July 21, 2010

Geography lesson

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Where can you see Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Illinois - Illinois? - on the same dayhike? On the Stateline Trail, southwest of Superior.

In the five miles southeast of Cascade Pass, Montana and Idaho make up the ridge that the trail tracks, then there are the Oregon Lakes and Oregon Peak, and Illinois Peak.

There are a variety of access points to the Stateline Trail, Cascade Pass being a relatively easy, but long approach. It's about 25 bumpy, dusty miles by car from Superior. On Tuesday, my dog Belle and I had the trail to ourselves - only one other vehicle was in the parking area, but we never saw anyone else.

From the pass, I've been northwest to Bonanza Lakes before, but this was the first time I've headed southeast to Illinois Peak.

The route is mostly open, grassy forest with gentle ups and downs. In fact, the terrain bears a resemblance to hiking in Scotland or the Australian Alps, especially with the abundant pink mountain heather, top. I was also quite surprised by the variety of wildflowers in bloom - bluebells, a few varieties of penstemon, bracted lousewort, purple shooting stars, heather, yellow pasqueflower, mountain gentian, phlox and more.

At about 1 3/4 miles, the path passes above the uppermost of the three Oregon Lakes, with its deep blue water. The trail steepens at four miles and climbs through some interesting rocks - look for the ripples of old seabed. At about 4 1/2 miles, take the east fork through two junctions, then it's up the final push to the grassy summit of the 7,690-foot mountain.

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A great start to a week of vacation!

Here are some photos.

Distance: 10 miles round trip.

Trailhead: From Superior, follow Diamond Match Road on the west side of Interstate 90 about 1 1/4 miles southeast, then Cedar Creek Road (Forest Road 320) 25 miles southwest to Cascade Pass.

July 19, 2010

Bluebells, a bighorn and bison

We took a drive up to the National Bison Range over the weekend, where the wildflowers are still blooming and the wildlife was out for viewing.

We arrived early enough to beat the afternoon heat and for me to make it back to Missoula in time for work. Bluebells and wild bergamot were in abundance going up the 19-mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive, and the way back down and around to the start again featured a lone bighorn sheep, plenty of bison and a handful of pronghorn antelope.

The drive also gave me a chance to play with a new Flip UltraHD camcorder. Watch the short video above.

Also, there are pictures here and here.

Distance: 19-mile loop drive. Near the top of the mountain, there are two short trails: the half-mile round-trip Bitterroot Trail and the 1-mile round-trip High Point Trail.

Trailhead: From Missoula, drive 35 miles north on U.S. Highway 93 to Ravalli, then turn west on Highway 200. After about 6 miles, turn north on Highway 212 and drive about 4.5 miles to the entrance at Moiese.

July 13, 2010

The finish

That's me in the white shirt, gray shorts and hat, starting on the right and cutting to the left around two people. Thanks to the Missoula Marathon, KECI-TV and FinishCam.com for providing video of the runners.

July 12, 2010

Off my mark

Last weekend's Missoula Marathon didn't go quite as planned.

After months of training with the goal of finishing in 3 hours, 40 minutes, I came in at 4:10:12. Slightly disappointing considering all of the improvement I've made in the last year in training and shorter races - all of my 20- and 22-mile training runs were at a faster pace than last year's 4:01 marathon finish, and last winter and spring I ran my best half-marathon and 5K.

Ultimately, a few things did me in. I choked down a cup of water around mile 17 and promptly coughed it back up. As a result, I fell back from my pace group and never caught up again. This year's race also was considerably warmer than last year's, and I've found in training that heat can quickly drain me. I also have noticed that my body doesn't seem to like energy drinks. I usually hydrate with water, and could feel myself getting sluggish as the cups of energy drink began to add up. Toward the end of the race, I switched back to water and soon felt better. (I suppose some of these could be mental, but I don't feel like I ever hit "the wall.")

All is not bad though - I finished another marathon and feel good today. While I like to see improvement in my running, to me it's more about being outside, being active and clearing my head of everything but the rhythm of my feet. Tomorrow, I'm going for a run.

July 8, 2010

On my mark

The Missoula Marathon is nearly here, and I've got just one more short run before race day.

Training went well, and the taper felt great - the short distances are easy and speedy. Now, it's all down to a little visualization and rest.

If my work pays off, I'll be crossing the finish line downtown on Higgins Avenue at about 9:40 a.m. Sunday. If you're in town, come on out and cheer!

July 5, 2010

Back on the trail, and still going


It's been a while since we've gone on a real hike here at home in Montana. The last time was months ago, when there was still snow on the ground.

It's not that we haven't gotten out; we walk the dogs on trails in and around Missoula almost daily, and we took a spring hiking vacation to Oregon and Washington's Olympic National Park. Mostly, it's because I've been focusing on my training for the Missoula Marathon next weekend. That and one of our dogs is getting older and has understandably been slowing down (more about that later).

Yesterday, we decided to get the dogs out and tired before the Fourth of July fireworks started in hopes that we wouldn't have a bark-fest after sunset.

We've been up the Bass Creek trail a short distance a couple of times - both in the snow - but with a campground at the trailhead, it always seemed like it would be crowded in warmer weather. We decided to give it a try anyway because it's not that far from home. The trail was fairly busy at the start, but about halfway through our hike we found ourselves mostly on our own.


The wide path starts out by steadily climbing west through the forest along the north side of Bass Creek; there are several places to access the water on the way. Just past 1 3/4 miles, it passes an old log dam with a pond behind it where the valley opens up and you can see the surrounding mountains.

From here, the trail travels a fairly level mile through the forest, into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and to a junction. Continuing on the narrower path to the north, you wind up the side of the canyon to an open parklike area with plenty of views down the valley, then above a big cascade at a little more than 3 3/4 miles.


A rough path leads down to the falls, and we took turns snapping pictures from below and keeping our older dog, Gigi, above and out of danger. As previously noted, she's getting up there - we believe she's about 16, but there's no way to know for sure because she was a stray. She remains our very faithful hiking partner and will follow us almost anywhere, albeit with a little help over logs and rocks.

The trail continues about another 3 1/4 miles up to Bass Lake, but this marked our turnaround point for the day.

See some more pictures here.

Distance: 14 miles round trip to Bass Lake. (We hiked about 7 3/4 miles round trip to the cascade.)

Trailhead: From Missoula, travel about 20 miles south on U.S. Highway 93, then turn west on Bass Creek Road and follow it about 2 3/4 miles to the trailhead parking area.