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Tobacco Root Mountains Palooza


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grizzled, thanks for sharing...Looks like an amazing place!

It is a nice piece of real estate. It would be a LOT nicer piece of real estate without the 1872 mining law. Fine piece of legislation that one. I can't argue that it didn't/doesn't create jobs. Unfortunately, more than half of those are usually tax payer funded to clean up the messes.

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We had a outstanding weekend camped at Brannan Lakes in the Roots.

At the hiking trailhead-end of Jeep trail although as Jeep trails go, this one is very easy.


Mount Jackson/Sailor Lake.


Upper Brannan Lake-and a lot of deceased whitebark pine


Brannan Lakes, Middle Mountain (center), Granite Peak (right)


Token canine shot-and there was a lot of snow in one place-enough that it will still be there next year


The Upper Brannan and the puddle above it, Hollowtop (left and highest peak in the Roots) and Mount Jefferson in background. Our tents are visible in this one


A few late bloomers-even though the ground was still frozen at 10 am Saturday when we arrived


Too far away goat shot. We saw goats both days.


A no-name peak (10,426') north of Brannan Lakes. Puddle is about 9600'.



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  • 2 weeks later...

We bailed out of town (Bozeman, MT) Friday about 2 pm for another foray to North Meadow Creek (Tobacco Root Mountains) after getting snowed out of there over Labor Day weekend. This time the weather was as perfect as it can get this time a year but it did test the limits on my 15 degree rated sleeping bag and I had to sleep with the water filter to keep it from freezing. The 5 miles of Jeep trail get more interesting all the time and it takes us close to 2.5 hours to get from the Jeep trailhead to Upper Twin Lake. From Upper Twin, it's a short 1.5 mile hike to our destination lake, most of it off-trail and a lot of it steep.

Sterling Road, below Revenue Flats.


Ward Peak a couple miles below the start of the Jeep trail.


North Meadow Creek in one of several meadows, about half way up the trail. There was a little forest fire smoke. Cali source?


Upper Twin Lake, end of the Jeep trail.


From Upper Twin it was backpacks. Ward Peak from what we call Elk Meadow-always beds and scat everywhere. Didn't see any elk but there was a coyote there (and no, I didn't plug him).


Lady of the Lake Peak from the same meadow.


Our destination.


The bog birch was in a class of its own. Not sure why, but I haven't found that shrub elsewhere in the Roots.


Pikas were seemingly everywhere.


Upper and Lower Twin Lakes with Revenue spires and Madison Valley in the distance.


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Saturday, I spent the day wandering while my wife was having a great time with the Yellowstone cuts in the lake. I'm guessing it was a fish about every 3 or 4 casts. Over the last 10 years, the fish in this lake appear to be growing smaller in size, no doubt as a result of apparently high reproduction success-everything from about 1 pounder's to 2 incher's. We had one of the larger ones for dinner.

Pictures from my walkabout.

Lady of the Lake Peak.


Dog in the krumholtz.


South Baldy Mountain.


Un-named peak.


Amazingly, still a few late bloomers.



One of the small streams feeding the lake.


One of the cuts.


Why I still get to do this stuff.


A little light play.


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Sunday morning was clear and no breeze. Made for some relatively good reflection shots.




Still some sizable snow banks.


More bog birch.


Another un-named rock pile.


On our way back to reality-sigh.


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  • 2 weeks later...

The latest Tobacco Root excursion:

My wife and I cheated the weather and got in another backpacking trip over the weekend. The weather was cold and windy Saturday on our way in and the wind Saturday night tested the tent purchase on the substrate. Sunday morning was just cold and clear but it warmed up quickly for a pleasant day. The objective was Louise Lake in the South Boulder River drainage in the Tobacco Root Mountains.

Bismark Reservoir at the trail head. This was an intake impoundment for an 18" wire wrapped wood pipe that dropped about 140' elevation and powered the equipment at the Bismark Mine. Some of the wood structure remains.


Mount Jackson (left) and Lakeshore Mountain


I'm not sure what the motivation was for the trail "reconstruction" since the last time we were here 15 years ago, but it's close to wheelchair accessible now and perhaps that will be good for me in a few more years but it was a gross waste of money.


The token pika shot. This guy (or gal?) was still stashing elk thistle leaves.


Middle Mountain Sunday am-yes it was crispy.


Sunday Breakfast-the dishes are Sojo freeze dried dog food. Our's is the Mountain House breakfast griddle.


While my wife was throwing line at the cuts, I headed up the bowl on the upper end of Louise Lake.


The line throwing-it was a sucess. There are some really nice Yellowstone cutthroats in Louise Lake.


After taking the interstate trail in, we found the old trail out. It follows the creek for a distance before cutting eastward. Interestingly, there were a lot of 2" Yellowstone cuts here but we saw none in the lake. I suspect that since the only potential spawning area in the lake is the outlet and as cuts are spring spawners, all the fry get washed down the creek and there are too many falls for any return.


The old trail comes out about a third of a mile downstream from the new one and rather than hike back out to the road and thence up the road back to the trail head, we bushwacked up the south side of the South Boulder River (here decidedly more a creek). It was steep and dense but we found a lot of remnants of the Bismark pipeline. Note, not a recommended diversion!


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A note on access:

Access to the upper reaches of the South Boulder River is via Cardwell on Interstate 90 and then about 5 miles south on Montana Highway 359. County/FS Road 107 exits MT 359 at the South Boulder River bridge and proceeds past the old mining town of Mammoth and eventually terminates at the trail head for Sailor and Brannan Lakes, the last 3 to 4 miles of it being Jeep trail. The overall length of Road 107 is close to 30 miles. The trail head for Louise (trail 7168) and Lost Cabin (trail 7150) Lakes is about 3 miles below that terminus. Approximately 1 mile of the access road below the Louise/Lost Cabin trail head is a bit rough and I would not recommend a normal car for that stretch.

A shot from FS 107 below Mammoth. South Boulder River valley with Middle Mountain in the distance. Louise Lake is located in the cirque below the peak.


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  • 8 months later...

More Mill Creek Drainage-Quartz and Johnson Creeks


A one night adventure to a little used nook, this one up Mill Creek out of Sheridan, MT.  The plan was to visit a small un-named "lake" on Johnson Creek, the next drainage to the north of Quartz Creek.  The Jeep trail (FS 1298) is only about 2 miles long.  A lot of exposure but not very exciting.  Coming out of the Mill Creek bottom gets a bit steep (typical "U" shaped glacial canyon) and there were a couple large boulders that would likely stop a new Cherokee Trail Hawk, but once above that, pretty much just a dirt road.

On FS 1298 (we were on our way out here)

JK parked at the East Fork Quartz Creek trail head.  A very little used area.

First glimpse of the objective-after a lot of bushwacking through spruce, subalpine fir, and deadfall whitebark pine-we found a lot easier way out.

First photo of the new tent-we tested several pieces of new equipment on this short trip but the tent lightened my pack almost 4 lbs.

Johnson Creek above the lake.

The lake with Leggat Mountain behind.  Alas, no fish but you never know.

This was prime elk country with elk sign everywhere.  We greeted the morning being scolded by a cow elk-didn't see a calf but suspect there was one there.

View to southeast from camp.  Baldy Mountain at the extreme north end of the Gravelly Range.  Alder Gulch/Virginia City hid in front.

Straight south shot from camp. Peaks of the Greenhorn Range.

Remains of either a sheep herders or miners cabin on the East Fork Quartz Creek on the way out.  Leggat Mountain behind.

To be continued------

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