Sunday, October 27, 2013

Loneman Lookout and the (lit-up) larch

Larch dominate the Loneman Mountain landscape in the aftermath of the 2003 fire
For years I've traveled the Middle Fork Flathead country south of Glacier Park and looked over at Loneman Mountain (elevation 7,181 feet) and said, 'I should do that someday.'
Well, that someday was Saturday at the height of the larch color.
I can't remember a more glorious day.
The climb involves fording the Middle Fork at Nyack Flats as well as equally deep Nyack Creek, climbing 3,900 feet in elevation and walking more than 15 miles.
It was 22 degrees when we started in deep river fog and frost.
The river was deeper and colder than we had expected, coming up to my crotch at both crossings.
I wore my Crocs and hiked the 1.6 miles between the crossings in them.
It was cold and frosty crossing the Middle Fork Flathead in a 22 degree cloud shrouded morning.
After crossing Nyack Creek my feet felt like frozen stump as I put on my socks and laced up my boots.
But, what made this hike memorable were the incredible larch trees.
The area had completed burned in 2003, and instead of pine, the larch returned.
We hiked most of the day through thick stands of 3-10 feet larch in blazing yellow color.
Because of the burn we had great views in all directions all day long.
This is some of the most remote country in the park and this lookout is now unmanned and rarely visited.
I suspect that the river crossings have something to do with that.
What visitors there are come in the fall, although we saw no one else on this glorious day.
As we scaled the mountain the high, snow-covered peaks of the Great Bear Wilderness Area came into view --- Great Northern, Grant, Pyramid, Ousel, Nyack.
Loneman Lookout in Glacier Park
Once we reached the top we could look down on remote Harrison Lake that is filled by glacier melt from Mount Jackson.
We had a panorama of Glacier's southern and central peaks from our perch ---- Mount Stimson and St. Nicholas dominated the skyline, and we could look up the Nyack Creek drainage to Red Eagle Pass.
The flanks of all these peaks were spangled with the lit-up larch.
Seeing the Nyack renewed in me the desire to do that 38-mile backpack trip into this wild Glacier country.
Thank goodness the government shut-down is over and we have access to this international treasure again.
The views from near the summit
Although I haven't posted in a month it doesn't mean I haven't been active.  I've climbed Mount Helena twice, traveled to Minneapolis to welcome a new grandson and last weekend took the larch tour along the Middle Fork and the Swan.  That's what gave me the idea to return for this Loneman climb!
The Middle Fork Flathead country in its larch glory

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