Cannon Ball Mtn and Mt Sampson


Amazingly rugged country above Rapid River and looking straight into the Seven Devils.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

I had a big day yesterday and was a little sore, so I procrastinated. And procrastinated. Did I really want to do 4700' of gain (poor math skills) today?

So finally, after the 1:15 drive I was on my feet right at 10am. Parking lot fairly full. Horse trailers (a concern if you hike with a dog).

But lovely weather: clear, light breeze, and about 50°.

You only walk the Rapid River trail maybe half a mile, then turn steeply uphill. I figured from here on the place would be empty, so off came the leash. Trailhead

Did I mention it's steep? Let me emphasize that: steep. STEEP.

But that means loads of great views.


The trail winds in and out of several canyons, and traverses the hillsides between them. Because it's still early, the grass hasn't grown much so views are uninterrupted.

Right about here I spotted two backpackers heading up the hill above the trail. Hmmm.


Looking back down into the Rapid River canyon.


At places, this could be hard to follow in tall grass.

We're heading back into this canyon, then will cross the creek and climb up the ridge in the distance. The touch of snow on the far right might be our summit, or close to it.


When I got to the creek, I consulted my GPS. Where's the trail? The GPS map showed that I had passed the turnoff. I hiked back down the trail without seeing any sign of my turn. So I checked the map, which seemed to echo that I had missed the turn. Okay... that game trail might be what I'm supposed to follow. So up this hillside I went through brush, down timber, and steep moss. Sometimes on all fours. I could see that I needed to get to the ridge top, and I zigzagged back and forth trying to cut the trail shown on the GPS. Uggh.

Folks, your mantra should be "Horses use this trail." And they darn sure weren't going to go the way I did!


I sometimes followed game trails, sometimes just plowed after Ruby.

About half way up that ridge there is a big, flat meadowy area that appears to be a giant hunting camp. Yay, this must be where the trail is!

But there were many, many "trails" leaving this site. After trying several, I went for what looked to be the best of them.

Eventually I found a trail that roughly matched the one on the GPS map, and that got me to where I needed to go. For one, out of the trees. Trailhead

When we got to this saddle area, there were a couple tents set up!

But they were down below, and we were headed up.

Then I ran into a solo hiker who seemed to have a weak grasp of English. All I got was "Have a good one." Not sure what his deal was, we swung wide and continued on our way.


Up, up, and more up. At that last spot, we were only about halfway up our vertical for the day. I was getting tired and discouraged but could see that Mount Sampson wasn't too far ahead.

As a bonus, we got here (the summit) without using the snowshoes I had been lugging around.

As a second bonus, I could see that lugging around those snowshoes was wholly worthwhile if we were going to summit Cannon Ball (the rounded hump on the far right).

And we did summit Cannon Ball, despite the slightly punchy and very wet snow. If I look a little tired, the camera did a good job. Trailhead

But my, the views!

That's The Ogre on the right.

And again, with the Ogre now on the left, She Devil poking the sloping, snowy ramp up in the middle, and Tower of Babel on the right. Trailhead
That's Windy Saddle. In the summer, you can drive up there. Trailhead

Looking the other direction (now East), there's Patrick Butte.

But we were running low on food and water, and it was a long, long way back. So we didn't stay too long.


On the way down the upper ridge, we disturbed a herd of about 50 elk in the trees.

From the upper perspective, I found the 'real' trail and totally bypassed my ugly bushwack.

Then still lower down we saw this little fella.

When we finally got to the point where we could see the car, it seemed so close. By this point, my knees were aching. But a quick check showed we still had over 1000' to drop. Trailhead
The descent had gone really fast (about 2.5 hours). But a funny thing about the Rapid River trail.... you don't notice how much you are going DOWN-hill until you have to climb back UP at the end of the day. Trailhead


Final note: I didn't find any ticks on me, but I found two on Ruby. It's Spring!


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