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September 25th – The Bob – Holland Lakes

May 29, 2010

September 25th

After spending a few days driving and putzing around in Missoula, Montana, I headed north for the cabin I had rented, and stopped along the way to hike a fairly easy trail to the Bob Marshall wilderness.

The Bob, as it is called, is an insanely large piece of wilderness with zero roads going through it.  How big?  Well, it’s the second largest wilderness area in the lower 48 (behind the Frank Church River of No Return, which takes up most of Idaho).  So it’s 1.5 million square acres (counting the Scapegoat and Great Bear wildernesses, which adjoin it).  Basically, draw a line from Glacier Park to Missoula, and you have the rough western edge of the Bob.

The Bob is also notable for having probably the most impressive part of the Continental Divide.  The Chinese Wall – located well within the wilderness and something I’ll need to plan a multiday hike to see – is about 40 MILES of the continental divide manifesting as a one thousand foot cliff. 

I had been close to the Bob before, as the start of the Le Grizz 50 miler is in the Spotted Bear Wilderness on the northern side of the Bob, but I wanted to get to it directly, so I found an easy trail that outfitters use to run horse and mule trains up into the Bob to help supply a few hardcore hikers/campers.

The Holland Lake trail starts as a very, very easy, wide, double path, which almost lulls you to sleep after a while as it follows the bank of a pretty lake.  All good things end, of course, and pretty soon I start heading uphill.  This is a view looking west, with a snowcapped peak/glacier on the back side of one of the Mission Mountains (and, for a change, I don’t know the name!)

The land lives up to its wilderness designation, and soon I start seeing something that makes you appreciate the power of mother nature:  an avalanche chute, with dozens of pines literally just laying out like pick-up sticks.  Not a place I would want to be after a deep snow with the sun coming out!

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The hike quickly lives up to its wilderness designation though, and Holland Lake is absolutely pristine in the early morning air.

I manage to hit the low pass pretty quickly; it’s fairly boring, so I take a few pics and head back to Holland Lake, but decide to hike north to another pass and make a long loop of it (well, not that long, like maybe 12 miles or so). The trail north climbs pretty fast, and I find myself thankful I started early, as the wind is now blowing on Holland lake, so no more mirror-reflection pictures there!

I’m guessing a lot of the Bob looks like this – deep, glacial lakes, probably just hopping with salmon (I did see one fisherman, which, if you’re willing to do a steep three mile hike to just go fishing, there’s gotta be something there!)

I descend after hitting the next pass and follow some fairly pretty country before starting some steep switchbacks to get to a much higher pass, which I have to get over to get back to my car.  However, even though it’s late in the season, I must first negotiate a dozen acres of bear grass:

Yeah, that doesn’t make me nervous!  But I’m soon up and over, and looking down a couple vertical thousand feet.  Now just to get back down there…

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