Saturday, November 21, 2020

Exploring the Little Belts


At the Oti Park junction with Mount Baldy in sight

Snowy Upper Dry Fork Belt Creek

The Upper Dry Fork Road 120

As I write my book on the Little Belt Mountains I continue to stumble on new revelations about this interesting mountain range.

On the spur of the moment Friday I headed to the range to remind myself about some of the features of the Dry Fork of Belt Creek.  It is an extremely scenic road east of Monarch that offers car campers awesome spots along the creek under limestone spires in a tight canyon.  There are several trailheads;  McGee Coulee, Sawmill Gulch, Henn/Hoover, Bender Creek and access to the Butcherknife Ridge that leads to the centerpiece of the Little Belts ---- Mount Baldy at more than 9,100 feet in elevation.

While I have often skied and hiked the Bender Creek Trail, and driven through the Barker and Hughesville ghosttowns and even traveled across the divide to Dry Wolf Creek, I had avoided the roads in the mining district coming off Dry Fork Belt, thinking they would be too tough to drive.

I have been extremely curious about FS Road 120 that is a mile beyond Bender Creek because at its end is Trail 739 that travels to the top of Butcherknife Mountain.

With the ice and snow I thought it best to park the car on Dry Fork Belt and walk up the road to see if I could reach the trailhead.

The first 100 yards of the road was ice-covered and rutted, and I was glad I was walking rather than driving.  Then the road opened up nicely and looked drive-able during the summer.  I was amazed to see a fairly sizable number of camp sites along the Dry Fork.

I walked as far as where Gray Creek comes in, the beginning of 739.  I stopped and turned around there.  That trail looked more like a motorcycle trail, but was still glad to have found it.

On the walk I was delighted to find the road to Oti Park, where I know there is a trailhead that  eventually leads to the Hoover Ridge and connects to Pioneer Ridge.

I walked 4.4 miles and gained and lost just over 800 feet.

Once again, Mount Helena

I took a pleasant walk with Katie and a couple of her Girls in Glacier companions up Mount Helena.  She chose a route down that traversed the southeast side of the mountain on a trail I hadn't hiked before. I'm always surprised to find my way around the trails on that mountain that have been developed since I moved from Helena 39 years ago.

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