Tag Archives: Coal Ridge

Trail 2 open for the year

Trail 2 Maintenance, July 7, 2016

Trail 2 Maintenance, July 7, 2016

The North Fork Trails Association is pleased to announce that Trail 2 is now open. Randy Kenyon, Alan Peura and Bill Walker removed all the downfall and brushed the trail out a bit on July 7.

Trail 2 is a popular trail running from Moran Basin Road to Coal Ridge, the location of a number of old lookouts, including the 1928 “Coal Ridge Patrol Cabin.”

We were in a hurry to clear the trail because there is an upcoming hike along Trail 2 to Coal Ridge in conjunction with the Montana Wilderness Association’s Wilderness Walks program on July 16. See the NFTA schedule at http://nftrails.org/calendar/#activities for details, including a registration link.

Trail 2 is clear

As mentioned in a previous post, we got Trail 2 mostly cut out on July 2. Yesterday (July 6, 2015) a group of us went in with a chain saw and finished up a few of the balkier items, especially a big old spruce blocking travel at the 2.5 mile (4 km) point.

Barring additional blow-downs, the trail is clear.

Bill is happy now

Bill is happy now

Randy, Sue and Greg look pleased, too

Randy, Sue and Greg look pleased, too

Trail 2 mostly cleared

Randy Kenyon and Bill Walker spent a few hours yesterday (July 2, 2015) almost clearing the first 2.5 miles of Trail 2.They’re leading a hike up this trail in just over two weeks, so a little maintenance was in order.

Trail 2, the Moran Creek Trail, runs about 3 miles (4.8 km) from a trailhead on Moran Basin Road (road 5241) to the top of Coal Ridge. It is the most popular route for visiting the old lookout sites along the spine of Coal Ridge.

There was a modest number of blow-downs across the trail, some minor and some requiring a bit of work.

That wasn't too bad

That wasn’t too bad

A few required a lot of work, especially a big, old spruce that fell down across the trail at a long, shallow angle

This is going to take a while!

This is going to take a while!

Cleared!

Cleared!

Randy feeling victorious

Randy feeling victorious

Downed spruce were by far the biggest nuisance.

Another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into

Another fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into

Not quite out of the way yet

Not quite out of the way yet

Unfortunately, we had to leave one monster as a (cough) step-over until we can get back up there with a chain saw. We’ll clear up this little detail in a few days.

This one needs a chain saw

This one needs a chain saw

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.

North Fork Trails Association has boots on the ground!

Debo Powers wrote the following general circulation article about some of our September activities. As you’ll see, the “Three Amigas” (Debo, Margaret Heaphy and Betsy Holycross) have donated a lot of time to the NFTA this month! . . .

The newly formed North Fork Trails Association (NFTA) under the leadership of Bill Walker has been very busy this summer exploring, compiling information and planning for future improvement of North Fork trails.

Bill made a presentation before the RAC committee on September 16 to ask for funding for trail maintenance for the stretch of trail between the Whitefish Divide Trail and the end of Hay Creek Road.  In preparation for his presentation before the RAC committee, Bill organized a group Saturday, September 13, to hike this section from two different directions.  Bill and Randy Kenyon hiked from Hay Creek Road while Margaret Heaphy, Betsy Holycross, and Debo Powers hiked from Red Meadow Road on the Whitefish Divide.  When the two groups met, they exchanged car keys thus avoiding the need for a shuttle.

Two groups meet on trail and exchange car keys

Two groups meet on trail and exchange car keys

On Thursday, September 18, Bill transported NFTA scouts (Margaret, Betsy and Debo) to the Whitefish Divide trailhead on Red Meadow Road.  Their mission was twofold:  (1) hike along the Whitefish Divide Trail and find the junction with the Coal Ridge Trail and (2) reconnoiter the upper portion of the Coal Ridge Trail to find out if the trail was discernible.  If the trail was passable and there was enough time for the long trek, the scouts would continue along Coal Ridge to the old lookout and patrol cabin and hike down to Hay Creek Road where Bill would pick them up.  Although both parts of the mission were accomplished, the Coal Ridge Trail was so difficult to follow that the scouts returned the way they had come.

If you would like to donate money, time, or resources to help improve the hiking trails in the North Fork, please contact Bill through the NFTA “Contact” page.

Trail 4: Track log from ridge top to trailhead

A bunch of determined individuals (myself, John Frederick, Amy Robinson, Dave Hadden and Debo Powers) hiked up Trail 4 in the rain June 26. We cached some equipment and showed a couple of folks who hadn’t seen it the final segment up to the top of the ridge.

On the way back down, I managed to get a reasonably smooth GPS track from the ridge top to the trailhead at Road 909. This completes the most essential part of the survey, since the remainder of the trail just follows the ridge until it intersects Trail 14.

See below for the Trail 4 track in context of the major nearby land features.

Trail 4 track from 909 to ridge top, in context

Trail 4 Track from 909 to Ridge Top, in Context

Trail 4: Waypoints complete to ridge top

John Frederick and I took a run up Trail 4 yesterday, June 24, with the objective of acquiring a good set of waypoints for the final segment climbing up to the ridge top. See below for the result.

Barring the usual handful of outliers, we now have an accurate set of coordinates running from Road 909 to the top of the ridge. This completes the important stuff. The remainder of the trail just stays on top of the ridge — no mystery there.

The red dots are data acquired in September of last year. The blue ones represent yesterday’s effort.

Trail 4 Waypoints from Road 909 to Ridge Top

Trail 4 Waypoints from Road 909 to Ridge Top

Trail 4: The missing link

We finally found the piece of Trail 4 that provides access to the ridge top.

Last Thursday, June 19, Dave Hadden, John Frederick and I headed back up with the objective of tracing the section along the ridge top back down to where it connected with the previously scouted part of the trail that ascends from its eastern terminus at Road 909.

Kudos go to Dave Hadden on this one. He arrived early, located the trail corridor Will Hammerquist stumbled across a couple of weeks ago, and traced the route all the way to the top of the ridge. He then did the route a second time for my benefit when I got there.

You can see the trace (black line) based on my camera’s GPS log below. It’s jittery, but the basic routing is clear: The trail segment climbs up a minor draw, makes an abrupt turn to the west and switchbacks up the end of the ridge until it reaches the top.

Trail 4 - June 19 Track

Trail 4 – June 19 Track

Bonus: I finally got a half-decent photo of the Calypso Orchids near the trail-head before they disappeared.

Calypso Orchids

Calypso Orchids