Saturday, July 29, 2017

Jewel Basin, Montana July 18, 2017

                     On trail #8 early in the morning

This is one of six posts related to a Montana trip in July of 2017.

For my last hike in Montana I chose to go to Jewel Basin. Jewel Basin is a beautiful hiking area in the northern part of the Swan Range.  The most popular trail head is at Camp Misery and most popular hike is up to Mount Aeneas.  Lesser used trails drop into the basin itself where hikers can explore 27 lakes. To reach this hiking area follow Montana Highway 83 to Echo Lake Road. Follow the signs to Forest Service Road 5392. In July of 2017 5392 had wash boarding so watch your car and drive slowly. During the weekend the parking lot at Camp Misery can be crowded so start your hike early in the morning.

The Hike: Looking at the map I noticed it was possible to combine multiple trails and hike a loop. Trails involved include #8 which goes above Twin Lakes where it joins Alpine Trail #7 for 0.5 miles. The next trail you are looking for is 719 which descends down to Blackfoot Lake. If you walk to Blackfoot Lake watch for the trail because it is tough to follow in places. In fact I lost the trail for 20 minutes before finding it again when I retraced my steps. From Blackfoot Lake 719 ascends precipitously into the main basin where it passes a number of lakes with no names before passing above Black Lake. The trail from here ascends rapidly to a divide near Mount Aeneas before descending back toward Camp Misery. The loop is about 10.5 miles total. One of the tough things about this loop is the amount of up and down in fact there are  two major climbs in the hike. On this hike I saw a profusion of wildflowers. Species seen included: Bear grass, Glacier lilies, Indian paintbrush, Alpine Forget-me nots,  Daisies, Fireweed and Lupine.

                       The view from #8 toward the valley

      The view toward the valley from trail #8 was tremendous

                  On Alpine trail #7

                The Beargrass on 719 near Blackfoot Lake was awesome.

                              One of my favorite photos from the hike.

                  Blackfoot Lake

                                 Wildflowers in the basin

                      Descending back to Camp Misery after going over the divide

Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana July 16, 2017

                          View from the top toward Glacier National Park

This post is one of six related to a Montana trip in July of 2017.

After spending some time in the town of Whitefish, Montana, we drove up to Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly Big Mountain). This resort is 17 minutes north of town. The drive itself is very beautiful. Whitefish Resort offers many activities during the winter and summer.  During the winter the resort has over 100 ski trails from black diamonds to easier beginner green trails with a 2,084 foot vertical drop. The summer brings many activities from zip lining to an alpine slide. Activities also include mountain bike riding and hiking. Recently Whitefish Mountain devoted certain trails for mountain bikes to lesson conflicts with hikers. A popular hiking trail on the mountain is the Danny On trail which is 7.2 miles long.

On this particular visit  we brought lift tickets to the top of Whitefish Mountain. Rides cost $15 per adult. Riders have the option of riding in a Gondola or on a chair. The top offers fantastic 360 degree views of Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake. It also has a restaurant where visitors can buy hamburgers and get a beer. on this particular day the top also had a phenomenal display of Bear grass as well as Indian paintbrush. In the future it would be nice to hike from the base of the mountain to top and then ride the chair lift down. If you go make sure to bring a sweatshirt because the mountain top can be chilly during the summer.

              Bear grass and mountains in western Montana

                    Bear grass with Flathead Valley

                     On the lift at Whitefish Resort

                      On the lift looking toward Whitefish Lake

Model T Rally Whitefish, Montana July 16, 2017

This post is one of six related to a Montana trip in July of 2017.

Whitefish, Montana, is a beautiful community in north western Montana near Big Mountain and Glacier National National Park. It has a well-preserved downtown with lots of restaurants, art galleries and a brewery. This town also has given me many memories including visits when attending the University of Montana and it was also the location my father boarded Amtrak to travel back to Kentucky. On this particular trip I visited Whitefish with my wife and her family. When we arrived we were greeted with a pleasant surprise. From July 16-21 the Model T Ford Club of America was hosting the "Motoring in Montana" tour.  The tour includes displaying the Model T's in Whitefish along with tours in Western Montana. One of the longer tours was over Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. They also offer tours to Eureka and Polson, Montana. Walking around I saw beautiful Model T's from all around the United States.

Hunter's Cabin, Swan Mountains July 14, 2017

                                   View north from the Hunter's Cabin

This post is one of six related to a Montana trip in July of 2017.

The second hike I took in Montana was to Hunter's Cabin and an overlook on private land.  Next to where my wife's family live on Swan Lake are the Westerman's and they know the land owner and have permission to walk on the land. As a result, I will be giving no information on how to access this hike. The hike was about four miles round trip and the first destination was Hunter's Cabin which is a group of cabins that have a fantastic view of the Swan Mountains and valley. The second destination is a rocky overlook with views of Swan Lake and surrounding forests. To date this was the longest hike my son has been on so I was very proud of him at the end.

                    At the overlook looking across at the Swan Range

                 Q and I at the overlook

               A fantastic view

                Another picture at the Hunter's Cabin

Hungry Horse Dam, Montana July 15, 2017

                          Looking down at the dam from the top

This post is one of six related to a Montana trip in July of 2017.

While in Montana we took a trip to view the Hungry Horse Dam on the South Fork of Flathead River. Tara's grandfather worked on the dam  in the late 1940s until it was completed in 1952. The dam was built for three reasons: to provide water storage that could be used to increase hydroelectric output at the Grand Coulee and Bonneville Dams on the Columbia and also provide electricity and flood control to the Flathead Valley. At 564 feet high Hungry Horse is one of the largest concrete arch dams in the United States. At 490 feet the morning-glory spillway is the largest in the world. In the past visitors used to take tours inside the dam but since 9/11 critical infrastructure has been closed. Today visitors can get information at a visitor center and walk across the top of the dam. The reservoir is popular with boaters and hikers/campers have access to the backside of the Swan Range as well as The Great Bear Wilderness.

An interesting story to share is how the dam and town of Hungry Horse got its name. In the winter of 1900-1901 two freight horses Tex and  Jerry wandered into the wilderness. They were found a month later in deep snow and very skinny. After they were nursed back to health both horses worked for a mercantile company. (Information from

                           Hungry Horse Reservoir

                       The river and valley below the dam

                   The top of the dam

                         Family at Hungry Horse

Hall Lake, Swan Lake Mountains of Montana July 9, 2017

                                     Hall Lake trail in the Swan Mountains

This post is one of six related to a Montana trip in July of 2017.

While visiting my wife's family in Montana I managed to get away for a couple of hikes. I chose the Hall Lake trail for my first hike because it is a short drive from where we were staying on Swan Lake. To reach the trailhead drive to the town of Swan Lake on the eastern side of Swan Lake. Look for Fenby Lane near the Laughing Horse Lane. The trailhead is isolated and when I hiked the trail in July there were no other cars or people.

The hike:  The hike is about 10 miles round trip to Hall Lake and another 2 miles to Alipine Trail #7. Elevation change is around 2,200 feet so it is listed as moderately strenuous. What I liked most about the hike were trees: the first part Noble firs and Paper birch provide shade while Douglas fir are prevalent near Hall Lake.  In Tucson this past spring and summer I have been obsessed with finding shaded hikes. After about 1.5 miles the trail crosses the creek which even in July was running pretty high this creek in spring would be very hard to cross because of snow melt. I originally was going to turn around at an overlook but decided against it when I looked at the map and discovered Hall Lake was only about one mile from the location. The upper parts of the Swan Range have Bear grass blooming on both sides of the trail. I stayed at Hall Lake for about 5 minutes because there were many bees at the lake. (Some information from

                           Looking back toward Swan Lake

                  Forests in Western Montana with a little bit of Swan Lake showing in the valley

                        Bear grass blooming along the trail

                   Hall Lake

                               The trail in the upper part of the Swan Range

                     Blooming Bear grass up close

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kitt Peak National Observatory June 2017

                                    Inside the 4 meter Telescope

  Kitt Peak National Observatory is one of my favorite day trips near Tucson, Arizona. It is located about 57 miles south of Tucson, Arizona,  off of Route 86. At 7,000 feet the temperature is about 10 to 20 degrees cooler than in Tucson so it is bearable when Tucson is over 100 degrees. Kitt Peak can also be quite cold during the winter months. The mountain has the largest number of astronomical instruments in the world with 24 optical and two radio telescopes.

 Visitors can walk around the mountain and visit two of the telescopes- the 2.1 meter and Solar- without a docent; during summer of 2017, the 4 meter was only open during docent led tours. There are also nice picnic tables to eat lunch.  Docents lead tours to three of telescopes including Solar Telescope, 2.1 meter Telescope, and the 4 meter Mayall Telescope. The tour of the Solar Telescope is the first one of the day at 10 am and the 4 meter is 1:30. I would recommend the tours because all the docents I have had so far are knowledgeable and visitors learn about the history of Kitt Peak, how a telescope works and past as well as future projects. If you go bring a lunch, snacks and drinks because there is no food up on the peak. During the Summer Monsoon (July through September) storms can occur at Kitt Peak during the afternoon some of which can be intense. Watch the weather and bring an umbrella. Last summer I was caught on the mountain in a sudden thunderstorm that drenched both my son and I.

                   At the 2.1 meter looking across Kitt Peak. The 4 meter is in the distance.

                           The 4 meter has a 360 walkway that gives views all directions

                                     Looking inside the 4 meter

                         Storm blowing in over Kitt Peak

                          The top of the Solar Telescope

Visit during the winter with 4 inches of snow on the ground