Evans Outdoor Adventures

Idaho-Montana Border: Blossom & Pear Lakes, Aug 2017

A pair of lovely mountain lakes along the Idaho-Montana border

Distance: 8.5 miles round trip

Type: out and back

Difficulty: moderate with a total elevation gain of 1,734′

Best season: summer and early fall

 

celebrating 45 at Pear Lake

Hiking is good for your physical health—we all know that. But those of us who hit the trail on a regular basis often do it more for our mental health. When coworkers ask if I’m hiking over the weekend I frequently respond, “of course, time to go hike off some crazy!” I laugh when I say it, but I couldn’t be more serious. Hiking provides me with a peace and clarity of mind that I find nowhere else in this crazy world.

My 45th birthday found me needing some peace more than ever. Just the day before, I lost my last grandparent. Grandpa Rod, the man who beat cancer multiple times and was healthier through his mid-80’s than most of us can hope to be in our 60’s, had passed after a short battle with heart failure. A carpenter all his life, he had been so physically strong that doctor’s didn’t even know there was a problem until the last month of his life.

celebrating Grandpa’s 86th birthday in 2015

I was blessed with four grandparents who showered me with their love during my childhood. Later in life, I’d realize not just familial bonds, but true bonds of friendship. At 45, I couldn’t believe they were all gone. The week ahead would be full of preparations and family. But first, I took a couple days and hit the trail looking for even the tiniest amount of peace and healing.

my early hiking days with Grandpa & the cats

I looked for some place close. I was exhausted from trying to balance grandpa’s final days and work. And it would be an equally exhausting week ahead. But I also wanted to set my eyes on someplace new. To complicate the search, the Inland Northwest had been socked in with wildfire smoke for much of the summer—the result of 100+ fires burning in B.C. The largest four fires alone were just under a million cumulative acres. My hope was that conditions might be a little better in the mountains, but I knew they’d be smoky anywhere we went. I had been eyeing up Revett and Blossom Lakes off Thompson Pass along the Idaho-Montana border for some time. They didn’t look spectacular, but they looked like enjoyable day hikes.

What is normally a beautiful summer drive from our home in Eastern Washington up through Western Idaho and the Coeur d’Alene National Forest to Thompson Pass felt like a smoke filled tunnel. The sun rose red in the sky as we made our way through the posh resort town of Coeur d’Alene. While conditions were still much hazier than I would have liked, I was relieved to see the smoke moderate a bit as we climbed to the top of Thompson Pass.

smoke haze at Thompson Pass

Thompson Pass (elevation 4,826′), straddles the border of Idaho and Montana along a mountain ridge line that separates the two states through miles of national forest and wilderness. On the Montana side of the parking lot, I found the signed trailhead for Blossom Lakes. In the center of the parking lot, just inside the Idaho border, we found road 266 which would take us 1.2 miles to the Revett Lake Trailhead—our destination for the following day.

tons of parking at Thompson Pass

Almost immediately we found ripe huckleberries along the trail. They appeared to be at their peak and we’d see them almost continually on our hike. The trail was relatively flat for the first half mile before beginning a moderate climb over the next mile and a half. We walked through moderately dense forest that was lush and green.

YUM!

We passed one signed trail junction where the horse trail came in from the left. We took the right branch here. After that, there were several side trails to the right that were not indicated on my map. I looked at the GPS and took my best guess, keeping us to the left at each junction which ended up being correct.

At about two miles in, we topped out at 5,775′ elevation. There were a few views in this area, but they were pretty hazy because of the smoke. We then made a gentle descent to Blossom Lake (elevation 5,655′), 3.0 miles from the trailhead.  The hike had taken us two hours (thanks to some berry grazing) and we hadn’t seen anyone on the trail. One of the lovelier parts of the trail was a cute little stream that we hiked along for a short distance before arriving at the lake.

We crossed the outlet stream and made our way down to the water’s edge and took a nice break. We found nice campsites on both sides of the outlet stream. Blossom was a good sized lake of moderate scenic value. It certainly wasn’t the most spectacular lake we had ever seen, but it was lovely enough. I’ve seen photos of the lake in the fall when the hillsides are lit up in red from the huckleberry bushes.

Lower Blossom Lake

From Blossom, the trail climbed at a modest grade to 6,240′ elevation before dropping 100′ to Pear Lake. The total distance from Blossom to Pear was 1.4 miles and we saw an abundance of bear grass that was mostly past its prime.

Pear Lake was much smaller than Blossom, but with a more impressive setting. Photography was challenging since I was shooting into the sun under smoky conditions, so my pictures really don’t do it justice. At the outlet, there was a nice camp site with a boulder field nearby and an additional small site just above the trail to the left. Neither would be a great option if anyone else was camped at the lake. The boulder field was home to an active population of pika and we could hear their squeaks as we enjoyed the scenery.

Pear Lake

After only passing one other group of hikers on the hike in, we had quite a bit of trail company on the way back. Backpackers, day hikers, trail runners, and huckleberry pickers were out enjoying the summer afternoon. Back at Thompson Pass, the GPS put us at 8.5 miles with a total elevation gain of approximately 1,734′.

we did not make the correction, but both distances are wrong!

We headed down the Montana side of Thompson Pass to the lovely mountain community of Thompson Falls. Will, a coworker of mine, was getting ready to retire there and he provided us with great tips on where to stay and eat. The Riverfront Motel was an especially good recommendation. We had an adorable log cabin that looked brand new. There was a nice pond out front and we spent the evening entertained by a rafter of turkeys and a black and white bunny rabbit who thought he was a member of the feathered group. Rafter of turkey? Yup, that’s an actual thing. I thought they were a gaggle of turkey, so this was a new one to me!

brand new cabin at Riverfront Motel

Directions from trailhead: from I-90 west of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, take exit 43 and travel north on Coeur d’Alene River Road (highway 9) 21 miles to a junction and bear left. Continue 1.7 miles then turn right continuing on highway 9. Climb 16 miles to the top of Thompson Pass where you will find a large paved lot on the right. The trail starts at the far end of the lot (eastern side).

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