Apgar Lookout traverse

Yesterday I did a trip which has been on my mind for quite some time.  We’re stuck, here in NW Montana, is seasonal flux at the moment.  Lack of snow is delaying ski season, but is allowing for great late-autumn hiking.  Like yesterday, I didn’t bring snowshoes.

The road across the circle bridge up to the lookout trailhead is closed, so rather than walk those few miles I took a hard right immediately on the far side of McDonald Creek, cut up through the old burn, walked a bit of the old two-track which follows the water pipe (a spring on the hillside supplies Apgar Village and park headquarters), then bushwacked uphill to meet the first switchback on the trail, which I was pleased to hit dead on.

The first serious, multi-day inversion of the season is gripping the valley at the moment, and clouds wreathed the lookout as I started up, so I was very pleased when everything burned off up high and left one of the more bluebird days I’ve experienced in this state.

The hoar frost formations on what little snow exists was impressive, bespeaking of a problematic avalanche season.

The view from the summit was very nice, as I ate chocolate and contemplated the real unknown of the route: dropping down the other side to the lake so I could packraft the creek to close the loop.

The descent went as expected: very slowly.  At first there was 2 feet of snow in which to posthole, and when that thinned out a bit I found some deer trails to follow.

Soon enough the deer weren’t going were I was, and I pushed on through the copious deadfall.

And the new-growth pine.

I only got semi-sickofit before I found a trail down in the valley bottom.  Good physical, technical, and psychological training, but I’m not sure I’ll go back soon, unless it’s with skis and four more feet of snow.

The paddle back was nice, though frozen hands and feet distracted a bit by the end.  I walked the last half-mile after the takeout with my hands stuffed down the back of my neck.

It was a good day out.

The surge in readership after being Freshly Pressed has settled down, with typical daily traffic, already on the upswing, having close to doubled.  Busy but not extraordinary days here are now fuller than my previous all-time best.  So thanks for reading.  I should explain that days like that one and this one are in this season the exception.  Soon snow, fog, and flat light will make good shots much harder to come by.  When we move away from here, it will be to find more and more consistent sun.


  1. We got a really late start and meandered up the Big — which was also sunny. That downfall must have made things tough going down — way to perservere.

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