Thursday, July 30, 2020

Peaks, Holes, and Spires; Oh My

The weather in Missoula was turning ugly...the continental hot weather finally moving north to these latitudes. 90s and 100s are not fun in an RV, even if you have shore power or a generator to run your AC. We decided to head for the high country (Missoula is at 3100 feet) and tough it out there. This eventually involved a trip up the Bitterroot Valley (Amnesia Lane for us, remembering lots of sights, but not why nor when...), old friend route 93, then crossing over to route 43 at the Idaho border, and across the Big Hole valley, Montana's highest and largest. We passed over the top of the Big Hole, following the beautiful Big Hole River, a fishing and floating mecca, to Divide, where, beyond the Interstate, down a 3 mile gravel road, we came to the Moose Creek trail head, an opening to the Humbug Spires reserve. 

As students of this blog well know, we like weird rock formations, whether in Montana, California, New Zealand, or Namibia. The Humbug Spires are the lower end of the Boulder Batholith, a Cretaceous volcanic event, 70-80 million years ago, that deposited these huge piles (and spires) of quartz monzonite boulders everywhere from north of Helena to south of Butte. The boulders were covered by volcanic stuff back in the day, which continues to weather away, revealing the weird rock formations we like. Driving around Montana, 1995-2008, we'd always admired them, but never camped among them.
But first, the peaks, specifically Trapper Peak, pretty far up the
Bitterroot, the highest in the range

It's the one on the left, atop a long gentle ridge, with a trail; I
climbed it in 2005, the week after we returned from doing the
Tour du Mont-Blanc; I've scoured our photo archives, but 
apparently didn't take any pix of Trapper Peak; hey, we'd just
done the TMB!

Now we're in the Big Hole, at its most famous site,
the Big Hole Battlefield National Monument; not
one of the more glorious episodes in US history,
as the US Army attempted to ambush and slaughter
the fleeing non-treaty Nez Perce (Chief Joseph,
et al.)

Briefly, the Army launched a pre-dawn artillery attack from the
woods on the left; the Nez Perce, camped on the right, quickly
regrouped and drove the soldiers back into the woods, capturing
some of their artillery, but, more importantly, permitting the
women and children and elderly to escape; the Army suffered
some 60 casualties, the Nez Perce some 90, most of whom were
non-combatants, of course

Site of encampment (tipis); the Nez Perce went on their way,
through Montana, Yellowstone, back into Montana, nearly to
Canada, before succombing to both the pursuing Army and the
winter; and the rest is...a very sad and inglorious history

Looking north in the Big Hole

Now among the Humbug Spires; a big one, really, just a pile of
granite boulders; from our encampment at the trail head

Signage at the trail head

Next day we did (most of) the Moose Creek trail, which leads
up mostly behind the spires

Some actual spires (monoliths), 30-40 feet high

Another formation across the canyon

Up closer

Primitive campsites here and there

Never seen so much dead fall; not a little of it on the trail

A good trail nonetheless; heavily traveled for a
BLM site

It was hot, even at over 6,000 feet, and we didn't get much beyond
the 2.5 mile mark

And the views did not seem to get better than this

Free range cattle were always nearby

Interesting place

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