Getting to know Bob.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex south of Glacier Park is one of the great Montana places – 1.5 million acres of beautiful back-country that is as primitive as any found in the lower 48. Affectionately known as “The Bob,” the complex consists of three wilderness areas, including the original Bob Marshall, which was established in 1964, along with the Scapegoat and the Great Bear Wildernesses, which were added in the 1970s. I’ve climbed about a dozen peaks around the perimeter of The Bob, but I’ve never really ventured into it – even though it is less than 100 miles north of our home in Helena. I didn’t want to let another summer pass without exploring the interior of The Bob. (Photo Tour)

Close encounter.
I decided to do a variation of a 3-day, 2-night backpacking trip to Scapegoat Mountain I learned about from fellow blogger Tom Koytynski (see link below). None of my usual adventure buddies were available so I decided to go solo, and I also opted for a more challenging version of the trip that Koytynski described in his blog. The journey ended up being 45 miles, with my only human contact coming 9 miles into the trip when I met two forest service workers on horseback. Fortunately there were no bear encounters. In fact the scariest thing that happened was that I got dive-bombed by a hummingbird as I was taking a water break – scared the CRAP out of me! By far the highlight of the trip was ascending and walking along the cliffs of the Scapegoat plateau on day #2. Once again I was blessed with clear skies – a VERY rare occurrence during this active wildfire season.

Lessons learned.

  1. There is a fine line between solitude and loneliness, and I experienced plenty of both during this journey. During the day I appreciated the solitude – plenty of time to reflect, being able to set my own pace, getting to decide which way and how far to go. However, at the end of the day I got super lonely – The Bob is big, quiet country! It would have been much more pleasant to have someone to talk to and camp with. I WILL go back to The Bob, but next time I won’t go alone.
  2. Forty-five miles is too far (for me) to backpack in three days, especially with the types of elevation changes I encountered along the way. It was good for my self-esteem to finish such a challenging trip, but I should have followed the shorter route that Koytynski featured . . . with one exception. Instead of starting on trail #270 that took me over Crown Pass, I should have driven 4 more miles to the Benchmark Campground and followed trail #212 along Straight Creek. Trail #212 is a couple miles longer, but it eliminates the challenging elevation gain and loss required to hike the Crown Pass route (#270). Both trails connect to the trail that I followed up the Green Fork drainage.
  3. You can get a “brain-freeze” taking a bath. I started hiking at 9 am on Wednesday (8/18/17) and finished at 11:30 am Friday, giving me plenty of time to make it to a family gathering in north-central Montana later that afternoon. In order to wash away 3 days worth of sunscreen and sweat, I took my clothes off, waded out into Ford Creek, wetted myself with a washcloth, lathered up, scrubbed, and then laid down in the stream for several seconds. The flow of ice-cold water rinsed the filth away, but it also gave me one of the worst brain-freezes ever!

Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on so far – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.