Thursday, October 25, 2018

Last shot at the larch: Apgar Lookout

Walking through a golden larch forest

A beautiful, easy trail to the top

The view of Lake McDonald and Stanton peak from the lookout

Pockets of larch untouched by the 2003 Roberts fire

Gorgeous golden larch along the trail
I was still recovering from the Ousel Peak climb on Saturday when Katie proposed to head back to golden larch country on the Middle Fork Flathead on Wednesday to climb Apgar Lookout near Glacier's west entrance.
We had climbed it once before in 2009 and I had climbed the Apgar mountain range highpoint with Wayne Phillips near Huckleberry Lookout in 2014, and we had backcountry skied to its foot in 2006.
But, maybe because there has been so much tree growth since the 2003 Roberts Fire there, I simply did not recognize the hike.
It is a nearly 2,000 feet climb over 3.6 miles on a trail that switchbacks comfortably to the top, offering amazing views of Lake McDonald to the East.
The larch were still in full color, but tinged in an orange pre-saging a loss of needles as winter nears.
It was fun to see how the Roberts Fire had hop-scotched the various ridge lines and even crest, leaving very tall larch and Doug Fir trees standing high above the uniform lodgepole and fir regrowth.  There were large swatches of untouched, older larch that broke up the new, green stands, creating a colorful palette.
Unfortunately, there were clouds and a thick haze that filled the valley near Columbia Falls that obscured our views.  I think it was the haze came from several large slash burns.  Katie's theory was that it came from forest fires in the area, still smoldering from their summer rampages. Probably a little of both.
It is terrific that we can get up in the morning, drive across the Continental Divide, and hike to a fire lookout in Glacier Park, and then return to Great Falls and enjoy a sun setting over our tawny-colored Great Plains resembling the Mongolian steppe and be home by 7 p.m. to watch the World Series.
What a great Fall day.

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