December 25, 2010

Jen's picks for Glacier National Park

We received a new issue of Backpacker magazine recently and opened it to find Jen's smiling face inside.

The January issue contains the annual Readers' Choice Awards, and while we knew Jen was to be featured as an expert on Glacier National Park we weren't expecting its arrival before Thanksgiving.

Turn to the "Our Backyard" feature on Page 56 to see her picks for the park:
  • Go to Two Medicine for solitude. Jen suggests the Dawson-Pitamakan loop, which at 16 miles (with an additional boat ride) was one of her most challenging dayhikes.
  • Big bloom at Cobalt Lake. Also in the Two Medicine area, the fields of red monkeyflower near Cobalt Lake can be spectacular. It's about 11 1/2 miles round trip.
  • Sneak a peek from Mount Oberlin. Check with the rangers at Logan Pass to make sure the easy 1 1/2-mile scramble is open - there are sensitive plants along it. From the 8,180-foot summit, look down on Bird Woman Falls.
  • Don't forget winter. The park is still open, even though Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to vehicles. Park at Lake McDonald Lodge and ski or snowshoe instead.
Also, in the masthead on Page 7, Jen's "Where I'd Take an Editor Hiking" pick is Piegan Pass. With an allotment of just five words, the suggestion omitted the stop at the Many Glacier Hotel's Swiss Lounge after the 12 3/4-mile trek from Siyeh Bend.

Update: Backpacker recently put Jen's "Our Backyard" feature online here. Click "The Experts" to see her bio.

December 6, 2010

Cross-country season is here


We recently brought our cross-country skis up from the basement and over the weekend went on our first real outing of the season. With partly cloudy skies in town we made the short drive up the Blackfoot Valley to the Lubrecht Experimental Forest.

We arrived to only two other cars in the lot and set out on firm, groomed snow. We chose the 6.4-mile "D" loop, one of five marked trails that can be combined for a distance of your liking.


The counterclockwise loop begins in rolling forestland - a nice mix of up, down and around. At a couple of spots along the way, logs were still piled up from a recent tree-thinning operation in the battle against pine bark beetles.

On the north side of the loop, after the grooming ends but before the trail briefly crosses onto Paws Up Ranch property, the trees open. Here, the forest offered a beautiful sunny view of the surrounding Garnet Range.


Down through the forest again and off of Paws up Property - be sure to close any gates you open - the trail climbs up through a narrow gully called the Luge. Due to the shade of the forest, heavy frost was clinging to moss hanging from branches. This season, there are also a few downed trees to duck under and navigate around.

Out of the gully, the grooming begins again where the loop reconnects with shorter trails. We glided down past Jones Pond and a shelter before returning to a full parking lot. The entire circuit, we saw only one other party until nearing the cars.


See photos from Lubrecht here.

Distance: 6.4-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.

December 5, 2010

Fall wasn't forgotten


Been a while since I've posted anything, but we did get out and about in western Montana this fall before the snow fell, albeit close to home.

With Mom visiting in October, we took a stroll up to the lookout atop Blue Mountain. Saw a lot of yellow larch and aspen, some red huckleberry leaves and some drying thistles. See photos here.


We've also gone on plenty of morning walks at Missoula's Tower Street Conservation Area. Since first visiting a little more than a year ago, this has become our go-to spot to take the dogs in the morning; it's not far down the road from the house, but is away from the hustle and bustle of the riverfront downtown. Photos are here - they were a test of sorts from my fairly new cell phone.