WINTERSPORTS -- A lot of the work volunteers devoted to re-routing the trail to Star Peak went unnoticed on New Years Eve, buried under 5 feet of snow. But snowshoers Tyler Nyman and Shuwen Wang of the Spokane Mountaineers found the lookout, which itself was caked in snow and ice overlooking the Clark Fork River.
A relatively easy hike during summer into the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, the route is a grunt in the winter.
"It's very hard," Wang said, noting they had to break trail in the soft snow. "We spent 11 hours on the "trail," 7 hours up to the summit and 4 hours down," she said.
"The lookout was so frosty, very different from what it was like in the summer."
Some of Wang's photos are posted here, along with a couple I shot during summer of the lookout and nearby historic structure for comparison. "It's a doable day hike,"she said, especially where the wind didn't obliterate their tracks. Breaking trail is the hardest part, she said.
"We actually used the Big Eddy Trail 998 to get up but had a very hard time to follow the trail due to deep snow so we went straight up to the summit for the last part, while trying our best to avoid tree wells. The summit climb was brutal because of the 30+ mph wind."
Star Peak Trail 999 is a 5-mile single track on the Kootenai National Forest of Montana that starts off U.S. Highway 200 just east of the Idaho-Montana border. The peak formerly was called Squaw Peak.
The trail was redone over several years by the U.S. Forest Service and the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.
The lookout, built in the 1950s, is being restored. Even more impressive is a nearby ranger’s cabin built of stone around 1910.