Monday, June 11, 2007

Patrick Basin and a Fairview Ridge walk-through

Walking the Sheep Shed-Fairview ridgeline above Patrick Basin

Readying for slog up Fairview

The boat ride up Gibson Reservoir to catch the Patrick Basin trail

Fabulous alpine views from Fairview saddle

I can see now why the Patrick Basin is one of the least visited places of the Rocky Mountain Front.
Unlike the rest of the Front it is tough to reach.
It is one of those north-south parallel gulches located roughly west of Mount Allen off the Beaver-Willow Road.
It can be reached from Benchmark by way of the Benchmark Creek or Windfall Creek trail from the South Fork of the Sun River --- I suspect by horsemen and hunters.
Or the way we did it Saturday, by boat arranged by the Sun Canyon Lodge to the head of Gibson Reservoir where we got out and picked up the Lange Creek trail on the shoreline. Our intent was to walk through the 21-miles to Willow Creek Falls, where we had parked another car.
I had wanted to see the Patrick Basin because of its large, unroaded size.
What we found was a basin of timber (much of it old-growth) rimmed by the Black Ridge to the west and Mount Allen on the east.
It is a truly wild and remote place and would fit nicely into any Front Wilderness proposal. There are some beautiful elk meadows where we saw the skeletons of several elk.
The Lange Creek trail is not marked well and not well used, and we wandered off on an elk trail to the Black Ridge ridgeline at one point before dropping back down and crossing Lange Creek, where we picked up the trail. That mistake allowed us to wander around in that elk country and get some panoramic views of Patrick Basin and Mount Allen to the east, high above. Sawtooth poked its head over the east horizon.
An elk that didn't survive winter

Bighorns on Sheep Shed 
At the base of Sheep Shed Mountain we decided that this walking in the trees was for the birds and we ascended the peak and determined to walk back to Willow Creek Falls via the ridges connected to Fairview Mountain.
It was a glorious walk only interrupted at one point by a vigorous rainstorm that cleared after about a half hour.
Just south of Sheep Shed we encountered a large band of sheep that were more curious about us than scared. We left convinced that Sheep Shed is aptly named.
That was one long walk, but worth the effort. Not much snow in the high country east of the Divide. We could see into the West, where there appears to be more.
We dropped off Fairview on an elk trail to the east and thrashed around in some pretty precarious rock before finding a ridge that took us back to the trail below the first set of waterfalls. We saw two enormous bull elk about 1,000 feet below us.
It was 9:30 p.m. when we reached the car, and midnight before I got home with all the shuttling.

No comments: