When it comes to consistently spectacular routes, with no filler miles whatsoever, this is the best route I’ve done in the Bob. Bar none.
The limestone cliffs and reefs are truly special, from the way Welcome Pass is tucked into a surprising break to the walls behind the Green Fork meadows devolving into stacked pinnacles and gullies in the upper reaches. The meadows, forests, and streams are equally compelling and, somewhat usually for the Bob complex, heterogenous and diverse. Tortured and slow growing sub-alpine, aspens, old growth pine, and willow bogs; this loop has everything you’ll find east of the Continental Divide. The cedar forests off the Swan are more majesterial, but logging has made them hard to find, and they’re generally accessed by lodgepole miles which are not especially compelling.
In addition to discovering such a great route somewhat by accident, this weekend was the death knell of our old backpacking ways. Since LB was born I’ve been harboring the largely subconscious illusion that with enough careful planning and added strength we’d be able to continue to do trips under roughly the same rules we always have. That did not work this time; the first 10 mile day fatigued us enough that we cut our route drastically short, and even the 14 mile compromise day back out was in the heat and rocky paths truly crushing. These are distances that, pre-baby, were generally accomplished by lunch, and occasionally before breakfast. That I won’t be able to do the same trips I did with a 20 pound load while carrying a 50 pound pack that is prone to squirming should have been the most obvious thing in the world, but continuing our backcountry life was of sufficient value that I kept my head in the sand. It’s humbling; the woods get bigger in a hurry when you can’t default to 3 mph when you wish.
For the future we don’t just need fewer miles and more breaks, we need a different approach to backpacking entirely. Thankfully lots of backpack, hiking, and camping time from an early age has meant that Little Bear gets more excited about hiking today than any time before. We’ll have plenty of chances to get it right.