Sunday, July 19, 2009

Caribou Mountain along Continental Divide Trail via Alice Creek

Look who was also hiking to Caribou Peak

Finally---on top and a break

Great scenery along a curving ridge

Unusual split in the rock
Five days later we returned to get the job finished.
We climbed Caribou Peak (elevation: 8,737 feet) by way of the Continental Divide Trail up from Alice Creek trailhead not far from Lincoln.
This was the third time I had been on the peak, from the third different approach.
The other two approaches were up from Indian Meadows on the west side and from Falls Creek on the east side.
The Continental Divide Trail approach was by far the most satisfying because the walk is on a gorgeous ridgeline most of the way.
We estimated the distance from the trailhead some 17-21 miles. It took us more than 10 hours and total elevation gained was about 5,100 feet if you count all the ups and downs, although it was more like 3,500 feet from start to top.
Last week we started the climb going toward Lewis and Clark Pass.
This time we got right on the Trail 440 on Alice Creek.
There are no trail markers telling you the direction. You just have to figure it out.
When we got to the second gate on the trail, we headed up the ridge we had done on Sunday that landed us just west of Burned Point Mountain. We eye-balled the “Neapolitan Ridge” (so named for its ice cream layer look) on the east end of Burned for our return trip off-trail.
The walk along the Divide Trail was spectacular.
While it was more than 90 degrees in town, it was in the 60s and 70s on the ridge.
Flowers bloomed everywhere. Most profuse were the Showy Daisy. We found large fields of beargrass blooming in burned areas.
There is nothing hard about this climb except perhaps the distance.
It is a straight walk up.
At the top are the remains of a fire lookout.
To the north we could see the Falls Creek drainage, still gray from the 1988 Canyon Creek fire. Off to the west was Scapegoat Peak. To the south the hulking, still snow speckled Red Mountain, the highest point in the Scapegoat/Bob Marshall/Great Bear complex.
While walking the ridge it was fun to see the contrast between east and west sides of the divide, with the lush green trees climbing to the tops of ridges to the west, and the more open east side with its stark limestone ridgelines.
We scrambled down the Neapolitan Ridge, marveling at the colors of the layers of rock changing beneath our feet. We picked up the Alice Creek Trail at about the third long switchback, and completed our hike, weary, but satisfied.

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