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