Every Thing You Wanted To Know About The Little Park Cr. Rd. and were afraid to ask
Sun. Sept. 20th, 2020
Participants: Steve Schombel, David & Julie Kahl
What a glorious cool rainy day and clean air for this hike, even when it rained on us. Because a shuttle was involved we met a little earlier then we normally would, and drove up Miller Cr. to the lower end of the Little Park Cr. Trail. Little Park Cr. drains the north and west slopes of Miller Peak, and Park Cr. drains the south side. We left our Tacoma there, and because it had been raining and the road up into the West Fork of Deer Cr. would be wet and maybe impassable in places, we took Steve’s van up above. Thinking that if the road was impassable for his van, he could just turn back, and we wouldn’t have a vehicle up there we couldn’t retrieve. Just as you top out on the Miller Cr. -Deer Cr. divide, called Skyline Dr., under the power lines, the Inez Cr. trail head is just beyond. I had a printed out handout map of the new trail system, that I actually has taken a picture of on my phone. At the Inez Cr. trail head things got confusing, as it looked like the 9.8 mile/15.77k trail started there and had you hiking along a drivable road. This was backed up by David’s GPS. But we also knew from previous explorations that there was a road that went from the Inez Cr. trail head across to the south flank of the Bear Run Cr. drainage, where the Little Park Trail comes down and wondered if that was the road. But we also knew that there was a lot of private land in Bear Run Cr. so that road may not be usable. We continued driving along the ridge and in a mile/ 1.61k came to a four-way road junction where the Miller Divide Trail goes up to Miller Peak. The GPS still said we were on the Inez-Little Park Cr. Trail. From this junction the Skyline Rd. starts to drop down and became much narrower and rougher, but Steve’s van could still get through and we drove almost another two miles/3.22k to what on the GPS’s showed as a junction of Little Park Cr. Rd and Skyline Dr. David’s GPS still said it was the Inez-Little Park Trail. There was no junction where Little Park Cr. Rd. came off, just a small parking area and a locked gate on Little Park Rd. No Skyline Dr. at all. Of the 9.8 miles/15.77k we had now driven almost three/ 4.83k of them. And this part of “the trail” was off the handout map.
We parked and started down the road, which actually went up for a few hundreds of feet/meters where the gate was. Shortly we were on a road where the down side, looking down into Bear Run Cr., was open, from an old fire it looked like. We could see the road system below and a bit more further along could see the Inez Cr. Tail head and the roads coming from it. About 1/2 mile/ 0.80k down we found ourselves on a meadowy knoll that was part of a curve in the road, probably an old log decking site. We could see way to the west and through the clouds, the larch turning yellow on the higher slopes of the Bitterroot Mts. We explored the meadowy area a bit then went on. The GPS was still saying we were on the Inez-Little Park Cr. Trail. There were side roads in various stages of reclamation coming off on both sides of the road, including some very old US Plywood Roads. We kept dropping and going back into the canyon where Little Park Cr. heads on the north side of Miller Peak. We could see the old logging road system on Miller Peak, quite clearly, most roads went to the end of the cut area, opposite us and ended. We all suspected by now that we weren’t where we wanted to be, looking for a signature set of switch back roads. The GPS’s said that if we stayed on a side road we were on we would cross the head of Little Park Cr. and there was a trail going down the creek on the other side. We were following a road that hadn’t been used in a long time and it disappeared at a three pronged spring just shy of the creek crossing. We bushwhacked down to the creek crossing, that once again showed as a road-trail junction. There was no junction, and no trail, just the road that continued across the creek to end at the edge of the clear cut. We ate some lunch while we scoped things out. If we back tracked UP the roads there was a system of switch backs on the Bear Run Cr. side above us. We went back up and now found ourselves at a place where Little Park Cr. Rd. had turned off of the roads we were following. A short ways up it a road went to the left and we followed it a good 1/2 mile/ 0.80k to where it came to a switchback turn and was too over grown to continue. The GPS showed that if we could have gone down the switch, back a short ways down, would have run into the same non-existent trail that wasn’t there at the creek crossing. We went back up and back on the Little Park Cr. Rd started to follow it. It only went a short ways before it was also too over grown, and looking on the GPS’s it only went away and ended anyway. We took another break to scope things out. Steve was trying to remember when he and Lois Crepeau had hiked here years before. Looking on maps and GPS’s we realized that the switchback set we were looking for was on Nature Conservancy Land, not Forest Service land, like we were. I used my GPS to start at the lower trail head and follow the trail back up to find where we had lost the trail. The bad news was that there was no way to get there from here. We had two choices, go back up most of the way to the trail and then go down to the lower trail head, or go another mile/ 1.61k beyond that trail junction, up to where the van was. It was pushing 2:PM so we opted for the latter. We started back up the road, we had lost about 600 ft/ 182.88 m in elevation. A mile/ 1.61k out from the parking area we found the trail, it was an old road, not even a two-track anymore, but overgrown with grass and shrubs. David walked a bit down it and sure enough his GPS said it was the Inez-Little Park Cr. Trail. Perhaps we should have monitored the GPS a little better.
It had been raining on and off, but now it rained pretty good as we went back to the van. Back at the van having done about eight miles/ 12.87k, it almost felt good to be tired and wet. We had heard elk bugleing, scared up a grouse and a flicker. Steve took us back to our house and we changed out of our wet clothes and used our Matrix to go pick up the Tacoma.
We probably won’t get back to the Little Park Cr. Tail yet this year, it will go on the calendar for next year, with Ogden and Martel Mts. It would be nice if they could get some signs up on this trail soon.
Leader: Julie Kahl firstname.lastname@example.org