August 25, 2017
Well, Charlie and I made it back to our home-away-from-home last night ... starting our third season at Baptiste Lookout. This is how the place looked in the morning light:
Yesterday was kind of a brutal day, as the trips up here often are. Still a lot to do at home, so I didn't get on my way until 10. An amazing amount of forest-fire smoke in the upper Clark Fork Valley. Fast-food lunch in Deer Lodge, then on to Drummond, Helmville, and up the Swan. I was happy to see that most of the smoke was gone from northwestern Montana, thanks to the morning's storm front.
Got to the ranger district office a little before 3, picked up the two-way radio and a couple of things the forest asked me to pack into the lookout for them -- some towels and (of all things) a new broom. So yes, I hiked all the way up to the lookout holding a full-size broom in one hand! I told them I'd use it to fight off the bears. :)
(I can't complain about that little favor at all, of course, especially considering the fact that the forest packed 60 pounds of food up here for me this year. And other lookouts pack stuff up here all the time -- Leif, for example, hauled a 16-foot aluminum extension ladder up here on his back a few years ago.)
Filled the car with gas, stopped at the store in Hungry Horse for perishable and liquid groceries I'd carry up -- a couple quarts of half-and-half, 2 dozen eggs, butter, cheese, oil, and so on. Made the long, dirt-road drive down to the trailhead, repacked everything, and hit the trail about 5. I'm guessing my pack was in the 50-pound range.
The hike up was uneventful -- just a bit of rain, a little thunder, and a couple piles of bear shit on the trail. Carrying the pack up there totally wore me out, though, as it usually does. (The hike is a bit less than 6 miles, with 2,700 feet of elevation gain, and a lot of the trail is brushy and overgrown.) The hike was tough on Charlie, too, which concerns me; he was slow and cautious and worried, and gave me looks like he thought we should turn around. I hope he's not getting too old for this.
Anyhow, we got to the lookout around 9, just a little before dark, and it felt good to settle in. It's really good to be here, above the world and away from the follies of man. And this morning, at least, I'm pretty sure Charlie agrees.
This morning I radioed Kalispell to tell them that Baptiste was back in service, so I'm back to being an official lookout volunteer. ("Ever vigilant," as one of the other lookouts kiddingly texted me.) Here's a shot of my work desk, all ready to go. I bet my office view is prettier than yours!