Part 22: Tuchuck and Yaak, MT


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The Trip

We spent the night at a Forest Service camp called Tuchuck on Trail Creek.  The following morning we broke camp and headed further up the canyon with the intention of fully crossing the mountain range.  Fate would deal an alternate outcome.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

As we started up the trail we hit an exposed section that gave us a view of the river valley below.

Looking southwest from the trail we could see persistent snow on the peaks on the nearby ridge.

The trail generally followed the contour lines of the topography but our side of the canyon had multiple slides resulting in rocks on the trail.  The bright spot at the left-center of the photo above is a reflection from the windshield as I was too busy to dismount for a photo.

Kathleen dismounted and walked ahead clearing loose rocks out of Thor's path.

After dodging large rocks in the trail we came to a real obstacle.  Having battled snowbanks with my mog and gotten stuck twice at the same place, we treated this situation with respect.  Kathleen and I were both concerned; not about the snow, but rather the bog at the right side of the trail.  Swinging wide would put Thor's passenger wheels in the muck, so we planned to stay out of that area.  Thor passed this snow bank with ease, but a surprise was waiting ahead.  Earlier, we encountered a civilian in a pickup that told us that he turned around at a snow bank and that he doubted that we could pass it, even in Thor.  After this obstacle, we had to wonder if it was THIS snow bank that he described.

We traveled another few miles and encountered a much bigger snow bank, perhaps a meter deep.  This bank was underlain by a landslide that brought large boulders with it.  So, for us, this was the end of the trail.  This was, in fact, the snow bank the pickup dude had described.  Tragic that we were only a few miles from our objective and would now have a full backtrack in our future.

End of the road for us.  I had to back Thor for a couple hundred meters on the steep, narrow trail to get to a place wide enough to turn around.  But with Kathleen spotting it was easy.

On our way down the canyon we noticed a spring gushing out of the face of the cliff.

A bit further down the canyon we encountered a DHS guy (Border Patrol) that was running this trail as well.  Above, I told him that without a winch and a buddy with a winch he would likely not be able to pass the snow bank.  He drove up to check it out, but was in my rear view mirror within 15 minutes after having concluded that our assessment was correct.  We let him pass us and we went our separate ways.

As we approached one of the slide areas (the bald area on the cliff on the left of the photo above) we were treated to an awesome view of the peaks in Glacier Park to our east.

The trail passed through an area that appeared to be volcanic and the lava flows resulted in small hoodoos and caves.

Near the bottom of the canyon we encountered a stand of interesting flowers.  These blooms are huge with the flower being about the size of a fist.

Since we were skunked on our trail of choice and now had a 60+ mile backtrack (excluding the rough trail we did up and back), we settled for a consolation prize.  We hit the county road and turned north to go to the 8 miles to the Canadian border to see what is there.  This border checkpoint was closed after 9/11.

Like our border with Mexico, the actual line is marked by a series of obelisks.  The plaque states that the border is the result of the Treaty of 1846.

And, as a plus, these steel obelisks make convenient targets for gunfire.

Looking west from the Flathead checkpoint, the border is marked by trimmed brush.

To the east, the same except for a wimpy gate and shallow ditch to deter illegal border crossings.  Too bad that strategy does not work on the Mexican border.

The corrals are for the Border Patrol mounts when they run horseback patrols.

Just south of Flathead I took this photo of the GPS.

Bad news here.  That tanker has been spraying oil on the dirt road for dust control.  Too bad most of that went on Thor's underside.  The oil, combined with the wet, clay-based mud, made a huge mess.

We were heading back to Columbia Falls RV park that we left 3 days prior when we spotted this anvil-shaped thundercloud to our south.  When we arrived in Columbia Falls, we discovered that there was a street fair in progress.  Kathleen always needs "fair stuff" so we hiked to the fair and then had dinner.  On our way back to the RV park, the local police approached us with his cruiser at high speed and did a slide stop next to us.  Since we were on foot, we had no idea what was transpiring.  The officer spoke rapidly telling us we could not get back to the RV park because a large Black Bear had been spotted in the neighborhood.  We acknowledged him and we sped off to warn other pedestrians leaving the street fair.  Meanwhile, the owner of the RV park was tooling around town in his side-by-side quad.  We flagged him down and he drove us back to the park.  We spent the night and did not see the bear but the owner said that one of his customers barbecues regularly and that is the dinner bell to the bears.  The following morning we broke camp and headed north to Eureka.

Ouch.  We tagged the back corner of the Lance on a roof overhang when we stopped for lunch in Eureka.  Now, Lance is no longer a virgin.  And we got brush scratches too.

We turned west at Eureka and headed for the bridge over the Koocanusa Reservoir.  Koocanusa is quite long and extends north well past the Canadian Border.  We crossed to the west side and then headed north.

Our path was steep and narrow but it was paved (however poorly).  From the pass we got a nice view of some peak to the west of our position.  There is a rectangular structure on the top of that peak, a border lookout perhaps or possibly a fire watch tower.

The clouds darkened and threatened rain but it never came (on us).

It was Saturday afternoon, the local campers in SUVs were out en-masse and our first choice campsite was full.  We continued down the road and found a much better place on the Yaak River.

I was pretty pissed about not being able to cross the mountain range due to the snow bank.  But, having dug out several times before, we just resigned ourselves to a beefy backtrack and turned around.  Despite not being able to get through, it was a pretty drive; one that I would do again when get in this area next.

Tomorrow, we will head south toward Coeur d' Alene.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2019, all rights reserved.
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