Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Height of fall colors, a week's worth of hikes

Gordon Whirry on North Fork Deep Creek trail in Bob Marshall

Aspen cover the hillside on North Fork Highwood Creek in Highwoods

The fabulous Slim Gulch/Rierdon Gulch Wall in Bob Marshall Wilderness 

The fall colors this year have been better than usual and I've taken the past week to getting out and enjoying them.
I've had two Little Belts trips, a Highwoods hike, a traverse in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, and a climb of Mount Wright in the Rocky Mountain Front.
On one of my "off " days I traveled to Glacier Park to check out the colors there.
And of course, Great Falls, with its splendid Boulevard District, is in full color, the ash, elm, oak, buckeye, basking in all the glorious shades of red, orange, and bright yellow.
In the Little Belts we did the Crawford Creek hike behind the Belt Creek Ranger Station to Belt Park, walked above Memorial Falls, and did the Pioneer Ridge/Off-Trail Loop, all hikes I've done before and detailed in this blog.
In the Highwoods I walked up North Fork Highwood Creek to a junction that joined the high ridge to the north.
The 18.5 miles Rierdon/Green Gulch Loop in the Bob Marshall/Front country was probably the highlight of this past week.  Rierdon and Slim gulches are as scenic as anything in the Bob.  Unfortunately, Rierdon as wilderness got left out of the Heritage Act, so when you cross the saddle between Rierdon and Slim gulches you enter the Bob there in the new Deep Creek Addition.  The only difference between the gulches is the sign.  It's insane Rierdon Gulch was ignored for wilderness.  The great feature of this hike is the wall that stretches the length of these two gulches, starting at South Fork Teton Road and ending at North Fork Deep Creek.  This 10-mile, 8,000 feet ridge is just as beautiful as the Chinese Wall.  I will warn anyone that as the bend is turned in North Fork Deep Creek and you head up Sheep Creek to access Green Gulch, the scenery is not as spectacular and the trail on the downward is extraordinarily steep.  If you're going to put in this kind of mileage on a day hike, extend the trip several more miles and take it to the South Fork Teton Trail rather than Green Gulch.
Finally, I climbed Mount Wright for the umpteenth time on a clear, cool day Monday.  To the south, I could see the Moose Ridge fire in the Bob near the Chinese Wall smoking;  to the north, the air was incredibly foul from a combination of fires, probably those still smoldering in Glacier Park.
On the day I went to Glacier, I drove by way of Heart Butte to look at the near disaster in that community from the Family Peak/Spotted Eagle complex.  I noticed the butte itself, Feather Woman and Half Dome mountains entirely scorched.  Won't be any trees on those prominent peaks for some time.  On the way home, the smoke was rising on a hot evening.

Here are some additional photos, a map and an elevation chart for the Rierdon/Green Gulch Loop hike:  

Click here

The Moose Ridge Fire --- or is it the Sheep Creek/Sun Canyon smokes the sky Sept. 28

Atop a ridge north of the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Little Belts

Two Med Lake bottom in Glacier Park

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