Sunday, January 29, 2017

Snow quality stinks, Jefferson Creek, Gerry Lookout

Where the Gerry Lookout used to be located in Flathead National Forest above Nyack Creek
Yogo Peak in Little Belts on Upper Jefferson run (Gordon Whirry photo)
I did a couple of backcountry trips last week, a 10.5 miles ski in the Little Belts' Jefferson Creek headwaters and a snowshoe climb near Glacier Park to the site of the former Gerry Lookout above the Middle Fork of the Flathead River in the Nyack area.
I've know about the Jefferson Creek ski for about 40 years, but just never gotten around to doing it because it is on an old road all the way.  It begins just across U.S. 89 from the Silvercrest XC Ski Area on Forest Service Road 3328, the road that offers access to the Big Baldy Area.  At about 1.5 miles, there's a junction and you should stay left.  At 6.5 miles it intersects with the main Jefferson Creek Road as it heads up Chamberlain Creek.  Again, bear left and head down Jefferson Creek.
Neihart Mayor Steve Taylor suggested a mid-week ski because this year's crappy snow had been made manageable by snowmobile tracks.  We were able to kick and glide our way across this easy route on those tracks, minus the snowmobilers who were not around.
The trip offers nice views of open meadows, Neihart Baldy and Long peaks, and Big Baldy.  The bottom follows Jefferson Creek to U.S. 89.
You know you're at the right spot for Gerry Lookout when you see these signs:  FS Road 499, Mile Marker 168
I feel a bit silly that I had never done the Gerry Lookout, right off Highway 2 at Mile Marker 168.  You know you've got the right place if you see the "499" Forest Service Road Sign.  Otherwise, there are no other markers on the other side of a locked gate.
The lookout was taken down years ago and all that's left are wonderful views into Glacier Park and the Great Bear Wilderness.
It doesn't take much effort to get to the top ---- 1.89 miles, with an elevation gain of 940 feet.  It took me about two hours on snowshoes to gain the top and return.  Unfortunately, views were obscured by a heavy cloud cover.  I'm told there are terrific views of Glacier's St. Nicholas Peak matterhorn.
I wore snowshoes rather than skis because of wind crust and the trail has been hammered by snowshoe use, making skis impractical.
It reminded me that a high priority should be to explore the parallel drainages south of the Middle Fork in the Great Bear Wilderness.
The Upper Jefferson Creek (Gordon Whirry photo)

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