February 28, 2009

St. Helens, here we come

Last week, we secured permits to "climb" Mount St. Helens in Washington state in September - now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate.

I made this ascent in the snow as a teenager with the Boy Scouts about 20 years ago, and am looking forward to sharing it with Jen this time around.

I'm a little reluctant to call this a "climb" because it's a non-technical, five-mile hike that gains 4,500 feet. Sure, that's up, but it's very similar to several hikes we've done around home and elsewhere in recent years, only lower (it tops out at 8,365 feet).

And for any of you worried about this being an active volcano, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey say the lava dome-building eruptions that began in the fall of 2004 have ended and the alert level has been lowered to normal. And, if the rumbling begins anew, the agencies will close the mountain to climbers.

Find out more about St. Helens here.

Moon dance


This is just a quick shot of the moon and Venus in the sky above Missoula shortly after sundown on Friday. While there are special techniques for taking pictures of the night sky, none were used here other than a tripod and the camera's timer.

I saw a story about the "convergence" earlier in the day, but forgot about it until I was walking home from work for dinner - there it was, big and bright.

Read more about it here.

February 22, 2009

Sunny Sentinel stroll


It was quite a nice weekend, and after spending a day finishing up some work and running errands, it was good to get out and stretch our legs on a walk up Mount Sentinel.

Only two weeks ago, I was skiing up Crazy Canyon Road at the Pattee Canyon National Recreation Area. While there's still a decent base of snow on the old dirt track, it's quickly turning to slush and mud. Aside from the warm weather, other signs of spring's approach were the many chirping birds and the season's first green leaves poking out from the ground.

I've been up Mount Sentinel too many times to count, so I didn't take too many pictures (and Jen left her camera at home), but there are a few here.

Distance: 7 miles round trip. (Numerous side trails can be used to shorten or lengthen the hike.)

Trailhead: In Missoula, drive 3.5 miles up Pattee Canyon Drive from South Higgins Avenue to the Crazy Canyon trailhead.

February 16, 2009

Back to Lubrecht


We made our second trip of the winter up to the Lubrecht Experimental Forest cross-country ski trails near Greenough over the weekend. And after weeks of being stuck at home with a cone on to protect stitches in her ear, Belle got to come along, too. (Another dog bit her back in January.)

Looking for a bit more of a challenge, I suggested we take part of the difficult loop, which the brochure says is steeper and requires "advanced braking and turning techniques." I got what I asked for.

After a quick ski out from the lower loops, we began to climb, putting down the first tracks in a fresh dusting of snow and gaining a total of about 900 feet. There was a payoff though: We encountered no other skiers for much of the day, and the view from the high section of trail included the Blackfoot Valley below and the whitecapped Swan Range in the distance (and we had a couple of tired dogs later that night).

Of course, what goes up, must come down - fast. Despite our not-so-advanced techniques, we descended to the lower loops and made it back to the car in one piece.

See more photos here.

Distance: About 7.25-mile loop. (Variety of loops available, from 1 mile to 8.3 miles.)

Trailhead: From Missoula, drive 5 miles east on Interstate 90 to Bonner, then 26 miles east on Highway 200 to the University of Montana's Lubrecht Experimental Forest facilities.

February 8, 2009

Blue sky skiing


After being cooped up for a few weeks, we finally got out, just over the border to the Lolo Pass cross-country ski trails in Idaho. (The dogs stayed home, though, as they're not allowed on the groomed trails.) And, as you can see from the picture above, it was a perfect blue sky day.

Arriving before the crowd, we put together a route roughly seven miles long by connecting part of the Glade Creek Loop and the Packer Meadows Loop.

The last time we skied the Packer Meadows Loop, we started on the northern portion, which seemed to send us up a lot of the steeper sections of trail. This time, we started on the southern portion and got to enjoy glide down those sections.

See more photos here, and check out those brand-new skis Jen is sporting.

Distance: About 7-mile loop. (Variety of trails available, from 1.2 miles to 14 miles.)

Trailhead: From Missoula, drive 9 miles south on U.S. Highway 93 to Lolo, then 32 miles west on U.S. Highway 12 to the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, just over the border in Idaho. (Parking costs $5.)