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4 Bob Marshall Questions (1 about bears)
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Timothy Reynolds
(magrenell) - M

Locale: New England
4 Bob Marshall Questions (1 about bears) on 01/14/2013 11:37:17 MST Print View


I'm planning a hike in the Bob Marshall Wilderness for late August of this year, with two hiking buddies. We all live in NYC, hike throughout the year, but have mercifully discovered the West in recent years.

To those of you in the know...

1) How "no camping allowed" are the no camping allowed areas near the Chinese Wall? I don't want to seem facetious with a question like that, but we are certainly looking to spend at least one night camping out that isn't at a lean-to, as we're finding it a bit tricky figuring out a decent 6 day loop hike (as we'll only be using one car). We'd love to camp in this area because, well, it's meant to be very beautiful.

2) What would be an appropriate hiking day interval (8, 10, 15 miles) for a 6 day, 5 night hike, given your experience of this terrain? I realize this is a seriously general question, but a rough guide would help us plan our route.

3) How appropriate is it to hike off trail? Is it generally safe to do so?

4) Bears. We have always used the PCT bear-hang method, and have never had real problems as where we hike there're just black bears and the odd moose. We've taken to referring to our bear-hang as a critter-hang. Needless to say, we're reading up on all the available bear safety techniques, and will be employing UL appropriate measures. Nonetheless, this seemingly silly question is plaquing one in our group — after you eat at your designated eating area, your food smell sticks to your clothes. Is it safe to wear these clothes to your tent? What do you do, if not (carrying sleeping clothes became redundant long ago)?

Thanks for indulging me!


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Bob on 01/14/2013 13:08:08 MST Print View

1: The reg exists for a reason. That section is delicate alpine meadows in one of the most visited areas. If you're going to get a ticket anywhere in the Bob, it'll be there in late August. There are fine sites just south of the zone, and excellent ones just north of it.

2: If you're contemplating some variation of the Wall-Sun River Loop from Benchmark or the reservoir, most of those trails are very good and pretty flat. The higher parts are enough to give some people altitude issues, so keep that in mind. In summer I find 20 miles days quite easy on that kind of terrain.

3: No one will object. Not recommended in lower elevation spruce forests as they're pretty thick.

4: Hang your food, camp away from the cooking area, and you'll be fine. I think the sleeping clothes thing is rather silly unless you spill steak juice all over yourself.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
take the bear can on 01/14/2013 13:17:56 MST Print View

i know b-cans are a pita, but for what they weigh, and for how not-all-that-long your trip is, you can put the issue aside, and not have to hang (takes sometimes quite a while) the food. you'll sleep better too, and have something to sit on during dinner.
give it a bit of thought, and you can fit all yer grub into a big one. and the first day is "free".
the wall looks like it might be a good rip all on it's own, if one romped the top of it. maybe you could camp way up there. it's not like it's a 2k' climb or such.
my recall is that the trails in that area are all well used horse routes, and thusly quite fast and open. trails can get real muddy in some wooded areas of the Bob.
have a great trip !

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Bob Marshall on 01/15/2013 19:03:49 MST Print View

The section of trail over Pagoda Mt is awesome - as are many areas in the Bob. With six days starting from Benchmark and wanting to see the Wall, I'd probably go something like:

Benchmark -> Run along under the Wall -> Larch Hill Pass -> NF White River -> Over Pagoda Mt to S Fork Flathead-> White Pass -> Benchmark (or reverse)

That'd be ~90 miles and it'll get you above tree line a couple times (Pagoda, White Pass). You can make good time in the Bob because most of the trails are well maintained and the inclines are normally gradual (so horses can make it).

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
BMW on 01/16/2013 16:16:57 MST Print View

David's response is perfect.

The area that you are asked not to camp in is relatively small. There is plenty of camping with water on either side of that area. The wall are itself has been abused but is recovering nicely as long as we continue to tread lightly.

You can do high miles in this area. A lot of it is flat. The trail is sandy and socks and feet can suffer. Be sure to bring blister care and maybe some gaiters.

Bear are certainly around. I have seen Grizzly and Black Bear in the area during the day. At night I hang my food, cook away from my camp, clean and brush teeth away from my camp. Pretty much what the picture at the trail head says to do. I choose to carry bear spray but have not had to spray it yet. I have a friend who works in Glacier and she has had to use it there.

Off trail hiking is fine. I do it quite a bit. Try to let someone know your route if possible. We lose a few people out there each year.

You forgot about Fire. There are likely going to be fires. This year my last hike in the area started beautifully and ended with very thick smoke and poor visibility. Once they get going it's hard to find clean air. It is also hard to predict what the year will bring. This year was worse than normal. Still, I believe I was able to make to trips in during August before things were too bad.

I love the BMW and hope you have a great time. I try to get there as many times as possible during the season.




Edited by zippymorocco on 01/16/2013 16:19:20 MST.

Timothy Reynolds
(magrenell) - M

Locale: New England
Bob Marshall Questions on 01/17/2013 08:54:57 MST Print View

Thank you all for this great information.

Particularly Dave. While the no-camping thing is a bit of a no-brainer, sometimes that no-brain can get the better of us. Thank you.

Dan, I really appreciate the route suggestion. I have a copy of Cairn Cartographic's trail map, and have been a bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the place. Hiking the Grand Canyon, last year, was pretty straightfoward — either go East, or go West, or Rim to Rim; this feels totally different when it comes to planning :-)

Thanks, James, for the heads up about fire. It's not something we have to contend with here in the Northeast. I once spent a day or two near Flagstaff AZ when there was a pall of smoke from a distant fire. It wasn't a good time to discover I had mild asthma. We will take this into consideration.

You guys are the best!


Edited by magrenell on 01/17/2013 12:18:53 MST.

Timothy Reynolds
(magrenell) - M

Locale: New England
Further Questions: Hunting Season? Snow in September? on 01/17/2013 12:16:45 MST Print View

I have one further question to throw at you. If we were to go in mid-September, what is the likelihood of our running afoul of hunters? Do we need to wear bright orange vests, or something annoying like that? We're probably going off trail a bit.

While we're aware of the weather situation, and how volatile it could be (I should think we will get a couple of days of some snowfall) do we need to be overly concerned?

Thanks, again. We're trying to fix a date, this is why the flurry of questions keeps coming atcha :-)


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: hunting season on 01/17/2013 12:34:14 MST Print View

Wilderness rifle season starts Sept 15th, so around that date you'll see lots of hunters, mostly horse-packing in. The single largest Bob user group. IMO you'd be a fool to not wear bright colors that time of year.

For that time of year the weather could be excellent, but plan for snow, rain, mixed precip, and night time lows down into the single digits at higher elevations.

If you have the choice earliest September might be the best. Increased chance of warmer weather, and right between the summer hiking rush and autumn hunting rush.

Timothy Reynolds
(magrenell) - M

Locale: New England
Hunting Season in the Bob on 01/23/2013 11:23:42 MST Print View

Great info, Dave. Thanks for the heads-up.