|Snow capped peaks, blue skies, larch in color. How could it be better?|
|Larch in color everywhere|
|Hiking through the Rice Ridge Burn|
|Braver than me, Wayne, 76, crosses the deep, cold, swift North Fork on narrow logs|
|Suzy Taleff goes across the North Fork|
But our trip into the North Fork of the Blackfoot River area on the edge of the Scapegoat and Bob Marshall Wilderness turned into a look at the massive Rice Ridge Fire that burned most of the summer and resulted in evacuations at Seeley Lake.
We were surprised that the 160,000 acres blaze reached this far east and with such force.
Our trip, designed by hike leader H. Wayne Phillips was a 7.2 miles loop that started at the Bear Creek Trailhead and ended at the North Fork Blackfoot Trailhead. We gained more than 1,300 feet of elevation and most chillingly, some of us forded a (crotch) deep and icy Blackfoot fork at the end of the hike. Wayne and Shelli Liknes had enough courage and balanced to cross on some logs hewn by firefighters.
This was a hike of contrasts, from the snow-covered peaks to the north and east, to the grassy bottoms strewn with deadfall. There were the lush and colorful larch, but there were also burned moonscapes where the Rice Ridge fire declared out only as late as 10 days ago where it met the big Canyon Creek burn in 1988. We were impressed by the the regrowth in the Canyon Creek Fire and surprised at the breadth of the Rice Ridge Burn this year.
|Deadfall across the Bear Creek Trail|
The Canyon Creek fire of 1988 took out 250,000 acres in 1988 and the Rice Ridge fire burned across the mountains from the Seeley Lake area this past summer, scorching 160,000 acres meeting in this area.
We hopped over and around innumerable deadfalls in the trail, making the going slow.
Toward the end of the hike in the fierce burn of last summer, the trail became difficult to follow.
This trail will need a tough crew to clear it for the average hiker.
Be prepared for the Blackfoot crossing at the end!
A half-mile descent above Prairie Lake (swamp) might have been the prettiest part of this off-the-charts beautiful hike. It offered shaded views of the swamp, mountains to the east and unburned timber.
For map and more photos, CLICK HERE
|Golden larch nestled in the Doug Fir|
|Hillsides of colored larch|
|The North Fork Blackfoot valley reminded me of the North Fork Flathead valley|
|The Rice Ridge fire perimeter in pink|