will be able to locate it, although not until most of the snow has melted.

The following photo illustrates why I want so much to find the trail. It was taken from about three miles from the Jeep and a thousand feet above the river, and the top of the trail is still several miles and 3,500 feet further up the mountain. I have to think the views from the upper reaches will be worth the climb.

Our companions at this point were five huge Big Horn rams who were also looking out over the river. The trail is in the Patrick’s Knob Roadless Area of western Montana’s Coeur d’Alene Mountains and the country across the river is in the South Siegel Roadless Area.

South Siegel Roadless Area

January 11, 2008

A new playground

Today was spent snooping around a brand new playground called Forest Service trail #223, most of which is within the South Siegel roadless area. Well, I had a pretty good idea it was there, but had never visited. It runs for 8 or 9 miles on the south side of the Clark Fork (to the left in this photo)

Clark Fork on the cutoff

where the river flows eastward for about 20 miles through the Coeur d’Alene mountains between the South Siegel roadless area and the Patrick’s Knob roadless area, a section called “the cutoff”.

On the trail, about a mile from where this photo was taken,

Clark Fork on the cutoff

beyond the river and over the hill, I missed a very, very big cougar by only a few seconds. As I stepped over the sharp crest of a steep slope there were skid marks on the trail ahead, much like those one would leave when stopping quickly on short skis, where he sensed my presence, slid to a halt and then sprang off the trail and down into a deep canyon. If only I had been a little more alert! Here’s what his track looked like beside my boot.

Cat track!

The prints of his pads can clearly be seen, but consider also the smooth shadow around the pads where the rest of his foot pressed into the snow. His foot was wider than mine! As I followed his track as far as I could, I was filled with a strong feeling that there are still some very wonderful things left in this world!

January 1, 2008

Along the cutoff

For most of its journey, the Clark Fork of the Columbia River flows toward the west or northwest, but for one stretch of about twenty miles it turns and flows east as it cuts through the Coeur d’Alene mountain range before it makes another sharp bend and again flows northwest. Locally we refer to that stretch as “the cutoff”. Along part of the cutoff the river is flanked on one side by the Patrick’s Knob/North Cutoff roadless area and on the other by the South Siegel/South Cutoff roadless area.

This photo was taken from a cliff five hundred feet above the river inside the South Siegel area looking down the river. The mountainside to the immediate left is part of the Patrick’s Knob area. I plan to spend much more time here after the snow leaves. It’s a beautiful, peaceful wild area.


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