Deadman’s point

Participants Alden Wright, David & Julie Kahl

There was a measly 3 inches/7.62cm of snow at Lolo Pass, so it wasn’t deemed reasonable to go all that way just to hike. And, Alden had an engagement later in the day so, we opted to stay close to town. There were lots of options for good places to go, but it was still hunting season so we settled on Blue Mt. We met at the “Main Trailhead,” today’s horse loading facility. Confusing for those of us who recreated at Blue Mt. before that trailhead was developed, when “the main trailhead” was on the part of Blue Mt. Rd that goes up the side of the mountain, in and around the fulf course and sledding hill. At today’s main trailhead, we looked at the map and I noticed a route to Deadman’s Point, to the south. Hadn’t been there in a long time. There were three ways to go, could go up the hill to trails that would come in from higher up, estimating from the profile of the trails in their 1 mile/1.61k square sections would be 4-5 miles/6.44k- 8.05k to the point. Or take a trail from there that would go about 1/2 mile/0.80k to connect with Hays Cr. Rd. and then go to the trailhead further up on Hays Cr. Rd. Or drive to the trailhead on Hays Cr. Rd, from which it looked like about 2 miles/3.22k to the point. We opted to drive and found the trailhead. A sign on the a fence said “trail,” but another said “private property no parking,” as did a second in another spot that it seemed reasonable to park. We back tracked to a small parking lot where the trail from the main trailhead came to Hays Cr. Rd. and parked there, walking the 0.4 of a mile/0.60k down to the trailhead. The trail starts just where Hays Cr. Rd. crosses Hays Cr. and stays on the west side of Hays Cr. It starts out as an old road, through about 1/4 mile/0.40k of private land. The Forest Service boundary is clearly marked. We were in deep shade, and it was cold. Bits of Hays Cr. was frozen below us, heavy frost was on the vegetation, and parts of the trail were frozen, but just across the gully we could see sunshine on the ridge sides, hoping it would creep our way. The trail climbed steadily, in the lower section, but not too steep. We came to the trail junction with the trail that came in from the upper parts of the hill above the main trailhead, in the gully below it crosses Hays Cr. on a bridge and there was a couple with a dog down there. From there the trail got steeper and rocky, in places tree roots formed steps. We saw former road, black rubber, water bars that had been overwhelmed by sediment over the years, some not working as water bars anymore, some almost buried. Slowly we were getting sunlight, in strips, on our side of the gully, as we approached the top of the ridge. But as is often the case, as we approached what we thought was the top of the ridge the trail turned and filed up to an even higher part of the ridge. My GPS said we had gone 1.75 miles/2.80k when we finally topped out the ridge and could see down into Cochise Cr. (route of the Bonneville Powerline) on the other side. We needed to follow along the ridge to Deadman’s point, passing through two more trail junctions. Our long honed sense of the lay of the land seemed to tell us that we were at the highest point, we couldn’t see anything higher, but trees did block some of our view. The GPS said the point was still about 1/2 mile/0.80k ahead. When we got to a point where the trail obviously went down, I checked elevations on the GPS and it said Deadman Point had an elevation similar to there, so we went on. A narrow saddle lead us to another high point on the ridge, now labeled Deadman’s Ridge on my GPS, and we could then see the bulk of Deadman’s Point just another saddle away. The summit is a rocky outcropping, free standing from the base of the ridge, so no trees from below blocked the view. The trail went straight up the side and was craggy broken rock. A Guy with two dogs was on top and one of the dogs came down to show me a nicer way up a grassy ramp, I went that way.    

The Guy had come up from the Cochise Cr. side, it was steeper but shorter. We got him to take a summit photo for us, then he and his dogs left. My GPS said 2.74 miles/4.40k. It was going on 2:PM and we had a quick lunch enjoying the expansive views of our everyday world. Alden said he had biked up this way a lot, but had always stopped on one of the two previous knobs, thinking they were the point, this was the first time he had been to the actual Deadman’s Point. Our instincts were correct, as Deadman’s Ridge was slightly higher then the actual Deadman’s Point, but lacked the views. On the way back out we walked back to the top of the next ridge knob over and Alden suggested we just drop down the ridge side, knowing we’d eventually pick up the trail below. But it was tricky as the private land was just below us as well, but with the GPS to keep us off the private land, we dropped off. It was steep but not hazardous so, and open forest without a lot of deadfall to go around. Soon we began seeing the remains of an old trail system. It’s not on the official Blue Mt. trails map, but my GPS showed an old trail that came up this way, 80% of which was switchbacks, with an elevation gain of 500 feet/154.40m. We walked on the trail in a few places, but kept going down hill. Eventually, walking a section of it we saw the road/trail down below and worked our way down to it. Turned out we were just a short ways up from the 1/4 mile/0.60k private land section, soon back on Hays Cr. Rd. and walking up to the parking area. It was shortly before 3:PM, my GPS said 4.3 miles/7.0k. A very nice day for a hike, all in all.

Let’s hope for enough snow to do my Dec. 10th Winter Outing at Lolo Pass.

Why Deadman’s Creek and Deadman’s Point? The name conjures up questions like “Who was the dead man it was named for?” “Was he an actual deceased person, or some settler’s last name?” Or if it’s a corruption of something else like “dead head” or “Denman.” Or a place with indigenous burials were someone was once told “there’s dead people up there.” As far back as I’ve been able to go in maps of that area the entire -what is today Cochise Cr. -was called Deadman’s Cr. down to the Bitterroot River. Today just the stream that drains the gully on the back side of Deadman’s Point is called Deadman’s Cr.

Julie Kahl”


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