July 9th, 2005 - Thompson Lake - Take 2

July 9, 2005, Saturday

It’s our second try to make it to Thompson Lake, and this time we made it! Ron and Ronnie, Kim and Betsy in their “limo” CJ-8, Larry in his “girly” Jeep, and Willie and Jeanne in their some what stock 48 flat fender, or as Ron calls it “the skidder”.

The trail is off of Boulder Creek which runs through Maxville off of Highway 1. FS road 5184 heads north and has a turn off FS 78452 to Thompson Lake and Goat Mountain Lake. It has some sections that approach a class 3 trail for most vehicles, not difficult but it can be if you lack driving experience

Turning off FS road 5184 the trail gains elevation quickly, 167 feet in a third of a mile at one point, and is 7019 feet at creek crossing before the lake, and 8125 feet at tailings pile above the lake where we stopped to eat lunch and enjoy the great view of Goat Mountain and Thompson Lake below it. It’s 7.5 miles in, which took us 1 hour 45 minutes, with close to an hour stopped time to cut several trees that were across the trail. The trail bumps and thumps over many boulders, passing through numerous verdant meadows and lots of wet muddy spots. Unfortunately it seems that “quads” have an aversion to mud and boulders and have blazed numerous bypass trails helter skelter through the trees and meadows to find an easier route. There were still patches of snow, and many different wildflowers in bloom, including buttercups, shooting stars, anemone, marsh marigold, glacier lilies, and spring beauties. It’s interesting that it’s still “spring” here in this high elevation. We had “typical” Montana weather, clouds, wispy fog, and sunshine with a few sprinkles on the way home.

We spent about an hour or so hiking around the upper lakes, not wanting to drive across wet meadow. Actually the trail officially ends at the lake and it’s questionable if you can legally even drive to the top of the hill to where the mining remains are located. There are many white bark pines, knobby boulders, and the ground around the lakes was carpeted with anemones and marsh marigolds. We kept looking for mountain goats with no success, tho we have seen them here before, but we did find the “remains” of a dragon.

Once again, this is an “in and out” trail, so on our way out when we saw another little trail take off through the trees, we decided to give it a try, hoping it would lead us to one of the other lakes in the area. Willie and Jeanne followed it for about a mile, to spot where sign said “use bridge to cross”, and it kept getting narrower and narrower. Larry’s Jeep didn’t want to run, or so he claimed (being the sissy jeep it is), so turned around to assist him, and due to driver error slipped off a side hill portion of the trail and had to winch back onto the trail.

No matter what Larry claims we’re sure he wanted to conserve gasoline since it’s getting so expensive, so Willie and Kim towed his Jeep out. Good thing there were the two other Jeeps, as it was quite difficult to pull Larry’s Jeep through some of the muddy spots. Luckily, Larry thought about adding some air to tires to reduce the rolling resistance, which did make it easier to tow and easier for him to steer. It was a long, slow trip back to Missoula on a tow strap in order to save a few gallons of gas.