4th Of July: Circumnavigating the Cabinets, Part 2

This is Part 2 of our 4th of July adventure in Montana. (Part 1)

I woke up snuggled between Forrest and Sprocket and not too horribly cold at all. The sun was shining and we had the whole day for adventuring. We let Sprocket out of the tent as we emerged from the tent. It took him about thirty seconds to hop into the river. We pulled the tent into the sun for the dew to dry and ate our breakfast of bagels and cream cheese. Our plans to hike off of Vermillion Pass sort of got trashed when we had to head lower to find a camp so we decided to make up the day as we went along—especially since we didn’t have a map for the Kootenai National Forest and were functioning only with the bleed from our Lolo and Idaho Panhandle National Forest maps.

Sprocket in Happy Gulch

Forrest picked out Silver Butte Pass (4,272′, Pass #3) as a likely destination. Down the Vermillion River we went to the junction with the Vermillion River road. We took a quick look at Vermillion Falls and then branched off the main road to the Pass. As we wound our way up the mountain, I realized, “Hey, I’ve been here before!” And then, “Oh dear, I think this road only exits the mountains to the east.” (I totally had been there in Fall 2010 on my first Cabinets adventure). The east side of the mountains was a little further than we were planning on going but by the time I was sure I knew where we were headed we decided to go for it anyway.

Camping
Rainbow over Vermillion Falls

Sure enough, we popped out of the woods on Highway 2 about thirty miles south of Libby. Although we didn’t have a map, we knew that most of the Cabinets were either official wilderness or a designated roadless area so we either had to go back the way we came or head up to Libby. We figured that Libby would have some sort of 4th of July festival so we headed that way. Turns out, Libby doesn’t have much of anything.

Kootenai Falls

We bought some fruit and chips and decided to head back into the mountains to BBQ the rest of our hot dogs. We stopped to hike down to Kootenai Falls—pictures just can’t do justice to the amount of water moving through that canyon! Leaving the falls, we looped back south on Montana Highway 56 back towards Thompson Falls. We stopped to let Sprocket swim in Bull Lake but there were a lot of people around so we decided to continue on. Just south of the lake we started to get some amazing views of the Cabinets and then we spotted a Forest Service road heading up towards them. Based on the edges of the area we could see on our maps I guessed that it was a loop that would bring us back to the highway in about 10 miles so away we went.

Dock jumping at Bull Lake

We detoured up a spur road that seemed like it would give us some views. The maps even showed a lookout on top. The road ended in a buggy area with some decent views but we were hungry and decided to cook the last of our hot dogs before deciding what to do. Although we weren’t sure how far the lookout was (it was either a mile or 3 miles…) we decided to go for it. When we spotted the lookout, it was over on the next ridge, about two miles away, and since the bugs were really bad, Team 3Up made the call to settle for our views from the parking area.

Chipmunk in the Jeep

After we made it back to the main road, going over Snake Creek Pass (3,604′, Pass #4) and then back to the highway, it was time to get ourselves home. The drive home over Thompson Pass (4,862′, Pass #5) and Dobson Pass (4,235′, Pass #6) was all pavement and uneventful aside from getting an ice cream cone in Prichard.

Cabinet Mountains from the west

4th Of July: Circumnavigating the Cabinet Mountains, Part 1

A day off in the middle of the week is sort of odd. It felt like it should be a weekend and yet we only had that one day! We decided to seize that day off and make an adventure out of it anyway. When I got off work on Tuesday, I came home, packed up our camping stuff and we all jumped into the jeep. The skies were looking a little stormy but I pretty much refused to believe it was going to rain on us.

As we set out towards Cooper Pass it seemed like we were leaving the weather mostly behind us. We cruised right to the top of the pass (Pass #1 for the trip at 5,791′) where there was still a decent foot or so of snow that we made it over fairly easily but we certainly hoped that there wouldn’t be any more on the other side! The drive down to Thompson Falls went quickly as we wound our way off the mountaintop.

We didn’t hesitate long in Thompson Falls, just stopping long enough to fill up the gas tank before heading up Graves Creek Road into the mountains. Hardly 3 miles into the woods, I saw a small bear run up into the woods. It was (we think!) a yearling grizzly! It’s big round light brown butt reminded me of Winnie-the-Pooh—less cuddly of course. After the bear headed off into the woods, it was back to the campsite finding mission. We were hoping to find a place to camp where we would be sort of sheltered from the wind and the high elevation chill that would be setting in soon. There was a severe lack of spur roads where we could camp so we just kept driving higher and higher. Next thing we knew we were at Vermillion Pass (6,026′, pass #2 for the trip).

It was cold up there.

As pretty as it was there in the shadow of Vermillion Peak, we knew we had to lose elevation fast if we were to have a hope of spending a decently comfortable night. (I’m still functioning with a 45 degree sleeping bag I bought in high school!) As we headed down into the Vermillion River valley, we came around a corner saw a nice big black bear in the road. We decided to spend the night where Happy Creek emptied into the Vermillion River.

Forrest started up a fire while I took Sprocket for a short walk. We cooked hot dogs for dinner (and were only a wee bit nervous about having seen a couple of bears…) before piling into the tent. I wasn’t too thrilled with leaving Sprocket in the jeep alone and I was also more than a little afraid of being cold into the tent he came. That makes one 6′ man, a 5’10” woman, and an 85-pound labrador…in a two man tent. He was a great cuddler and kept me nice and warm!!

Team 3Up 4th of July

Forrest and I have a (bad?) habit of spending the 4th of July away from each other. The first year we were dating we ran around on his motorcycle and did the holiday up right (BBQ and river, then ocean and seafood). The intervening years had me going to weddings while Forrest was unable to join me for one reason or another (moving our stuff, expensive plane tickets).

This year, with Forrest planning a trip to Oregon to work on our van (!!!!) I insisted that he stick around and spend the holiday with me. We had a rambling adventure through a good chunk of Western Montana (more on this soon).

The best, however, was watching the fireworks in our neighborhood in a family dog pile. There was much cuddling and it was lovely.

 Although this morning F told me he wished we had been in San Diego for their big fireworks oops, I think what we had was pretty sweet.

Rambling Oregon 4th

What a 4th Of July weekend!

We got in a bit of everything–Friday evening we rode up to Green Peter Lake where Tony’s friends had taken their boats for some 4th of July camping. We got in some time on the water–I got to go tubing!–and enjoyed their bonfire (Forrest was firewood gather-er extraordinaire. We also commandeered their canoe for a moonlit paddle. It was a gorgous summer evening of which I have a feeling this summer won’t have nearly enough.

On the morning of the 4th, Forrest talked me onto the Montessa for some more motorcycle training. After some frustration–for both of us–I finally was able to start it up and ride nice circles around the church basketball court. Tony showed up and we rode out to his grandparents house on the Siletz for a picnic. What a place!!! There’s a nice deep swimming hole in the river (complete with a zip cable), a deluxe picnic shelter, and the all-important outhouse.

We cruised on down to the coast mid-afternoon to join the crew down there. The temperature drop going down the hill into Newport was killer! There were some “fireworks alterations” fortunately with no altering injuries, followed by the professional fireworks show through the ocean fog. Not quite the Lakin beer, lawn darts, and fireworks extravaganza but fun nevertheless.

We spent a lazy Sunday mainly hanging around the trailer with Tom & Kay briefly venturing out for a visit to Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and a (windy) walk on the beach. By the time we got home we were both anxious for showers and tried to watch a movie–neither of us were too awake when it was over!

Tacoma this weekend for some baseball with the Lakin cousins and California in a week and a half!

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.