Monthly Archives: October 2014

Trail 4 complete

We did it. After a lot of effort spanning two full hiking seasons, Trail 4 has been located and walked from end to end. In the process, we learned a little history. Those of you who have been involved in this chronic project at one time or another will realize just how significant this is.

Here’s how it happened: A few days ago, we put together a very short notice hike in the Moran Basin area with the vague notion of maybe exploring some long-neglected tread. There were three of us (myself — Bill Walker, Debo Powers and Greg Evans). Since the other two had never been on Trail 2, we chose to go in on that route. See the Moran Basin Trails article for the layout.

After having lunch and enjoying the views from the remains of the old Coal Ridge lookout, we decided to keep pushing southest along Coal Ridge to see if we could locate the junction with Trail 4.

View East from Coal Ridge

View Northeast from Coal Ridge

This is where things got interesting. We found the Trail 4 turnoff… and something else, as well. Right at the point where Trail 4 dropped down off the ridge, was the remains of another old lookout, predating the more familiar ruins further west. [Update: I am informed that this was more of an observation platform than a lookout. Still, it was a pretty neat find.]

Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

Old Ladder at Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

Old Ladder at Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

From there, knowing we were only about 1.25 miles (2 km) from known territory, we decided to try hiking out on Trail 4.

Ready to Go Northeast on Trail 4

Ready to Go Northeast on Trail 4

As we hoped, the tread was still visible. Other than a few blow-downs, we had little trouble following the old trail.

The final highlight of the day was reaching the furthest limit of the previously explored section of Trail 4. As you can see, everyone was quite pleased with themselves.

Back in Known Territory - 01

Back in Known Territory – 01

Back in Known Territory - 02

Back in Known Territory – 02

We wrapped up the expedition without incident, walking out to where John Frederick was waiting to provide shuttle service (we radioed ahead once we made the Trail 4 decision).

A good day.

Flathead Forest trails budget increased

The last “Flathead Forest Friday” meeting centered on recreation, including a report on the trails maintenance budget. It seems things are looking up a bit . . .

The Flathead National Forest will have about $553,000 next season for trail work, which is a little better than previous years. The budget was slashed to about $363,000 during federal sequestration last year and was about $477,000 in 2012.

According to Becky Smith-Powell, the Forest’s recreation program manager, more than $200,000 of the trails budget will go toward capital expenses, with the remainder going to staff and other items.

There are 2,257 miles of trails in the Flathead Forest, including motorized vehicle and ski trails. By comparison, Glacier National Park has about 700 miles of trails, and its trail budget runs close to or at $1 million annually.

Read more . . .

John Frederick receives award from Flathead Audubon Society

John Frederick, NFPA President and active member of the North Fork Trails Association,  recently received a Flathead Audubon Society Conservation Achievement Recognition award for his years of work to protect the North Fork. This is a pretty big deal and a well-deserved honor.

See the NFPA site ( for details . . .

Coal Ridge cabin gets more renovation work

It seems the Coal Ridge “patrol cabin” (on Trail 14, just west of the Trail 2 intersection) was actually the original lookout up there. Anyways, it got new siding last week to go with the roof that was installed a couple of years ago . . .

An historic lookout up the North Fork on Coal Ridge received some badly needed care last week as Forest Service crews installed new siding on the weather-beaten building.

The Coal Ridge Lookout, which has sat atop the Whitefish Range since 1928, doesn’t resemble a lookout — the current map actually calls it a cabin. It has small windows, and the Osborne Fire Finder used to pinpoint fire starts was mounted on a metal pole outside of the building.

But it was a definitely a fire lookout, Flathead National Forest lookout Leif Haugen said.

Read more . . .

For more information on this project, go to!2014-projects/c1nlq and scroll down to the “Moran Patrol Cabin” section.