Montana Outdoors

October 15, 2016

Inside the Copper King fire area ~ Part 2

Most of the photos in the previous post showed badly burned places within the area of the Copper King fire. The photos which now follow show many areas within the fire area that escaped the flames and which will help the whole area in its recovery. All photos in these two posts were taken from within the northeast sector of the fire area. The snow-capped peak that shows up in several of the pictures is Thompson Peak which is in the area of the Chippy Creek fire which burned 150 square miles in 2007.

Copper King Fire 21

Copper King Fire 22

Copper King Fire 23

Copper King Fire 24

Copper King Fire 25

Copper King Fire 26

Copper King Fire 27

Copper King Fire 28

Copper King Fire 29

Copper King Fire 30

Copper King Fire 31

Copper King Fire 32

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October 12, 2016

Inside the Copper King fire area.

At the end of July a fire named the Copper King started not far from my home in western Montana. After burning for two months and covering about 45 square miles it was finally contained about the end of September and the restrictions on entering the area where it burned were removed. Due mostly to adverse weather conditions, today was the first good chance I had to go into the burn area and look around.

This morning a good friend and I hiked for about two miles into the burned area on USFS road 17354 which branches west off USFS road 887 about 4 miles up Todd Creek from the Little Thompson Road. In the valley the temperatures was in the upper 20’s, and when we left the Jeep, at an elevation of about 4400 feet, it was colder and there was about 4 inches of snow still on the ground left from a storm a couple of days ago. Perfect hiking weather!

A forest fire is an awesome event, unpredictable, sometimes seemingly whimsical, and its effects are far from understood by even the “experts”. Fire has always been a part of the existence of the forest and part of its natural order. Its aftermath is fascinating to see.

Following are 20 photos taken today on a hike into the Copper King fire burn. The first photo shows a kind of overview of the variety within the area of a large fire, from areas which were extremely hot to areas where the fire left large swaths of vegetation practically untouched. The other photos are pretty much in sequence as we hiked along the road through one of the areas which suffered intense heat and burning. I will follow up later with another post with photos that show some of the variation of fire effects throughout the rest of the area in which we hiked.

Copper King Fire 1

Copper King Fire 2

Copper King Fire 3

Copper King Fire 4

Copper King Fire 5

Copper King Fire 6

Copper King Fire 7

Copper King Fire 8

Copper King Fire 9

Copper King Fire 10

Copper King Fire 11

Copper King Fire 12

Copper King Fire 13

Copper King Fire 14

Copper King Fire 15

Copper King Fire 16

Copper King Fire 17

Copper King Fire 18

Copper King Fire 19

Copper King Fire 20

October 5, 2016

Where did it go?

This Whitetail doe was meandering along in the burn area of the Copper King fire with her head down, sniffing the ground. I suspect she was searching for a favorite trail that no longer exists. The photo was taken in the northeastern part of the burn, along USFS road 887 about three miles up Todd Creek.

White tail deer

June 28, 2015

June 2015 visit to Big Hole Lookout

Every summer I visit the old fire lookout near Big Hole Peak in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. The trail to it is good (USFS trail 368) and it’s a pleasant hike of only about 2.7 miles to the lookout. The elevation of Highway 200 is about 2400 feet; the elevation of the trail head is 5500 feet and the elevation at the lookout is 6922 feet. The old cabin is undergoing a restoration so it may be used as a rental for summer visitors who will enjoy some nice long distance views during their stay there. Deer, elk, possibly a moose, cougar, and black bears may be encountered on the road to the trail head or on the trail itself.

To reach the trail head, turn onto the Weeksville Creek road (USFS road 887) from Montana Highway 200, about six miles west of the town of Plains Montana. Then at about 3 miles turn left on USFS road 5587 and take it ten miles at which point it forks and both forks are closed by gates for the protection of wildlife. The trail head for 368 is right there. There is adequate parking for horse trailers before the gates. It is a single track road that is quite narrow in places but there are plenty of wider places where you can pass another vehicle. It is rocky (not muddy) and not a lot of fun to drive on when it’s icy or snow-covered.

Following are some photos of the trail, wildflowers along the trail, scenery and the lookout taken on June 11, 2015.

Penstemons

Bear Grass

Bear Grass

Big Hole Lookout trail

Bear Grass

Vetch

Larkspur

Big Hole Lookout trail

Big Hole Lookout trail

Big Hole Lookout trail

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Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout trail

Big Hole Lookout

East from Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout

Big Hole Lookout

Marmot Peak

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Big Hole Peak

Bear Grass

Vetch

Big Hole Lookout trail

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