August 27, 2014

Huckleberry bounty on a Blue Mountain run

Ran up to the Blue Mountain lookout, then climbed a few steps higher

Earlier this month, a couple of friends and I ran the length of the Blue Mountain National Recreation Trail - 20 miles round trip from the bottom of the recreation area to the lookout and observatory at the top.

We couldn't have timed it better with regard to western Montana's huckleberry season. A little below the 6,455-foot summit, we found ourselves surrounded by bushes bearing big purple berries.

From the main trailhead off Blue Mountain Road at the south end of Missoula, we started running west up Trail 3.01 at about 7 a.m. At about 2 1/2 miles, the route entered an area burned by the 2003 Black Mountain fire. For the next 4 1/2 miles, the trail switchbacked up among gray snags with little shade from the sun to a ridgeline.

A short distance past the ridge, greenery returned to the trees overhead, providing some relief from the heat. At about 8 1/4 miles, the trail crossed the road to the top of the mountain and re-entered the forest. Here, we found ourselves in the thick of the huckleberry bushes.

Ran up to the Blue Mountain lookout, then climbed a few steps higher

After a break to taste the fruit, we continued up the final switchbacks to the top of Blue Mountain, gaining about 3,600 feet of elevation over 10 miles. At the top, we climbed the steps up the underside of the lookout, took in the view of Lolo Peak and ate some food, then ran a short distance east to see the observatory.

As we backtracked down the mountain, we stopped at the huckleberry bushes again and filled a small plastic bag that I carried in my pack. Four hours and 45 minutes after starting, we were back at the trailhead.

At home the next morning, I turned the fruits of our labor into a pancake breakfast!