Tag Archives: Trail 14

2015 in review

Even with a very early start to the 2015 fire season, the North Fork Trails Association was active from mid-May right through the end of October. The tinder dry forest prevented us from using any tools that might strike a spark, but we found plenty to accomplish with the one-person saws that are becoming part of our standard kit and we did quite a bit of scouting throughout the North Fork.

Here, then, are a few highlights from the 2015 trails season…

We didn’t get much snow this year so, we were able to get boots on the trail by late May. The first expedition of any size was up Trail 4 on May 26. We were up and down this trail several times throughout the year.

150526 - Trail 4 Hikers

Trail 4 Hikers

Another trail that got a lot of attention was the eastern section of the Pacific Northwest Trail where it passes through the North Fork — Trail 3 and a segment of Trail 26.

151011 - Trail 3 Trailhead

Trail 3 Trailhead

150609 - T26 at T3 Intersection - Sign Detail

T26 at T3 Intersection – Sign Detail

150609 - T26 at T3 Intersection

T26 at T3 Intersection

150709 - Trail 3 - Butterfly

Trail 3 – Butterfly

It was a very early fire season. Just as we hit our stride, the region began to get smoky. This view west along the Hay Creek drainage, was taken July 9. It got a lot worse later.

150709 - Trail 3 - Smoke

Trail 3 – Smoke

The old Cleft Rock Trail, Trail 13, got a number of visits early in the season, as we checked out several ways of accessing it. (The eastern end currently stops at private land.) There will be a lot more activity on this project in 2016.

150629 - Randy on Cleft Rock Trail

Randy on Cleft Rock Trail in old Wedge Canyon Fire burn area

Before things got too smoky, we spent a fair amount of time in early July ensuring that Trail 2 was fixed up and ready for a “Wilderness Walks” hike scheduled for mid-July. Read about the hike here and the trail cleanup efforts here and here.

We’ll “draw the curtain of charity” over late summer, which was heavily shrouded in smoke from regional fires and dangerously dry. Besides, yours truly forgot to bring his camera.

We squeezed in several late season activities, including a couple of hikes up Lake Mountain on Trail 375. The first day we went up there, the air was so clear we could see smoke rising from a wildfire near the Idaho border, almost 70 miles to the west.

150928 - Trail 375 - Stony Basin Lake

Trail 375 – Stony Basin Lake

150930 - Trail 375 - Overlooking Chain Lakes

Trail 375 – Overlooking Chain Lakes

In early October we visited the Review Mountain Loop (Trails 113 and 23) a couple of times. The first trip was for our own purposes (setting additional cairns and some blow-down removal), the second was a very pleasant and productive meeting with Sean Cranmer of the U.S. Forest Service. Sean was handling trails issues this year. He took the time to drop by once the fires settled down and the smoke cleared.

51004 - Review Mountain Loop - Fall Foliage

Review Mountain Loop – Fall Foliage

151007 - Review Basin Overlook Hike - People

Review Basin Overlook Hike – People

151007 - Review Basin Overlook Hike - Basin View

Review Basin Overlook Hike – Basin View

But wait, there’s more…

October 27 was the final trip to Hornet Lookout.

151027 - Hornet Lookout

Hornet Lookout

The season-ender was October 28, a last trip up Trail 239, the back door to Coal Ridge. Three of us cut out some blow-downs, excepting one that was a little big for the equipment we had on-hand, and signed the log at the Coal Ridge patrol cabin.

151028 - Trail 239 - Blow-down Removal

Trail 239 – Blow-down Removal

151028 - Trail 239 - Need a Bigger Saw

Trail 239 – Need a Bigger Saw

151028 - Coal Ridge Patrol Cabin

Coal Ridge Patrol Cabin

What about 2016? We’re already rolling. Watch this weblog for further developments.

Coal Ridge Lookout Hike

Last Saturday, July 18, 2015 was the Coal Ridge Lookout Hike. We set this up as part of the Montana Wilderness Association’s “Wilderness Walks” program, with North Fork Trails providing the hike leaders. The route follows Flathead National Forest Trail 2 from the trailhead on Moran Basin Road until it intersects Trail 14 on top of Coal Ridge. The remains of the old Coal Ridge lookout are a short distance east along the ridge-top. The round trip distance is about 6.8 miles (11 km).

Trouble is, it was a damp, cool, foggy morning and no one but Randy and I showed up — wimps. So, we did the hike anyway. About three hours later, we were on the ridge-top, enjoying the sunshine and a nice view. Our missing hikers were still down there in the dank fog.

View from Coal Ridge - fog in the valleys

View from Coal Ridge – fog in the valleys

We had a pleasant time at the site of the old fire lookout. We had a leisurely lunch, tried to identify some of the peaks in Glacier Park and surveyed the surrounding territory with a view toward future visits.

Coal Ridge - packing up after lunch

Coal Ridge – packing up after lunch

Coal Ridge - remains of old lookout

Coal Ridge – remains of old lookout

On the way up, we took note of a stretch of ripe huckleberries. On the way back, we stopped for some berry picking. Randy anticipated adding his to pancakes. Mine ended up on ice cream.

Trail 2 - huckleberries

Trail 2 – huckleberries

Altogether, a very pleasant day. Any expedition that ends with huckleberries is a success.

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.

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 http://www.nwmt-ffla.org/#!2014-projects/c1nlq and scroll down to the “Moran Patrol Cabin” section.

Hay Creek area trails exploration

Debo Powers’ article covers our recent activity in the west end of the Hay Creek drainage, but I thought it useful to include some additional material here.

Here’s a map of the two expeditions Debo mentions. The red track is the Trail 3-Trail 26 survey conducted on September 13. In yellow is the route of the successful September 18 search for the Trail 26-Trail 14 junction.

Hay Creek Explorations

Hay Creek Explorations

Randy and I added about a mile to our part of the Trail 3 hike by spending some time investigating Hay Lake.

Hay Lake

Hay Lake

Here’s Randy at the Trail 3-Trail 26 junction.

Randy at T26

Randy at T26

And here’s a photo of the Hay Creek drainage from the west end that I took on an earlier expedition up Trail 26.

Hay Creek Drainage from West End

Hay Creek Drainage from West End

Moran Basin trails wrap-up: Trails 2, 4 and 14

August saw a lot of activity on the trails surrounding the Moran Creek Basin. See below for the GPS tracks. (The Trail 4 trace is roughly .25 miles short because I didn’t start recording immediately on the return trip.)

Moran Basin Trails

Moran Basin Trails

On August 11, we (Bill Walker, Jerry Costello and Bob Nelson) worked through the last of the downed wood and underbrush on Trail 4, encountering almost unrestricted ridge-top travel for the next half-mile or so. At that point — about 1.25 miles from the Trail 14 junction — we decided to carry our equipment out rather than continue.

We found a nice view of Cyclone Peak and Lake on the way back . . .

Cyclone Peak and Lake

Cyclone Peak and Lake

A couple of weeks later, Jerry and I went round the north and west sides of the basin on trails 2 and 14. The tread started to fade a little ways past the old Coal Ridge lookout tower. We took a photo at our turnaround point and called it a day . . .

Trail 14 Limit of Travel

Trail 14 Limit of Travel

The next step is to walk and identify those last little bits of trails 4 and 14, possibly with two groups, one going in from each end.

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.