Friday, September 4, 2020

Backpacking In Blodgett Canyon

Vicki had been agitating for another backpacking trip. I was content to let the "W" in Patagonia or even the Inca Trail in Peru serve as my final backpacking adventures. But she prevailed, and on September 1st, the 12th anniversary of our departure for retirement travels, we camped at the tiny Forest Service campground at the mouth of Blodgett Canyon, in the Bitterroots, an hour's drive south of Missoula. 

During our years in Montana, 1995-2008, we'd hiked or over-nighted in these mountains many times. Our last visit was in 2015, post-retirement, doing the Bear, Kootenai, and Blodgett canyons. 

But those were just day-hikes. Vicki wanted the real thing: carrying packs on our backs for miles, uphill, ever watchful for large hungry predators, pitching a tiny mountain tent on uneven, rocky ground, eating freeze-dried backapacka slop for dinner (I did bring a small vessel of wine), hanging everything odoriferous in a bear-proof bag high in a tree well away from our tent-site, and discovering, too late, that my inflatable sleeping pad had a leak. On the plus side, it was too dry for mosquitoes or other bugs, the temperatures were pleasant, and the skies were beautifully clear, at least until early the next morning when a gale came up, blowing wildfire smoke over the divide from Idaho. I have been reading Daniel Matthews' Trees in Trouble, and my concern that the fire jump the divide and overwhelm us, at gale-force speeds, before we could return to the campground, propelled us, me anyway, on the flip-side of the hike. 

In any case, we enjoyed the full glory of all this, camping near the waterfall beyond the bridge, perhaps 5 miles up the canyon. It was as far as our 70-something legs would carry us, bearing our 16 and 22 pound packs and accoutrements as well. Blodgett Canyon is a beautiful place, the Bitterroots' Yosemite Valley, walls and crags and pinnacles lining both sides of the 10-mile canyon. Except for a few day-hikers and dog-walkers, we had it all to ourselves. I can't say it was fun, not entirely anyway, but it was satisfying to know we can still do this, at least for short and non-strenuous distances. And I can't say we won't do another backpacking trip.

At Lost Trail Pass: at least there was no Trump sticker

Approaching Blodgett Canyon

Campsite #4 (of 5)

Beginning of the excellent trail

Intrepid backapacka Vicki

Along the way...walls, pinnacles, great rock...

Actual beaver dam

More walls, pinnacles...

OK, it's not El Cap

Waterfall #1

At the bridge, looking back to the Bitterroot Valley and mountains beyond

And toward the head of the canyon

The very famous Gothic arch (13th century); all that remains of the abbey of St. Blodgettus

Above our campsite

The creek, just before waterfall #2; better at high tide

Vicki expertly hoisting our bear bag

Over the years, we have gotten much better at pitching tents (tent technology has gotten much better, too)

Falls #2

Next morning, looking back up the canyon, smoke, rising ominously...

Looking toward the Valley, you can barely see it or the range beyond

But we made it back, showered, crashed, had an enjoyable dinner, a campfire, and, with the
skies clearing, enjoyed yet another wonderful alpenglow

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Movin' Right Along*

It's been a busy few weeks. August 9th we had a splendid day with daughter Rachel and her husband Will, doing bits of Missoula, and then driving up to Lochsa Lodge for a patio dinner. Much fun conversation. They are on a road trip to culminate in a wedding in Michigan. Not to worry, they are as careful as can be with COVID-19. After that we headed back to California. After the usual unpacking, repacking, reorganization, reloading, we took grand-daughter Penelope camping for four days at Pinecrest Lake, in Stanislaus National Forest, in the Sierra. Not for the first time, by any means, but with much warm and clear weather and lakeside fun. The rest of that week saw more reorganization--for a much longer fall trip in the US--as well as a sinus procedure for Vicki (preceded by a negative COVID-19 test). A few more pleasant days with Penelope, Rebecca, and Jeremy, and we were back on the road, now to Rocklin, CA, near Sacramento, to consummate the sale of our European RV, Le Duc, to new friends Terry and Jennifer. We trust they will be happy with their new purchase, currently in storage outside Edinburgh, and we wish them the best and many buoni viaggi. Our feelings are mixed...happy to close the deal and achieve some further clarification about our own futures...but also sad to see the European RV chapter of our lives come to an end. We had such good times in that camper and its predecessor! But hopefully it is not the end of our European travel. As I write, we are back in Montana, having enjoyed a few days' rest in the Tetons. One of our happy places. It's been a busy few weeks.
Rachel and Will at the De Voto Grove, Crooked Fork, Idaho

On a hike to the former Jerry Johnson Hot Springs (now downgraded to Warm Springs)

In Riggins, Idaho, on the way back to California: "complimentary beer"; times are tough

"Watch for Rock": out West you take this enjoinder seriously


Encampment at Antelope Reservoir, eastern Oregon; en route to California

At Pinecrest, our new camping pennant

Social distancing at Pinecrest Lake; the kids were really quite good

Rock climbing at Pinecrest

Another tea party; note American Girl Molly, standing in for Mrs.

Wildfire and smoke in California, as we leave for Rocklin

Addio, Le Duc (here seen in Brittany, 2015); you took us to many wonderful places

Movin' right along...Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Somewhere in darkest Idaho, a mountainside defaced by decades of local high school classes

Sic transit, Gloria: once a respectable volcano, now just a cell-phone tower platform

Jackson's Hole, from Teton Pass; smoke from Idaho, Oregon, California; it got better after a few showers

Lunch by Flat Creek, National Elk Refuge, just north of Jackson

Old friends, since 1970

Over-flow parking from the Taggart Lake trail-head; most crowded we've
ever seen the Tetons

Jackson Lake and Mt. Moran, from near where we camped, at Colter Bay; glaciers hanging in there

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hiking The Continental Divide Trail

The Continental Divide Trail runs some 3,100 miles, atop the Rockies, from Mexico to Canada. We hiked bits of it the three days we were parked at the Homestake trail head. Somewhat less than 0.2%, but it was a good trail, well-maintained, and scenic, with views of Butte and also the Boulder Batholith. We've probably done a couple hundred miles of the CDT in Wyoming, some years back, but that was in the winter, on a snowmobile (see, for example, or

Tree versus sign, episode #1,208

Tree versus rock, episode #83,401; [further comment suppressed]

Bear den condo (seasonal)

Beautiful trail

View of (relatively) unplundered portion of Butte

Moeraki Beach?

Early August, 6,500 feet, still abloom

Old mine entrance

After our third night, we returned from hiking to find the parking lot plastered with new signage

To the inexperienced eye (e.g., mine), the boulders of the Boulder Batholith look like they were
dropped there by a passing glacier; but here, in a road-cut, you can see them emerging, as geologists
tell us, from the younger detritus that covers them

Cleared for landing at Le Grande Aerodrome Internationale du Butte
Had we been younger, more energetic, or at least interested, we might have hiked the 10 miles
north on the CDT to Maud Canyon and this spectacular view of the Berkeley Pit, where much
of old Butte and Walkerville used to be [it's a long, interesting but ultimately depressing story; probably more has been written about Butte than any other comparatively-sized town,
anywhere]; and this unusual dorsal view of Our Lady of the Pit [someone else's picture;