Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tenderfoot via Balsinger Creek in Little Belts

Even in the heat of summer it is brilliant green in the head of Tenderfoot at Balsinger

Tenderfoot Creek, a good fishing stream 
A surprise cabin

Several of the nice outcrops

Double falls
Here’s a rule of thumb for any hikes off Divide Road in the Little Belts --- it’s going to be steep.
I’ve done the Pilgrim Creek hike and the Taylor Hills hike to the Tenderfoot from that road in years past.
On Wednesday I went to explore the Balsinger Creek hike into the Tenderfoot.
It far exceeded my expectations for a nice day hike.
And it followed the Divide Road Rule by dropping nearly 2,000 feet, which meant having to climb back out at the end of the hike.
All these hikes are from well-marked trailhead. It’s just a long drive to get to them. I drove to just below Kings Hill Pass and headed west to reach Balsinger Creek trailhead and came home by way of Logging Creek and Stockett. From Balsinger Creek it took me an hour and a half to get home, although it is only about 50 miles away. The road is good, it’s just that it is gravel and winding.
The Tenderfoot Creek drainage is a main tributary for the wild Smith River. Likewise, Balsinger Creek is a main tributary of Tenderfoot Creek.
The Tenderfoot is a special, wild place and in the past has been proposed for wilderness designation. I can see why. The isolation, scenery and fishing are outstanding.
While the trail signs say it is about 4 miles from Divide Road down to Tenderfoot Creek by way of Balsinger, I’d add another mile, at least.
The first three or so miles of the trail is very good and well marked. The last mile and a half, where the Taylor Hills cutoff trail comes in is quite sketchy. I counted more than 20 crossings of the creek in this final stretch. All-told there are 30 crossings from the top down to Tenderfoot. Multiply that times two for the trip.
The top part of the trip is open, offering good scenic views of the southwest part of the Little Belts. Then it descends into pleasant lodgepole forest.
The final mile is a narrow canyon and the creek rushes through it into deep fishing holes, tumbling in many spots into waterfalls.
I saw lots of fish darting around in the water and feeding on a plentiful moth hatch.
The canyon stretch reminded me a lot of Pilgrim Creek, another wilderness candidate in the Little Belts. Both Balsinger and Pilgrim have large, flat rock bottoms and are similar in looks to an Appalachian stream.
I wish I had brought my fishing hole.
The Balsinger hike differs from the Taylor Hills hike in that it gets to the Tenderfoot by staying more in the trees and the Taylor Hills hike is more open and passes through a working ranch. I’ve seen elk herds on the Taylor Hills hike.
Both trails appear to get most of their use from mountain bikers rather than hikers. In the fall it’s probably hunters on horseback.
Despite its steep nature, I’d encourage anyone to check out this wild country hike.


V Ribbed Serpentine Belts said...

Actually sound like a wonderful hike, i went for a hike this weekend it was great. Glad to see other people enjoying it.


Justin said...

I come across your hikes often when I am planning my summers. Thanks for sharing so many excellent places.