Sunday, October 14, 2012

Looking for larch and finding it

The larch were lit up along North Fork Blackfoot River
We took a quick-hit trip to look for larch Saturday west of the Divide and found an exceptional cache on the North Fork of the Blackfoot River in the Scapegoat Wilderness near Ovando.
Usually we hit the larch this weekend along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, but the weather forecast called for 100 percent chance of rain and cold temperatures.
Pack bridge over North Fork Blackfoot
Our plan was to go hunting up the Blackfoot River valley and go as far as the Clearwater country near Seeley Lake, if necessary.
About 10 miles west of Lincoln we found what we were looking for.
We also found some rain, but it was intermittent and light but not enough to deter us.
I had been to the Cooper's Lake area, but never to the North Fork trailhead just to the west.  They share the same access road from Highway 200.
It is 11 miles up this good, gravel road to the trailhead.
The closer we got to the forest the more it lit up with the golden larch.  Whole hillsides are covered with this pine-looking deciduous tree that turns yellow and drops its needles in the fall.
There's plenty of trail choice near the trailhead.  The Hob Nail Tom Trail, named for the founder of the Whitetail Ranch who was a guide along the North Fork, branches off toward Lake Creek and is alpine lakes, or heads into the Dannaher headwaters of the South Fork Flathead River or to the Scapegoat massif.
At the Scapegoat Wilderness Area boundary
This area was the genesis of the massive Canyon Creek fire in 1988 that burned a quarter million acres on both sides of the Divide, the largest national forest fire since the Great Burn of 1910.
While there are areas that have regenerated its timber, much of it is still pretty barren.
But, that just gives the hiker a better view of the surrounding mountains, like Mineral Hill, Lake Mountain and Falls Point.
The North Fork runs a pretty straight course
We went up the North Fork six miles to the cutoff trail in Sourdough Flats, crossing a scenic pack bridge along the way.  At the pack bridge we looked over the side and saw four enormous fish I guessed to be bull troute.
On the trail, one small horse party passed us as did a single hunter.  We saw a backpack camp on the river whose campers were gone hiking.
I had hoped to get as far as the North Fork cabin and possibly the North Fork Falls, but opted against that in favor of getting home at a reasonable hour.

No comments: