Friday, September 03, 2010

Steamboat Lookout Mountain on a lovely late summer day

Trees have repopulated this area, hit hard by Canyon Creek Fire of 1988

I love the red mudstone in this area
The Steamboat Traverse from the top

A shelter from the wind on top
The climb up Steamboat Lookout Mountain (elevation: 8,565 feet) west of Augusta is always worth the 3,400 feet elevation gain.
I’ve done it numerous different ways; from Elk Creek and the Dearborn River.
But it is always instructive to take it up the Elk Creek Trail No. 205/239 because it gives you a look at how well this country is coming back from the great Canyon Creek Fire of 1988.
I do this trail hike probably every other year and have been watching it closely since the area was scorched in the spectacular run Sept. 6, 1988.
First, there was nothing but devastation. Immediately, the ground vegetation came in. There were wonderful years of purple fireweed everywhere. A few years ago the trees came up in tight bunches and were chest-high. On my hike Friday the trees were more than 12 feet high and everywhere and there was every kind ---- firs, spruces, pine --- on nearly every hillside.
The groundcover was nearly as spectacular with Westside varieties like alders, thimbleberries, and huckleberries, and plenty of them.
Friends had told me this spring they had seen a grizzly in the area.
I didn’t see Old Ephraim, but I saw plenty of sign ---- fresh scat chock full of berries and hillsides near the peak that looked like they had been roto-tilled.
I could see that the elk had been moving around. Bow hunting season starts tomorrow and I’m sure early scouts have sent them for better cover. The trailers of hunters from out of state were evident on the Elk Creek Road and in Augusta.
The cowboys from nearby ranches were moving cattle around as well. There was still a small herd in the Elk Pass area that had chewed and shit up the trail.
I had expected a cool, clear day like Thursday, but once I reached the limestone summit cap a cloud hovered above it and the wind kicked up, making for a cold and brief summit stay. Thankfully, things warmed up and I had to strip down to my shorts and shirt during the hike down.
On top the peak I saw new communications equipment had been located there, just as there had been a similar structure placed atop Mount Wright, also a former lookout. I wasn’t pleased to seeing it, but recognized there had once been a much larger structure at the spot.
The views from the top are always spectacular with Scapegoat Peak at over 9,000 feet dominating the western horizon. On the south, Red Mountain, the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex’s highest peak at over 9,400 feet, revealed a dusting of new snow, as did Scapegoat and Rocky Mountain peak to the north. Far to the west on the horizon what must have been the Swan Range was white with new snow.
The climb is not difficult, just a tad long at 12 miles roundtrip and 3,400 feet of elevation to gain.
Originally I had hoped to do the full Steamboat ridge traverse to the East Peak at 8,286 feet. However, I couldn’t find anyone to climb with me, and didn’t want to risk doing it alone. It is one of the great ridge walks in the Front. It was fun to see the route from the peak, though.

By the time I got back to the trailhead it had warmed to 80 degrees, very hot for this fall-like early September day.


Suzi said...

Great blog! I've read a few posts here today, and wanted to leave at least one comment. I'll be back!

Rod Benson said...

Three friends and I hiked to Steamboat East on 7/7/12. We left from the C Bar N Ranch, followed the trail for a couple miles, and then found a social trail (?) up one of the drainages. (photos: How many miles would it be to hike from the Elk Creek Trailhead to the lookout, over to Steamboat East and back down the same way? I definitely want to walk along that ridge.

Rod Benson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Out there with Tom said...

Rod: We calculated 13.2 miles and an elevation gain of 5,200 feet cumulative. But we diverted to Bailey Basin rather than coming down the traditional Cataract Basin. Cataract has become too overgrown.