Participants: Steve Schombel, Alden Wright, David & Julie Kahl
A tale of two trips and Inreach learning curve.
June 11th: David and I drove the area to learn first hand which roads on the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge Forest map were still passable or even still roads, using David’s GPS with a 2019 chip to back it up. We drove in from the I-90 Gold Cr. exit, and found the main road we wanted (1557) still passable and in pretty good shape. Shortly we found the first trail head where trails to both Jones Mt. and Lone Tree Hill from the east, come off the same side road. It was just a two track, that didn’t show much use. We continued on around the base of Lone Tree Hill to the second trail head, where the Lone Tree Hill trail comes back to the road on the west, it looked a little more used. We missed the west Jones Mt. trail head, and soon found ourselves in another area of the road we had questions about. The “pass” that connects The Douglas Cr. Rd. with Gold Cr. Rd., it looked on both the map and GPS that it might no longer be maintained. It was slightly degraded from the road in, but was easily passable, except we drove over or around a lot of blow down. We soon found ourselves at a major road junction looking down Douglas Cr. We had some lunch and went back to find the missed trail head following the GPS closely. Parking by a locked gate in the most likely area we found that the “North Gold Cr. Rd.” no longer had a junction with the main road, but had been rerouted to join, by the gate, a road that ran just a short ways back and ended. We decided to hike aways and make sure we had the correct road. We ended up walking two miles back to the last nob before the Jones Mt. summit, where we had another important question answered. This area is inter spaced with what looks like an old burn in lodgepole pine, and beetle kill. Trying to go through any timbered area was a nightmare of downed timber, such as a north or east slope. The approach to Jones was a long grassy slope on the west. It was 4:PM and we headed back out. There have been salvage sales in the damaged lodgepole and in places there are denuded landscapes where all the trees have been cut, and huge slash piles 12-15 feet/3.66m-4.57m high. The ridge above where we parked had been cut, and on the ridge line where there were still some trees I saw an elk, when we got back to the truck. We drove out the Douglas Cr. side, coming out to Hwy 1 at Hall. From one spot on the road we could see all of our route up Jones Mt.
June 20th: We met Steve and Alden at 8:AM and drove-regrouping at the Gold Cr. exit. Followed our memory and the my GPS to the west Jones Mt. trail head, now we found the gate unlocked, and later would find that the pass section of the road had been cleared of blow down. We parked inside the gate, hoping to keep our vehicles in the shade. Though it didn’t matter, it was sunny now but clouds were moving in, tuning into a perfect hiking day, in the 60’s/18.3c and overcast. The road drops down from the gate to follow the creek -North Fork Of Gold Cr. -though someone could have driven down it, with in 1/3 of a mile/0.53k we came across the first blow down, one that hadn’t been there on the 11th. There was a few more blown down trees to go over or under as the road dropped along the creek. There were several seep areas, one that had water running down one track in the road, and another where it seemed the entire downhill side of the road was seeping out into a boggy area just off the creek. Glacier lilies were still blooming in this area and we saw what we figured were moose tracks. Maps showed a road junction in the lowest part of the road, where North Gold Cr. Rd. had crossed the creek, but it was no longer there, if you looked carefully you could still see the track in the landscape. The road must have still come down on the other side of the creek, because when David and I had been here on the 11th, we heard a chain saw just across the creek here. The other arm of the “Y” was still here, going up hill as our road, now Jones Mt. Rd. Here there was blow down, but also a large rock that recently had fallen out of the bank and rolled to the center of the road. A lone glacier lily still hung in the dirt that had been above it. It had only fallen like three feet/1.0m and Steve wondered how it had gotten enough run to get to the center of the road. It did have a sharp point on one side, perhaps it tumbled over on it. This rise brings you to the area behind the ridge we had parked by, an area with one of those huge slash piles and two stair step ponds. One side road, that maps and GPS showed going a short ways toward the cut-over ridge seemed well used and we suspected it had been extended to the cut and was used to bring the slash down to here. Here there was another “Y” in the road, the right road went between the two ponds and continued about 1/2 mile/0.80k or so to the lowest of five tiny “lakes” that looked like they were stair stepped up a slope, and ended. Our road on the left went steeply up the hill, actually the start of the climb to the summit. We passed the upper pond. It remained a road for another 1/3 of a mile/0.53k or so with some timber piled off the side of the road with “No Firewood Cutting” signs around it, and lots of blow down to get by. At one point a spur road joins this road to the road to the lakes, below. At the end of the last timber piles and more blow down the road basically ends, it still has a faint track, but now the long grassy slopes start and it became more of a stroll. The wildflower regime here was different than below and changed even as we went up. Wildflowers were discussed and photographed. The start of the slopes was short, and soon rolled over to the base of the second knob, here there were the butcher sites of two elk, they appeared to have been boned out and packed out. About 2/3 of the way up the second slope there was a cluster of downed trees with a few younger trees growing in it, the track of the road went through it, and as I approached I’m sure I heard something growl. I unfastened my bear spray and Steve and I stood and talked loudly about if we should go through the trees or track along the open slope below them so as not to “corner” something in the brush. David and Alden were looking at flowers below us and by the time they reached us we had decided to track below and shortly were on top of the nob where David and I had stopped. Any trace of the road was barely visible here, mostly by vegetation changes from the packed tracks, and they were still a little easier than walking in the grass tufted areas off the road. The track went down the other side of the nob to some scattered timber in the saddle, then it was up the grassy slope to the summit. We all took our own routes up, I followed the track of the road up to a flat spot most of the way up, here the road trace was visible by the eroded tracks, then from the flat spot followed a line of rocks to the ridge top. My GPS said the distance was 2.8 miles/4.51k, elevation -6767 ft./2063.59m. Steve had followed me part way up but went off the road just below the summit, and he was the first up, and followed the summit rocks back to a mound that was the actual summit -just on the edge of the trees. There was Bonneville Power Administration bench mark on a rock, just a bit down from the summit. A power line runs up the North Fork Of Gold Cr. Now it was windy and spitting a little rain. We settled down in the lee of the summit mound to eat lunch but the wind died down. Alden and I started messing with the Inreaches we had along, not sure what we were doing, and finding ever more menus, both on the device and our phone apps, we hadn’t really looked at yet. He tried sending a message to me, and we both tried sending messages to phone numbers in our contact lists. David and Steve used David’s binoculars to scope out a mine across the valley on the flank of Rose Mt., then scoured the rocks looking for bitterroots, finding some just barely out. We did a group photo and started back out, it was still spitting a little bit of rain. Back at the vehicles, Alden was doing more Inreach stuff and Steve headed back to town through Gold Cr. We drove out Douglas Cr. to go to Alden’s Rock Cr. cabin, after a stop for gas in Phillipsburg. After dinner Alden and I messed with the Inreaches more, finding out more stuff. We tried again in the morning and got to send messages between the devices, and I tried getting a weather report. Now let’s see if I can remember all this for next time. There is no cell service at the cabin and when I got some later in the day, found some of the messages Alden had sent in my e-mail inbox, which, of course I couldn’t access when there is no cell service. Neither of the messages to phone numbers had gone through. But a fascinating two days.
Added by Alden on 6/28/20: Garmin Inreach devices offer several kinds of satellite-based messaging. You can send a text message to any phone number. You can send an e-mail message to any e-mail address. You can send a message to another Inreach device by sending it to the e-mail address associated with that device. You can receive messages sent to the e-mail address associated with the device. And you can send interactive SOS messages in case of emergency. All messages are limited to 180 characters. The Inreach Mini devices that we tested are designed to work with a smart phone. For messaging, you can easily use phone numbers and e-mail addresses from your phone contacts, and you can compose and read messages on your phone. You can also see maps and do GPS tracking on your phone. For more information and prices for the device and service plans at https://www.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/personal/.