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The South Half of the Selway Bitterroot

Every spring since 2011 it has been our goal to have a map finished and printed and on its way to customers by April. Our track record hasn’t been very good though- we’ve printed in June, July and last year in September. This year we really buckled down and we went to press the last week in March and it feels so good to be writing this new map announcement before the high country trails have even started to dry out and folks are still planning summer adventures.

The South Half of the Selway Bitterroot surprised us with how remote it feels and how varied the terrain is. From the highest peaks in the Bitterroot Range to sandy beaches on the Selway River there is a little of everything. As the crow flies a lot of the terrain looks like it isn’t too far from the nearest road- but when that road is the Magruder corridor road, or even Highway 12 a nearby by road doesn’t necessarily mean close proximity to civilization. Highway 12 might be one of the few federal highways in the lower 48 where you can drive over 100 miles without cell service!

Below are some pictures of our favorite places from this map. You can order it now from our website or pick one up at your favorite outdoor retailer in western Montana.

 

Watchtower Creek was one of our favorite hikes of the whole summer- awesome scenery, TONS of huckleberries and a good trail

The Montana/Idaho divide trail follows the state line north and south of Nez Perce pass through some beautiful meadows and ridges

Piper relaxing after a swim at Glen Lake- a great hike for kids with spectacular views

Green Mountain Lookout has views into the Selway Bitterroot and Frank Church in all directions

Some meadows just off the Magruder Road near Poet Creek. This is a section of the old Nez Perce Indian Trail

The view toward the Bitterroots from Spot Mountain Lookout. It’s five thousand feet in about six miles from the road to Paradise up to this lookout and you can see wilderness in every direction from the top.

There are countless steep ridges above the Selway River, this is the view from the ridge above Paradise Guard station near the put-in for the wilderness float section of the Selway River

Piper and Jamie on the ridge above Paradise

Copper Butte near Indian Hill high above the Selway River. Grassy ridges for days

Near Buck Peak- we spent five days backpacking in this area and didn’t see a single other person

Fall camping at Buck Lake- we tend to avoid camping on lakes during the summer because of Mosquitos but in late September they are beautiful!

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Press Check High

Here’s the thing about making the types of maps we love for places we love: we don’t get a chance to use our own maps very often. We carry them everywhere and sometimes even if we’re driving through an area on the map we pull it out, but even then it feels more like fact-checking than using. Last week we headed out for a little visit to Great Falls to go to the press check for our next two maps(!). Since summer seems to have actually arrived over on the east side of the divide, instead of just teasing like it is over here we decided to make a trip of it.
Friday afternoon, after both maps were through the press and drying for the weekend we had some steam to blow off. Press checks can be stressful! We headed west to the mountains and pulled out our South Half map and looked for a good hike that would give us some views. We settled on the trail up to the old Steamboat Lookout site. It’s one of those rare places in the Bob that has a solid trail all the way up to a high point. It’s a  gorgeous trail that climbs a few thousand feet in a little over six miles right on the front with views out over the plains to east and over the whole Scapegoat Wilderness to the west. And you know what? Our map works pretty well! We spent a long time at the top looking out over the sea of peaks and picking out landmarks. It was a treat to spend some time just hiking, no GPS units, no note taking, just walking down the trail on a gorgeous day.Since I know you’re wondering: the new maps will be available any day. We’re just waiting to hear that they’re folded and ready and we’ll let you all know!

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Trip Report: Jewel Basin

I have a hard time with fall. On the one hand I love it. I love how the color of the light makes familiar scenes turn all soft and gold. I love how the air smells crisp and you’re almost guaranteed dramatic morning mist. I love how fallen leaves light up the ground and trails stop being dusty. But summer’s ending breaks my heart. I’m obsessed with reliable sunlight and long evenings. I’m never ready for long nights and unpredictable weather.

Hiking in the fall can be an adjustment too. Days can be the perfect temperature and so beautiful it hurts, but they can just as easily be wet and miserable. Nights are almost always long and cold. After spending all summer going to bed before the sun even drops below the horizon I’m surprised to find myself racing nightfall to camp. Most of our trips this time of year are day trips. As our schedules fill up with town obligations it seems to be all we have time for.

Last weekend we did a big loop day hike around Jewel Basin that made me feel a little better about the seasonal transition. It’s been on our to do list all summer but between road closures and fires and all the other trails on the agenda we just hadn’t gotten to it. It’s an area I’ve been wanting to check out for a while, perched high on the Swans and set aside just for hikers. Jewel Basin is accessible from either the Flathead Valley or the Hungry Horse Reservoir but after a summer of driving the east side of the reservoir we were happy to have a destination on the west side of the Swans that didn’t require driving along the reservoir. We headed up Saturday night and camped near the trail head to be ready for an early start on Sunday. We’ve been to a lot of trail heads and we’ve camped at a fair number of them. For the most part they tend to be pretty quiet places. I was expecting that on a chilly Sunday in early October we were pretty much guaranteed to have the place to ourselves. Boy was I wrong. Several other groups also headed up the trail that morning, including a large group of gossiping, giggling middle-aged women who followed close behind us.

Despite the number of people in the parking lot we didn’t see a soul once we were out of sight of the truck and out of range of the giggling cohort behind us. The trail climbs quickly from the trail head to an easy pass into a veritable alpine playground on the other side. The trail is well-graded and winds its way past peaks and lakes and through alpine meadows, mature forests and an old burn. The day was beautiful, a little too smoky to be the picturesque crisp clear fall day but the haze just seemed to accentuate the angle of the light. The undergrowth was lit up red and yellow and pale, about-to-turn-yellow green. It was beautiful, and driving home as we chatted about the projects on tap for the next few months I felt a little better about the transition to fall.

The specs:
We took trail 8 from Camp Misery over the pass, past the Twin Lakes to trail 55. We followed 55 all the way around past Tongue Mountain and Clayton Lake to trail number 1 (if anyone can tell me how the forest service numbers trails I’ll give you some kind of prize…). We followed trail 1 up Graves Creek, past Black Lake (beautiful!) over the pass and back to Camp Misery via 68 and 8. The whole loop took us about six and a half hours with an hour break for lunch (Jamie) and picking huckleberries (me). We used the Flathead National Forest map of Jewel Basin but the whole area will be on our upcoming North Half of the Bob Marshall complex map as well which should be available by next spring.