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Scurvy Mountain!


Okay, I know this website and lookouts in general have nothing at all to do with pirates, BUT I am going to talk about Scurvy Mountain. And in my brain, the second I hear the word “scurvy,” I think of pirates and great wooden sailing ships crossing the oceans in search of riches and spices.

So before I tell you about our Scurvy Mountain trip, let’s delve into how the heck this mountain got such a unique name. The quick synopsis is that two men, running from the law, decided to hide out on the Clearwater River just below Scurvy Mountain. And it turns out these two men got scurvy and were too weak and in too much pain to hike out, and they ended up perishing at their cabin. The mountain that towers over that spot is now known as Scurvy Mountain.

You can read the full story and a ton of other historical stories about the Clearwater here: link to the story.

Okay… moving on. Last year, we visited our good friend Nate Raff on Osier Ridge while he was manning that tower as a volunteer for a week. While there, he pointed out Scurvy Mountain, told us the amazing story behind its name, and gave us all the details. Between that story and the fact that it was restored, available on a first-come-first-serve basis, we knew we had to go.

During our 2023 planning session in January (yes, we are that big of nerds that in January we plan out almost the entire year), we made sure to put Scurvy on the list! We moved it around a handful of times, but in mid-July, it was time.

Cat and I both bailed from work early on a Friday. The goal was to make it to Scurvy Mountain Lookout, claim it as our own, and then do some exploring for the rest of the weekend. I picked Cat up, and we cruised down the freeway, the excitement building, and maybe some pirate phrases like, “ARRR behold, Scurvy Mountain ahead, ARRR.” Okay, no one said that, and the most adventurous part of the weekend was probably trying the pizza rolls when we filled up in Superior before heading towards the dirt roads that would take us into Clearwater.

I absolutely LOVE the Clearwater. The entire river basin is beautiful and always feels full of wildlife. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s just special. However, I have never seen as many people down there as I did on this trip. They were everywhere!!! But I digress… let’s get on with the Tall Tale of Scurvy Mountain. See, I can’t say it without slipping into Pirate Mode.

After hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the base of Scurvy Mountain. The road up is steep, and it’s possible to take a single track, ATV, or SxS up, but vehicles are a no-go. Since we don’t have those fun motorized toys available to us, we parked at the bottom and hoofed it up.

Thankfully, two nice gentlemen who were setting up camp at the bottom told us that the tower was already occupied. So while we knew it was still our goal, we didn’t have to push ourselves all the way to the top. It was already getting close to dark. Due to their kind gesture, these men were not forced to walk the plank. Damnit Billy, stop with the pirate stuff; it’s getting old.

We loaded up and began heading up the steep mountain. Of course, we were only about a quarter of the way up when I realized we forgot the emergency satellite beacon. Something pirates only wished they had, so I had to go back down the hill to get it and back up again. Only upon my return did Cat point out I could have saved some effort and left my bag up top and not hauled the weight down and back up again. She gets to walk the plank for that one!

Up the mountain, we trudged. It was slow going; we haven’t done as much hiking this year and both felt it. In 1.8 miles, we gained about 1500 – 1600 ft of elevation. That’s like taking two steps forward and then stepping up a full foot in height. Do that for almost two miles, and you feel it! This mountain was STEEP.

It was dark by the time we called it quits, found a relatively flat spot, and set up camp for the night. I don’t even remember what we shared for dinner; I just remember being tired and climbing into my tent almost as soon as I was done eating.

The next morning, we woke up early, and shoved all of our gear into our tents, which we left behind, so that we could use our bags as day hiking bags. Up the mountain, we went. Though we had about another two miles to go, this next section was less steep. That doesn’t mean it was without excitement though; there was a moose on the trail, but with a little coaxing, she sauntered off the road and onto the hillside.

We hit the tower at just the right time. The group that claimed it as their own the last few nights was already up and about, and they allowed us to bore them with facts about lookouts while we took photos of the place, including the old footprint of a cabin and cold food storage locker built into the hill. For the amount of work exerted to get to the top, we didn’t stay long. Back down the hill, we went.

Just before we got back to camp, can you guess who we ran into? Yep, the Moose!! She was even more stubborn about staying on the trail this go-around, but with dogs barking, arms flailing, and some random talk about “Manning the Cannons!” she once again sauntered off into the woods. Though if you know anything about Moose, saunter isn’t a good word for such a gangly animal. They are basically a house on stilts and move with the same elegance you would expect from a house plunging through the woods. She ALMOST went right through our tents!!!!

With her away, we packed up our gear while keeping an eye on her. She didn’t go that far, and Moose are never to be trusted. Heading down, she broke out of the woods and crossed the road in front of us yet again before disappearing up a hill and over a ridge and out of sight.

I would like to say it was all easy going from here on, but once again we were on that crazy steep section, and if you know anything about steep and knees, you know that steep downhills are NOT fun. Surely, pirates never had to put up with this crap.

A mile or so later, you won’t believe who we ran into? Admit it, for a quick second, you thought it was the moose again, didn’t you? No, it was the guys that were camping at the bottom when we got there the previous day. They were picking huckleberries before continuing up to Scurvy Lake to do some fishing. They were also scouting for Moose for the upcoming fall hunt, so of course, we told them about the one that had been pestering us (okay, that’s the last mention of a moose).

We finally made it to the bottom where the truck had been stashed, loaded up, and headed off for a big Saturday.

Our first stop was the gravesite and marker of the men who died of scurvy, George Gorman and Clayton Shoecraft. If you look at a map, you will see there is also a Gorman Mountain there which once had a lookout. We didn’t hit that this time but maybe next time.

After that, we traveled to Toboggan Hill and Blacklead to scout for lookout remnants. It was hot, and I was getting cranky, but we hoofed it about a mile+ up to Toboggan and were able to locate the remnants of a lookout site. Blacklead was able to be driven right to, although it’s definitely not a Buick-rated road. Plenty of rocks to jostle you around and high clearance is a plus!

We met a ton of Side by Sides on the roads, and I was once again amazed by how busy this section of the woods was. If you look at a map, you are so far out in the middle of nowhere, many miles from a city of decent size, but still, so many people. On the one hand, I was happy to see so many enjoying the woods, getting out into nature rather than sitting in front of the TV all weekend. On the other hand, my peace and quiet were being interrupted, and I actually had to pay attention to my driving so I didn’t send us, or a random SxS, over a cliff (would that be like walking the plank?).

Tired, hot, and needing some petrol, we made our way to the Lochsa Lodge where we emptied bladders, topped off the tanks, and plundered the store of all their snacks (well, like one candy bar each, and we paid for them, so it wasn’t much of a plunder).

We headed up to the final lookout, Rocky Point, which is a manned lookout. We recognize that the Lookouts are not there for our amusement; they are working an important job. The lookouts are actively working. Just as I don’t like people barging into my living room, I don’t expect they do either. So as we always do, we politely announce ourselves and ask permission to walk around outside and take some pictures. With permission granted, we did just that before heading down the hill to make camp for the night.

Lots of miles under our boots and on the road, hot temperatures, and tons of dust made me tired. There wasn’t a lot of hanging out at camp before retiring for the night.

I woke up to one of the most majestic sunrises but was still groggy and didn’t manage to capture it. However, I did enjoy it and have mental pictures of a beautiful morning that will hopefully last me ages.

As we headed out, we snagged a few photos of flowers, bees, mountains, and sunrise. I was home earlier in the day than I am on most adventure weekends, and I’m glad that we had 4 lookout sites added to the roster!

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