Missoula Outdoors

blackfoot ii

When gentlemen deal sincerely with their kinsfolk,
then the people are stimulated towards humaneness
~The Analects

            Summer is rapidly clipping by in Missoula. The temperature during today’s evening jog was 32 celsius, a cool spell given the sweltering heat over the just ended weekend. Once again there are regional forest fires sending their smoke into the valley, just in time for the county fair in a few weeks. Our proxy is once more in place to buy a lamb during the 4H auction for a local pantry. Over the years this has become a tradition. Hopefully the Western Montana Fair will have clear skies and nice attendance.

            The general motto of late has been to enjoy one’s children to the fullest as one never knows what tomorrow will bring. Not a bad way to go about things and honestly this has been the modus operandi all along. Seth and I have enjoyed some mountain biking in the Rattlesnake. He recently made his first visit to Curry Cabin during a warm afternoon. This brought back some great memories of similar rides with his older brother. Seth and I dinked around with the cameras and phones trying to get a few decent photos. It’s amazing how active in the outdoors the Missoula community is. We visited briefly with an elder hiker at the cabin who meandered along with two walking sticks (they looked like ski poles). Numerous other mountain bikers rode casually by as well. Mountain biking with one’s children is immensely rewarding. I listened to the little guy’s lungs heave during the rests along the climb. “You keep riding, maybe twice a week, and you’ll be able to far outlast those other guys on the soccer field,” I at one point remarked trying to be encouraging. Climbing up some of the Missoula trails can make for a pretty decent workout. The community is fortunate to have so many fine mountain biking opportunities right in our immediate backyards.Curry Descent             We’ve been paddling a bit in the canoe. We recently canoed a favorite Blackfoot River section down to Whitaker Bridge. During the brief shuttle, just following a climb which Seth and I cycled last year shuttling ourselves on the bikes, a large tan black bear bounded across the dirt and potholed road right before our eyes. Molly, Erin, Seth and I watched the animal bound up the hillside at a pretty full stride. “That’s the first bear I’ve seen,” Seth said from the access cab. This was surprising news to me. I still don’t believe it, really. Maybe so. Molly shuttled us this trip since we had Wen, which meant Molly got to learn a bit about one of my favorite areas.
            There were a couple of fishermen at the put-in, one of whom was fishing. We visited briefly and then shoved off, Seth in the bow followed by Wen. Just above the first rapid there were two fishermen. One fellow, who had a full white beard, appeared familiar. I think he was using blue fly line. As I write this, I realize that is not something one sees too often on the stream; however, I believe as I watched his line roll across the water, the color was indeed blue. From the far bank, as to stay out of their hole as much as possible, I said hello to the bearded man’s fishing partner as we floated by. I managed to steer us through the rocks, which were poking up through the section. The water is “boney” with plenty of obstacles, especially during early August when the streams are running lower. A fun challenge navigating as long as the boy in the bow does not shift in one direction at the same time as his four legged best friend.             The wind was an issue this float which made the dog welcome in the canoe. Extra weight helps to keep the Rogue’s higher rocker profile lower in the river. The greatest challenge this trip down was the immense glare coming off of the ripples. The sunglasses were simply not cutting the glare which can be and was at times nerve-wracking. There were many people enjoying the river along the section. One of whom the paddler in the bow informed me had no top on, wadding in the shadows below a rocky wall’s face just above maybe a half a dozen children. “You behave”! the lady yelled back to the kids down stream as we floated by. Above Whitaker, this I’d not seen prior. Another new first, more typically a scene around the Jonsrud section. We passed another couple who were interesting as well. Both heavily tattooed, the woman was down stream of us below a nice sipper hole standing midway across the channel holding up a colorful umbrella. Prior to our reaching her, she’d made the same bank as her partner and remarked, “I need a hat like that,” as we floated by. I think I may have said I could use her umbrella. The afternoon sun was plenty warm.Kootenai             I pointed out an eagle that flew over us. We simply watched the magnificent creature’s large wing span glide upstream. I pointed out a Bald Eagle hiding in the top of a Lodgepole, perching behind green branches obstructing our view. Eagles are great fishers.
            A large bear, eagles and no pike caught. A fine and somewhat typical day in the Blackfoot area. Our put-in on the river was pretty late in the morning. The mandatory hoot period is two o’clock, after which the local rivers are closed to fishing due to the warm temps in the afternoons and accompanying low oxygen levels. Weather patterns today are not easily understood, but they are what they are…Stevensville in Distance             Well, to augment the summer reading, I’ve once again taken to Mark Twain and in particular, Huckleberry Finn. Classics are occasionally required to be dusted off and reread. One does not hear much about Twain today. Does he still makes the freshman high school summer reading list? Hard to beat Huck and Jim’s river adventures.
            Todd piled in with some of his new found summer camp councilor friends and hightailed it over to south of Bozeman for some camping. Erin and I decided to take in the northern Selway-Bitterroots by driving up to the Saint Mary Peak trailhead, west and high above Stevensville. It’s a popular local option for quick access to the wilderness, following a ten mile or so drive. The hike from the trailhead winds its way up to the old forest service lookout, which, I noticed this trip in, has a nice new coat of white paint on its upper outer deck. The views on top are spectacular. The last time I was up, I sat under a section of the empty lookout during the late afternoon as low clouds and an accompanying storm set in. It was spectacular and unnerving as lightning cracked that day over the Kootenai, wind and rain pelting below the low dark canopy. Storms in Montana quickly blow in and seemingly almost as soon as they hit, they’re over; during the dry summer months, typically leaving fires in their wake. Wintertime clappers are pretty rare, but when they occur, they’re pretty awesome. The mountains are alive and always part of the system.             Given the expected triple digit temps, I was somewhat surprised to see three vehicles at the trailhead following the roughly ten mile drive up the mountain. We visited on the trail with some of the couples and their kids. I pointed out some of the nice bowls, realizing this is a popular spot for the b/c crowd. “Whoa, for a minute there I was back in the past,” a gregarious elder fellow descending said to us as we met above McCalla Lake. Wearing a day pack, he carried two hiking staffs. His cheeks were bright red and highlighted his smile. “I’m sure your not the first to have had such a thought,” I think I said, realizing the reference to the lid and probably the ’60s. “It keeps the sun off my face and neck,” I mentioned, peering south towards the lake. “I know, they’re a good, light hat,” he offered. He was a nice fellow who said after I asked about McCalla, “There’s no fish and the mosquitos are huge down there”. We opted to continue up to the lookout, telling the fellow thanks and to have a nice trek down the hill. The man on duty for the day, a forest service employee or volunteer – not sure, was attending the lookout and stood below the steps visiting with two other hikers. We found a nice spot and sat down. I pulled out the map and pointed out our bearing with the compass and got things oriented. We took in a great deal of the wilderness, including the Kootenai Creek drainage and Heavenly Twins. One can see for miles deep into Idaho and as far north as Lolo Peak. The heat cast a haze over the distant horizon, but it was not as bad as I’d expected it to be. Pointing to the map, we looked for routes through the wilderness for a backpacking trip from Colt Killed into Montana or vice versa. It’s remarkable how close the Lochsa and Selway are to the Bitterroot Valley. While visiting, I thought a bit about Bud Moore and his book on the Lochsa. We took numerous photographs during the hike and one fellow on top took our photo prior to our journeying back down the mountain. “No, there’s no internet access here,” a parent delivered the unwelcome message to his two young children near the trailhead as his family walked by us and up the trail. The reality was otherwise, but we didn’t spoil it for the father.Bitterroot Underbrush

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