That year I never even found the trail. Take a journey down the green waters of this premier river through a wild and remote wilderness. At 7 pm I was on top. In this case, to stay on schedule I needed to be rafting the Spotted Bear at sunrise (5:30 AM) during the coolest part of the day and likely during bone chilling rain. Seven of us left with Steve “Doom” Fassbinder, an experienced packrafter and guide, to run the North Fork Flathead for thirteen miles to the confluence of the Middle Fork downstream. Soon I caught my first glimpse of the corniced headwall (below). Every year I improve, yet every year mastery doesn’t seem much closer. Post by Tori.newburn » Tue May 12, 2020 3:11 pm The PFD had at least 15 substantial holes including two large chunks missing. Music from Hands Upon Black Earth (to reflect the dark, cold, wet periods of the trek) and Chris Cunningham (to reflect the cheery, sunny, warm periods of the trek). Thus it wasn’t certain to go, and if it did it might be with the challenges of darkness, heavy rain, fog or snow. Trip Reports. I managed to miss the corner of that cliff, and made great time with the soft snow and alder allowing me to slow myself sufficiently, which wouldn’t have been possible on firmer snow. We will pack your gear and your float equipment and can also pack you in if you aren’t up for the long hike into the South Fork of the Flathead River. As I reached the edge of the precipice, it was clear that an impressive vertical drop awaited. Read More. It is very scenic. I had taken one look at that section while planning my route and concluded that it was impossible.”. I was concerned about the packrat though. Backcountry adventurers discover packrafting In this July 24, 2014 photo, Jared White paddles his packraft through a rapid on the South Fork Flathead River.in Mont. Always good to read this report and the blog in general. Flow: 4,300 – 3,400 cfs @ MF Flathead West Glacier Gauge. After the trail gains the alpine, it circles around ridges and cliffs for 3 miles before descending on gentler terrain. Thereafter they realized their mistake so newer maps have this route in red (which all the other participants were using) but I was unaware that Cairn had made this mistake and thus expected a maintained trail. Packrafting the Flathead River in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. I’ve been through horrible alder bushwacks before. Thus I stopped early for the night at 10:30 pm to rest on the porch at the Pentagon cabin – likely my earliest ever stop in the BWMO but still with a solid 38 miles completed. Moving fast isn’t a superior way to experience the wilderness, but it’s good to do occasionally because a stress test exposes weaknesses and amplifies the learning experience. Especially toward the end of the trip, going into Meadow Creek Gorge. Making 1.5 MPH when you wanted to make 3.5 MPH is disappointing, but if you slow further to 1 MPH or 0.5 out of discouragement, then you’ve substantially lengthened the suffering even more. 2. He planned to raft the Middle Fork another 30 or so miles and take a later pass (a plan which would be foiled by the onset of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from Will’s recent tick bite). I had two passes planned for the first day, with the first one likely to be straight forward as it was a popular and low (6500′) route, but the second pass was intimidating. Instead of packrafting at ideal flows, in good weather and with the company of friends, you often end up packrafting at high flows, solo, tired, during poor weather and at either dusk or dawn. Getting over a pass and back onto terrain I can handle in darkness or bad weather is always a relief. As a side note, several other participants would go on to execute high passes well after darkness on this night and my hat is off to them. I’ve been stuck here enough times to know that they key thing is not discouraged and slow down even more. I regularly get lured into participating in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Open: a point A to B; plan your own route; wilderness event in the Montana Rockies during challenging off season conditions. The latter was the route with good style, but now with heavy rainfall and diminishing daylight hours I reset my ambitions to just completing the former, which in itself looked dubious with the potential for snow, rain and white out conditions on the likely corniced ridge. Enter your email to receive notifications of new posts. In addition to guided fishing trips, we offer drop & float trips on the South Fork of the Flathead River. Back in 2012 my blister strategy was simply to let it happen and keep walking, which resulted in a supremely painful final 24 hours. The South Fork of the Flathead in Montana is perhaps the best packraft river in the lower-48. Soon after it popped during one unsuspecting step, and my entire pinky toe shed a sleeve of skin. At 1 lbs, the quilt is nice safety buffer and lets me go lighter on other warm layers. If all goes according to plan, I hope to check out the Bob for a BSA trek at MOHAB. Much of the trails in the Bob are well maintained and the popular Cairn maps illustrates these with a black line indicating a “primary” trail. One in particular was a must-make take out. … Good to hear from you, Jim! I broke camp just after 4am and was at the put in spot on the Spotted Bear around 5:30am warmed up from fast hiking despite the steady drizzle. Length: 38 miles. There's no way to verify, but all evidence points towards the number of packrafters on the South Fork being an all-time record this year; a number certain to only grow. The river looked more sporty that I was hoping it would with the rain of the last 24 hours obviously driving up the levels, but likely manageable. Immediately I noted that the calming influence of having a partner is a strange phenomena, considering his temporary presence (he would split off after a few hours) did nothing to alleviate the challenges that lay ahead. White, who has been packrafting for three years and kayaking for 12, had packrafted the South Fork of the Flathead River once before, the last time … in Packrafting, Trip Report, Photography, Camping. Jared White paddles his packraft through a rapid on the South Fork Flathead River in July. The water was swift and cold, and the weather could not have been better. I paddled Class I-III rapids on the North Fork of the Flathead River in Montana in July 2014 with a group of packrafters. I’ve realized the hazard of this, which is the first step in staying safe. Those 8 miles passed quickly in about an hour, and I reached my take out at Soldier Creek around 10 AM. However, one of the problems with packrafting in the BMWO is that the timing of it never works out how you’d wish it would. Nicely done and congrats on the best new time. It’s billed as not a race, but the “R” word slips out here and there – often enough to know that some individuals treat it as such. But I also wasn’t in the mood for a 3 mile detour after my alder battle, so I trusted my pre-trip planning that concluded there was a route through the cliffs. Like the previous pass, I had left myself a choice between a grand line, or one that were merely good. Unfortunately, I saw that they turned south, and then west. Day 1 – 38 miles (36 walk, 2 raft) Other packrafts exist, but they are either too fragile for moving water use in a wilderness setting, or too heavy. The first BMWO was back in 2012 and I finished the 110 miles totally beat after 66 hours. My mishaps when rafting almost always happen from a lapse in attention or judgement, so I used the lack of a PFD as a rallying cry to stay laser focused on hazards ahead. I've been getting lots of questions concerning what … More broadly, very little to do with packrafting during the BMWO works out how you wish it would. The only thing that motivates me to suffer for mile after mile is if I’m trying to push as fast as I can. Packrafting the Alatna River: The Wilds of Gates of the Arctic National Park. The ascent was entirely reasonable, with no slopes steep enough to require removing the snowshoes, and a well situated break in the two-tiered cornice which allowed passage: With the rain holding off and 2.5 hrs of daylight, I had conflicted feelings. Hi Dan, I found your video and description of your climb and decline and I have a great deal of admiration for your tenacity and your meticulous planning. Packrafting Montana's South Fork Flathead River Listen to the River, from Wild Confluence Films, is the story of a classic summertime river adventure gone awry. Once on top, I would follow that ridge with the option to descend after two miles into the Pentagon drainage (where a trail would await), or continue on ridges all the way to the Spotted Bear River at Dean Creek. In this July 24, 2014 photo, Jared White paddles his packraft through a rapid on the South Fork Flathead River.in Mont. I also couldn’t come up with a good reason to take on that risk, given that the 5 mile shorter distance would be offset by slower travel on the snow. Beyond were a few canyon sections with beautiful waterfalls, spooky currents and moderate rapids – one of which separated a fellow participant from his boat – but I consistently took the most conservative lines and managed to stay surprisingly warm and trouble free. I like a leisurely 10 miles per day in the summer, with frequent stops to wet a fly line in a likely creek. Otherwise I’ll slow dramatically to a pleasant pace. July 15, 2019. by John Nestler. Dates: June 27th – July 1st, 2019. With the dropping temperatures, I was worried about handling rain – or perhaps snow – on the high ridge. Where to go: You can go packrafting wherever a trail leads to a body of water. Still, it’s clear to me the learning is nowhere finished. The plan was to hike 5 miles up Clack Creek and ascend a steep slope on the headwall which appeared to form a break in the otherwise continuous cliff band of the Trilobite Range – at least on Google Earth. The rat sampled a variety of my stuff sacks, as well as the buttons on my InReach satellite device. In brief though, I was glad to arrive at the finish in good shape both mentally and physically. It repeated scurried onto my quilt during the night, and I worried it would take a bite out of my raft – leaving me very far upstream with a flat boat. Heavy rain continued as I moved up Clack Creek and disappointingly, I was greeted by substantial snowpack as well. Our bush pilot had just dropped us in Gates of the Arctic National Park, near the Arrigetch Peaks in Alaska. In the midst of all that, I’d forgotten to worry about my route for the final pass. It’s time to return once more to the giant ponderosa, the cutthroat, the steep ridge lines and the cold waters of the place that first taught me what a wild river is.  Other trails exist which are typically not maintained at all, and these are illustrated with a red line for “secondary”, which really means a brutal trail if you can find it. So I stayed at full exertion despite the limited progress, and made my way to the headwall of Conner Creek having lost about an hour and a bit of skin to the alder battle. It was a steep downhill slide to the pool, but if I had learned anything about backcountry fishing, it was that pools like this are worth fishing. However, Montana has one particularly iconic spot for this adventure: the South Fork of the Flathead River, located in the beloved-by-locals Bob Marshall Wilderness. Terminology aside, I try to move as fast as I can. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay warm enough to paddle all 28 miles, but I figured my best approach was to lay up a few miles shy that night so I could hike a few warm up miles before my dawn put in. On my own, I got serious about the upcoming pass. The South Fork of the Flathead River in Montana is one of those classic packrafting trips my husband and I had been scheming about for years. Aug 7, 2018 Take a journey down the green waters of this premier river through a wild and remote wilderness. Intro He intended to shortcut straight down the cliff face to Bond lake. I made a token effort to patch it, but it was comically in vain given the size and abundance of the holes, and the poor tape I had on hand. The first few miles to Soldier Lake were fine but on the back side the trail became an overgrown logging road, and then deteriorated entirely as I joined the “trail” for 8 miles up Conner Creek. The snow was total mush after the recent warm temperatures and now hours of rain, so I began post holing. Eventually I did try them and was pleased to find them enormously helpful. I calculated that the full 9 mile ridge route would take 4 hours on snowshoes, which would leave me navigating complex terrain in the darkness, even if the rain/snow held off. Especially toward the end of the trip, going into Meadow Creek Gorge. The deep green water and the canyons make for some great pictures. In minutes rather than hours I was down to Bond lake. I figured I’d likely have to blow up the boat anyways to cross the Middle Fork Flathead in a couple miles, so if I could take a few miles off my feet here that would help. Our goal is to give you the knowledge to push your planning and paddling skills into the wilderness. Hardest hit was my inflatable life jacket which was no where to be seen. Eventually the rapids grew substantial enough that I figured they were at the limit of what was responsible. Taking care of my feet has been a consistent challenge in the BMWO as they prune up and blister abundantly in sustained wet conditions. Packrafting the Middle Fork of the Flathead River - YouTube Maybe next year I’ll plan a really hard pass for 2 AM just to challenge myself. Class I-II / PR 1-3. That cliff sounds a little dicey but the naturally available anchors paid off. I’m with you, Kirk. By dropping off here, I had 1.5 hours of daylight to find my way below snowline and onto the Pentagon trail, which I accomplished by 9 PM. On snowshoes I neared the headwall of Clack Creek and was greatly relieved to have the rain cease as I broke above treeline. But packrafts are also incredibly helpful for hikers and backpackers who wish to make routes and link trails that would impossible without a packraft. If I stop coming to the BWMO, it won’t be because the event no longer challenges me. We had camped at the confluence that forms the South Fork and as we ate fish tacos and smoked pipes, we pondered what might lie down-river. The Flathead, in northern Montana, is part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. A rowdy little creek is fun, but the whirlpools, boils and strange currents of a large river at high water are just unnerving. This summer, after so many years, I’ll pack into Big Prairie with my dad and small group of friends and then packraft down the South Fork of the Flathead River to Spotted Bear. Despite the currently okay weather (light drizzle), committing to spending a large portion of the day wildly exposed on this ridge while heavy rains were in the forecast was an easy option to decline. I hoped to take a much more direct line straight down the far side, which was largely covered in cliffs: At the pass, I realized I was at the juncture of a major route decision that I’d hardly put any recent thought into. Meadow Creek gorge is pretty fun packrafting at low water, and the silver lining of 2015 is that it’s in good runnable … It is very scenic. At the moment Alpacka packrafts are the only game in town. The two rafting miles on Strawberry Creek passed pleasantly and I reached the Middle Fork of the Flathead at Clack Creek around 4:30pm, where I said goodbye to Will. There’s simply too many variables (water levels, winds, snowpack, precipitation, wildlife, terrain, fires, trail conditions, body limitations etc) and interactions between those variables (e.g. Next time you are in the Bob, catch a nice Cutthroat Trout on my behalf. Packrafting opened up a world of adventure for me. from Dan Hagen Plus . Packrafting the Flathead River in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. Enter your email to be notified of new posts, The Volumetric Efficiency of Trekking Pole Shelters, BMWO Gear Choices – Where Man Does Not Remain, Ruokien säilyttäminen leirissä – KEVYESTI KAIRASSA. It is also very remote. There are 3 main reasons for this as I see it: 1. Packrafting Adventure on the South Fork of the Flathead I glanced down off the trail and noticed a deep pool with a strong current going through it. Jun 6, 2012 - Explore Tiny House Blog's board "Packrafting", followed by 28311 people on Pinterest. I reminded myself of the plan “cut left and if you get to a cliff, cut harder. It had rained briefly in the night, which served notice that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate this year. I put in and quickly had to navigate several logs across the river before the wood diminished and I was free to turn my attention to the upcoming rapids I had annotated on my map. I paddled another 8 miles downstream from where the Spotted Bear River joined the South Fork of the Flathead, and was relieved to be clear of any substantial hazards. From there progress finally was straight forward, with a good trail awaiting and large free of snow. Story by Eric Hanson, Photos by Jacob Moon. From here I anticipated smooth sailing to the finish, given that my feet remained in good condition and the route across the Swan Range stayed on major trails and mostly below snow line with the exception of one 6400′ pass that I expected I could quickly ascend and descend. Watch out for the final takeout warning sign, which is well above river level and midway through the rapid right after the takeout gravel bar. The Flathead River System offers a unique … 6 friends set out into Montana’s legendary Bob Marshall wilderness to float and fly fish the pristine South Fork Flathead River. With wilderness travel I haven’t been able to find a middle ground. I could have legitimately gone for a jog the next day, which is something I can’t say of any previous BMWO. This 5 or 6-day fishing excursion is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fish the famous South Fork Flathead River drainage. Even the calm sections had enough power to pick you up and take you away. If you can learn to go mistake free with your body, route and gear while pushing 40 miles a day, then you gain a nice safety buffer when you dial that back to 20. This section highlights packrafting on Danaher Creek and the South Fork Flathead River when the S Fk was running at 2,500 to 3,000 cfs @ Hungry Horse. When I planned my route, I wanted to packraft the Spotted Bear River because it’s something I’ve never done. However, a weather forecast for substantial precipitation over the first two days put all that into jeopardy. 2019 BMWO The deep green water and the canyons … The price is the same for a 5 or 6 day trip you can decide which is best for you. Instead of packrafting at ideal flows, in good weather and with the company of friends, you often end up packrafting at high flows, solo, tired, during poor weather and at either dusk or dawn. The South Fork the Flathead River, a great wilderness float and home to some sublime under-river cobbles. I’ve learned so much from the BMWO on how to take care of my body, so it was really nice to have that pay off in terms of minimally sore knees and feet. I awoke partially rested at the start on saturday morning after a night of sleeping on my packraft (good for snoozing) and worrying about the weather (not good for snoozing). I planned to put in 5 miles downstream at Dean Creek. I had purchased my maps from Cairn back in 2012 when they first came out. Back on trail, my focus shifted to the next obstacle: packrafting the Spotted Bear River. Being from the desert, the idea of hauling a raft deep into the wilderness was fairly novel. Unbeknownst to me, Cairn hadn’t done all their research when the first batch of maps were printed, so they my planned trail over the Swan Range in black (major) despite its status as a long abandoned and slide alder covered logging road. Hope all is well with you up there in the True North. The ride in is 6-8 hours so at least two of the days will be devoted to riding on horseback. In the span of a few hundred meters the weight of carrying them paid off. The trick is to keep the slope near that, and not hit spots that are substantially steeper still. The river grew steadily sportier and larger, with the latter not being my preference. The South Fork of the Flathead River in Montana is one of those classic packrafting trips my husband and I had been scheming about for years. My feet had only one blister to to this point, so I picked up the pace and finished the final 9 miles in 2.5 hours to stride into the Swan Lake Campground finish at 7:30pm (35.5 hours). This break in the rain put a new urgency in my step – urging myself to get up and over this ridge before rain, snow, fog or darkness arrived. An hour later at 8 PM I reached my departure point from the ridge, still regretful I wasn’t doing the full ridge but not seriously considering it. Every strategy for taking care of my feet while walking 30-45 mile days in wet conditions is a losing one, but the trick is to lose slowly enough that my feet aren’t too beat at the end. I could go on at great length on post trip thoughts and lessons, but for now I will largely refrain. Soon I was nearing what appeared to be at least a few hundred feet of cliff, so I veered harder while rappelling down some alder I was now appreciative of. Rafting & Paddling the South Fork Flathead River Floating the South Fork of the Flathead River is perhaps one of the finest floats anyone can do in the lower 48. South Fork Flathead River July 13-24. Most notable was the time a blister on my pinky toe expanded under the pounding of my footsteps until it encapsulated the entire toe in one big blister. Day 2 – 53 miles (28 raft, 26 walk) As I sit here now, I do regret not trying it because I could have pulled it off. In the years ahead I may leave the raft behind and push further on what I can do on foot alone, including exploring whether my worries of taking on high passes and long miles at night are rational or fear based. Now I’ve participated six times and while I have learned a ton, I’m no longer naive enough to think that I’m near the point where I’ll know it all. The snow began at only 5200′ after largely snow free conditions until above 6000′ on Gateway Pass. The route dropped about 1000 vertical feet over about 250 horizontal yards, which is an average slope around 50 degrees. Just did a three-week trip in the Bob; didn’t come close to doing ten miles on any day. Additionally, I wanted to link the valleys together with interesting passes to add a challenge with the potential reward of a short cut if successful. Soon after, Will and I put into Strawberry to packraft (downstream of Trail Creek). Trip Report: Packrafting the Middle Fork of the Flathead River July 15, 2019 by John Nestler in Packrafting , Trip Report , Photography , Camping Packrafting has always interested me, but it wasn’t until I won an AIRE BAKraft at Gauley Fest last year that I seriously considered putting a lightweight river … With another hour of daylight I might have risked it,  but the pragmatic decision was obvious, so I turned my focus towards completing the still stunning 2 miles on the ridge to the Pentagon drainage. Pinky toe shed a sleeve of skin 1 lbs, the idea of hauling a raft deep into the was., so I began post holing cut left and if you get a... Montana in July use in a wilderness setting, or one that were merely good or 6 trip. 6000′ on Gateway pass fairly novel challenges me night, which is something I ’ m alive... Had planned on paddling sounds a little dicey but the naturally available anchors paid off midst of all that jeopardy... 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Next obstacle: packrafting the North Fork of the Arctic National Park eventually the rapids grew substantial enough that figured! The idea of hauling a raft deep into the wilderness was fairly novel to receive notifications of new.! I began post holing River, about 200ft wide and moving swiftly at a high gradient had., Photos by Jacob Moon sit here now, I ’ d taken care! A body of water the crew 25 miles up the banks of this, which the... Had purchased my maps from Cairn back in 2012 and I reached my out... Finally was straight forward, with frequent stops to wet a fly line in a wilderness setting, or heavy! Too heavy my stuff sacks, as well a packraft before descending on gentler.. About 1000 vertical feet over about 250 horizontal yards, which is the first in... Mastery doesn ’ t be any harder lbs, the quilt is nice safety buffer and lets me lighter..., about 200ft wide and moving swiftly at a high gradient he intended to shortcut straight the. Take you away, Jared White paddles his packraft through a wild and Scenic System... With you up there in the BMO in minutes rather than hours I was worried about handling –!

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