Approximately 26 miles south of Butte lies one of the most unique outcroppings of quartz monzonite in southwest Montana. Covering more than 11,000 acres, the Humbug Spires is an area where terrain is a combination of dense forest, open meadows and about 50 quartz towers jutting out of the earth. These towers rise anywhere from 300 to 600 feet, and, with names like the Wedge, the Wall and the King, draw the attention of rock climbers throughout Montana.
No, don't worry. I am not switching gears from walking it off to rock climbing off the weight (although I have never seen a chubby rock climber). This area is an outdoor recreationist's playground and was my choice for a hike this past weekend.
With a sunny and warm weather forecast, my friend Jennifer and I left Butte early Saturday morning and headed to Moose Creek to hike the main trail to the most popular tower — the Wedge.
The hike starts at an elevation of approxi-mately 5,800 feet and progresses to 7,045 feet at the base of the Wedge. The trail is a well-maintained single track that follows Moose Creek for the first 1.5 miles. It's at this point that hikers will see a "Y" in the trail and will need to stay to the right to avoid hiking into a small section of private land. As the trail continues away from Moose Creek, the incline becomes a little more challenging and the trail a little less prominent.
Jen has hiked and climbed in the area before, so she was familiar with the trail, which was handy in a couple of spots where the trail seemed to fade. There's enough traffic in the area that even without a defined track in spots, it's pretty easy to recognize the trail for the entire hike. It's also at the halfway point that we started to see the quartz spires rising out of the green, mountain grasses.
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Along the way we passed through a couple of drainages, a campsite and an old miner's cabin. I use the term "cabin" loosely, as its remaining walls are only about 3 t0 4 feet high, and the roof is long gone. But this landmark is only about 100 yards from the Wedge and is a good point of reference when hiking the trail for the first time.
Arriving at the south base of the Wedge, we began climbing up the southeast side over smaller boulders until we were resting about two-thirds of the way up and had a bird's-eye view of the terrain we had just hiked and a number of smaller spires. The air was cool and windy on the Wedge, and, although the temperatures were in the 80s at ground level, I was grateful that I had a jacket and pants to wear until we descended back down the spire.
The hike was 6 miles round-trip, and a steady and sometimes hefty incline on the way up would make this a moderate hike for any experienced hiker. If you're just starting out, the full hike would be difficult (but not impossible). Try hiking the first half of the hike along Moose Creek to the "Y" in the road or until the incline starts to increase. If you're in the mood for a longer hike, wear good hiking boots (waterproof if you have them), with good socks (I couldn't find my moisture wicking socks and boy did I miss them), pack snacks and plenty of water. If you are bringing your dog, don't forget to pack some water for him or her, too, as they only have access to the creek for the first half of the trip.
Getting to Humbug Spires is super easy. Take I-15 south toward Dillon and exit at Moose Creek. Turn left at the off ramp to the frontage road and follow the dirt road to the left for about 3 miles. The trailhead has a parking lot, an outhouse and a trail map of the area and is easily spotted from the road. To view a map with a listing of the more prominent spires, go to the BLM Web site or follow the link below http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/fo/butte_field_office/recreation/humbug.html.