Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Silver King Lookout: feeling the burn

Like a grizzly wearing a radio collar, Silver King Mountain wears a Forest Service electronic site
A scorched tea kettle in the 2003 Snow Talon Fire rubble left when the lookout burned down

There's a nice recovery going on here
As much as I like what fire does to renew an area, I wished that I had climbed Silver King Mountain/Lookout (elevation: 7,771 feet) before it was incinerated in the 2003 Snow Talon Fire north and east of Lincoln.
Luckily, I had a partly cloudy day on Tuesday when I did it and didn't have to endure much direct sunlight where there is no longer any shade.
I've long been curious about this mountain, reached by the super-popular Indian Meadows Trailhead in the Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest, reached by the Copper Creek Road.
The hot fire that burned this area also took out the lookout tower on this mountain in a direct line of sight just east of Stonewall Mountain Lookout, which I climbed a couple of years ago.  All that's left on top is the fire debris, some of it the cookware and stove used in the lookout.
There is a trail to the top of the lookout, which makes the 14.4 miles day hike and climb of more than 3,400 feet cumulative easier.  However, the trail, though maintained, appears to be disappearing in spots from disuse.
I took Trail 438 from the trailhead to its junction with the lookout trail No. 420 some 3.5 miles and then followed the lookout trail the rest of the 3.7 miles up some 2,400 feet from that spot.
Up to the lookout junction the trail is heavily used as a feeder to the Landers Fork country of the Scapegoat Wilderness, churned to chalky dust by horses.  It weaves in and out of burn.
A crossing of the Landers Fork, thigh deep and cold, was required.
At this point it is burn all the way to the top of the mountain.
Luckily, the Forest Service had done a great job marking the trail through the burn with cut logs.
There is significant new growth, mainly thick lodgepole, but some Doug Fir.
The fire has opened the views along Trail 420 and Red Mountain, at 9,411 feet, the highest point in the Scapegoat dominates the northwest horizon.  To the north and east there's Caribou Peak and the unnamed peaks above the West Fork Falls Creek.  Otherewise, the ridgelines are low-slung and burned to a crisp.
Grassy slopes below Silver King are a welcome sight.
Like a grizzly wearing a radio collar, the peak wears a silver electronic communications structure.
I looked around the lookout ruins, and then took in the scenery, particularly admiring the the Continental Divide ridge line and the smaller Alice Mountains, of which Silver King is a part, and the meadows and small lakes, and Lone Mountain above Indian Meadows trailhead.
Then, I turned around for the 7.2 miles out, beating a rain shower.
When these new trees mature this will be a beautiful hike.

For a topo map route and more photos:  CLICK HERE

Ground cover announces fall is on its way

I had a cold, barefoot crossing of the Landers Fork

The Snow Talon Fire was in 2003, but its ghosts abound

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