31 August 2006

The View from "Mt Gibbons" - peak bagging

Fresh back from Sully basin/"Mt Gibbons." [The photo at left is the Mt G peak w/ RTD.]

I drove the Grizzly Trap Loop going in, got thoroughly shaken up. It's one of those roads where, after driving it, you want to be sure and get the wrenches out and tighten all the nuts & bolts on the truck. And the brush along the sides is tough on the paint.

Most of the hike in is along an old packer's trail at the base of "Mt ACM" scree. Bastardly ATVs seem to be pioneering a route into it. Highlight of the trip was walking up (60 feet) on cub playing with a whitebark pine cone. I yelled at and grabbed RolyTheDog, which spooked the little bear that then went crying to its mother. RTD was VERY excited. The sow -- quite small herself, perhaps 100 pounds -- was a little further back in the timber and I could just make her out. They took off one way, I guided RTD around them. Wish I'd kept quiet and grabbed the camera. But no, last thing I want is RTD chasing a terrified little bear.

Later, heard a bull elk thrashing a tree apart. The wind was wrong and he spooked before we could get a glimpse of him. Saw the tree and scraped up area. Must have been a big big bull. Tree ripped up to 8 feet high. RTD was very excited.

Made camp and napped, then hiked around a bit. Watched several goats way up on the ridge between Mts "G" & "ACM." No elk in sight, but the air stank of them, with lots of antler rubs. Also, some signs of bigger bears about.

In the photo below, you have a view of Mt G from camp.

Tuesday morning up early and headed up "Mt G." Easy scramble up the big nose across from (south of) camp. Very windy but sunny and warm enough. No goats in sight on the way up, but lots of sign -- including many many clumps of shed hair. On the summit, someone from Idaho had left a plastic thermos as a peak note jar. I replaced it with the glass jar w/ metal lid that I carried up. Something wrong, it seems, with plastic on a mountain top. Mr Idaho had come up from the Seemore side -- not an easy route. The views to Goat Peaks, Goat Flat, and the Georgetown Lake side were outstanding. Big Hole valley was smoky, and clouds w/ virga moving my way.

[Photo below is toward Seemore basin, with Goat Peaks at left top background.]

On the way down, RTD looked over to the "Mt ACM" connecting ridge, sat down, and whined. I looked and looked, finally saw what she was fussing about: a nannie and kid feeding along just below the top. Few things are cuter than a kid goat playing on the rocks. Except for, maybe, a cub bear rolling around with a pine cone.

Back to camp, a well deserved nap. Wakened to RTD playing peek-a-boo with a pine marten in a tree not 100 feet from my tarp. My they are quick. Oh well, time for a cup of hot tea. Then hiked over to the south side of basin to view the parks and larger lakes. Sure enough, spotted two decent (raghorns but 4 or 5 points) bull elk in a park just below largest lake. Just 100 yards or so away, sweet smell of elk filling the air, RTD was very excited. It rained a little on our stroll, but barely enough to wet the ground.

Finished reading Homer's Odyssey for about the 3rd time. Always a new detail: this time, the description of Odysseus' broach pin--a hound tearing a struggling deer fawn to pieces. Different times they was.

Up early the next day for the trek out. Jumped two bands of cows and calves down fairly low, in the meadows edging into lodgepole. Had another bunch cross in front of the truck on the jostling ride out. [Note to self: tighten the nuts & bolts.]

Well, tomorrow it's off to Boston w/ Emily, to get her started in college. I made her a little deer skin pouch of mementos: flicker feather, raspberry leaf, quartz crystal, elk ivory, tuft of goat fur, etc.

The View from Fish Peak (21Aug2006) - peak bagging

[Photo above: elk wallow on the way up to Hicks Lake.]

Well, in terms of difficulty, summer’s remaining backpack trips will be easy in comparison to last week’s destination: Hicks Lake and Fish Peak.

Fish Peak, especially if scrambled by way of Hicks Lake, is in my humble opinion the toughest peak in the Pintler. This is even more true when, as with last Thursday, the day includes rain, high winds, hail, sleet, snow, and visibility down to a few hundred feet. All began well, cruising up LaMarche Creek on the easy trail from the now-closed guest ranch (note that because the dude ranch is closed with a locked gate, it adds a half-mile or so to the hike). Roly-The-Dog & I made the approximate 10 mile trek in just a few hours. We got an early start and the weather was pleasantly cool but clear. There is a great deal of bear sign everywhere along the trail, we saw some wolf sign too, and treat of treats we were visited along the way by a pileated woodpecker. We did not see any elk or bear in the marvelous avalanche slides coming off the high ridges along the south side of the creek, but I’ll bet they are full of critters early and late in the day.

[Little Hicks Lake; Hickie? Hiccup?]

At the right spot, we turned up onto the old CCC trail for the 2,000 foot and 2 miles as-the-raven-flies climb to Hicks Lake. We lost the old trail as we approached Little Hicks Lake (Hickie Lake? Hiccup Lake?) in steep country filled with deadfall and bogs. RolyTD gave out on me about this time. She simply lay down and refused to take another step. Once I removed her panniers and loaded them onto the top of my pack, she was ready to hike again. Just what I needed at that point—another 8 or 10 pounds.

[Photo above: dog tired upon arrival at Hicks Lake.]

But we arrived at Hicks with no real difficulties, although I did get a little turned by the steep ridge and we popped into the cirque just east of the lake. The lake never looked so good, with the stark Fish Peak ridge looming over us. The gathering clouds helped me speed the location of a campsite and setup of my little rain fly. We slept to the sound of distant thunder and the pattering of raindrops on the tarp. Then woke to build a quick fire, enjoy a cup of steaming tea, and then dinner of Ramen + jerky followed by instant pudding. The air cooled and the on-and-off showers forced me to don full rain gear. Part of our meal was eaten under the fly. Sleep came early, and just before drifting off a fierce storm dropped an inch or so of popcorn like sleet/hail with lightening (mostly cloud to cloud) booming over us.

Morning I slept in a bit, waiting for the sun to rise over the Fish Peak ridge. The day looked “iffy” for bagging a difficult peak, but the brief sunholes and patches of blue sky were enough encouragement, and we set off around the lake and up the western end of the ridge. Though a long route, this looked much friendlier than the steep, sheer rock closer to the peak. Much of the rock strata is tilted near the peak, forming “slick rock.” We said hello to a goat after we reached the ridge and turned toward the peak. There were several elk grazing in a distant meadow near Cut-away pass. Walking the ridge was difficult, with lots of scree, unstable scree on side-slopes, and only the occasional flat spot or bit of vegetation to ease our way. The closer we got to the peak, the more the weather closed in. By the time we reached the cairn marking the peak, clouds had closed in around the ridge and first rain and then sleet pelted us. I have never found a peak note jar or can at the Fish Peak cairn, so I brought a jar and wrote a hurried note before starting down—as I was writing the note, the sleet turned to snow, which was incredibly beautiful and made pleasant because the wind died down. But the rocks were made loose and the lichen slippery by the rain. Though steep, I chose a descent near the peak. I just could not stand the thought of hiking a mile or two back through the scree along the ridge. RolyTD showed great fear of crossing any areas of slick rock, and I obeyed her intuition and we found better places to cross these slick rock slides even when it meant going back uphill. On the way down, the sky cleared long enough for a pleasant lunch and well deserved rest. Again, the lake was a welcome sight and we napped to the sound of rain.

[Photo above: Hicks Lake from Fish Peak ridge.]

The rest of the day was filled with intermittent showers, though it never rained so hard that I could not keep my little fire going to heat water and make supper. After supper, we fished a bit and caught 4 larger trout and quite a lot of smaller ones. Temperatures hovered in the low 40s. During the night the sky cleared, temps dipped below freezing, and a crescent moon lit the sky toward morning. I was up at dawn, and enjoyed watching light fill the cirque while I drank my coffee and ate my oatmeal. With sun up I aired my sleeping bag and bivvy sack before packing and starting down the ridge toward the trail. The route was good, and the morning cool. I did not change my long underwear and wool shirt until we hit the main trail, when I also removed the panniers from my pack and strapped them on RolyTD where they belong. With a light load, I set a fast pace for the trailhead. The clock in the truck read 2 pm as we climbed in for the drive home. Thankfully, no one had bothered the 3 beers that I had stashed in the creek.

[Photo above: RTD in a snow squall on Fish Peak.]

During much of every Hicks Lake trip I think “never again.” But miraculously, upon reaching the truck, each time I find myself planning the next trip.

15 August 2006

The View from West Goat Peak - peak bagging

Emily & got a late start for a long hike on a hot day. We reached the Fishtrap Creek trailhead after 8:30 am, and began the 7-mile trail portion of the hike. The first 1/3 begins with a fairly steep uphill, the middle 1/3 is fairly level but with a boggy trail where it is easy to miss the blazes, and then the last 1/3 is very steep and rocky. It was nearly noon when we reached the saddle that marked the end of trail for us. We ate, hydrated, and rested while the sky clouded over and the air cooled. Then it was up at ‘em, leaving the trail for a mile or so of bushwhacking along a finger ridge that leads to the base of E Goat Peak and the outlet from Lost Lakes.

It was good to drop the packs, set up the tent, visit with the pika and marmots, and take a nap. The sky cleared while we cooked and ate supper, and then it was time for another nap while a thunderstorm swept through. We got little rain from it, however, with most of the activity out over the foothills and Big Hole valley. The camp site was cool with some leftover snow drifts nearby, but there were just a few pesky flies and no skeeters.

Bright and early we woke, ate, and climbed the little scree headwall to Lost Lakes. They are so beautiful, and while we watched a large block of ice calved off the glacier and set off a tidal wave across the upper lake. Emily spotted a big billy way up near the crest of W Goat Peak. As we began to climb and the ridge grew ever steeper, the wary billy moved up and across the large snow cornice that you can see from Butte, and over the top and out of sight. We worked our way up the nose along the steep north chute, and again Emily spotted the goat—this one a young goat that at one point literally ran down a steep but smooth area of scree. We slowed some near the top, taking care in scrambling over the rough rock and large boulders. Once on top, we were surprised to find the cairn knocked down and the old peak jar gone. But someone – descendents of the old time Big Hole Christian/Paddock families – had visited late last summer and left a new peak jar (in the form of a metal tea can with screw top). We left our obligatory note, took some photos, and climbed back down to the upper lake where we enjoyed a well-deserved nap.

Back at camp, all was quiet save for the whistling of marmots and the occasional clatter of rock coming off the steep south face of E Goat Peak. There was a lot of elk smell in the air, and much evidence of activity. Several small whitebark pines had been destroyed by a bull or bulls rubbing their velvet away. On our hike out the next morning, RolyTheDog jumped and briefly chased a bunch of elk from the sparse larch stand just below camp. We saw only glimpses of the elk, and knew not whether they were bulls or cows. Damned dog anyway. Next time I’ll load her pack with rocks for the trek out to insure that she slows down.

Sadly, someone stole our precious few beers that I had stashed in the creek. Probably the same someone who violated the trail with an ATV and tore down the “No ATVs” Forest Service sign. Asshole. Next time, I’ll piss in a beer bottle, cap it back up, and leave it for any taker. Did that once to someone who used to filch my beer from Sugar Run on the Allegheny National Forest (probably someone from the nearby Steinhauser family camp). No one ever bothered my beer after that.

Back in town, Jan & I enjoyed a marvelous weekend of music at the annual An Ri Ra Irish fest in Butte. Lots of good beer, lots of good listening & singing along, lots of meeting up with old friends and acquaintances. My favorites were the kids fiddler group from Dillon and a contemporary jazz/rock/folk band called The Prodigals. Great stuff. Yesterday, we capped off the weekend with a party at Georgetown Lake, hosted at a cottage for the kids that Emily hangs out with and their parents. It was fun watching Emily water ski and enjoy herself with great peers. I found another Dad to elk talk with.

This week, it’s the big trip of the year—the grueling long hike and difficult climb to Hicks Lake. In the coming weeks, there will be some easier trips to Mounts Howe and Evans.

National Parks and Mussigbrod Lake


A friend called to invite us to Yellowstone, but not in August. The parks are always nice. We especially like to catch Yellowstone on the “shoulders” of the busy season—in May and October. There’s nothing like seeing large charismatic fauna up close because they are so well habituated to human presence. Mammoth is a favorite. There is a good campground there, and it’s a nice hike up to the “boiling river” where the hot springs enter the Gardiner River. That’s a nice October campout, with golden aspens and bull elk bugling as they lead their harems through the campground at dawn. We camped in Arches several years during spring break, and might start doing that again once Emily is away (there’s been a big swim meet that week for the past 5 years). The Moab area is usually a welcome respite from the Butte winter, though we did get wake to about 6 inches of heavy wet snow there one year. Good memories, those parks.

If you want to hike the backcountry to see grizzlies, I recommend Glacier. The bear density seems higher there (MUCH better carrying capacity) and the mountainous geography means that you can sit in one place and view a lot more terrain. Keep that pepper spray on your belt or backpack strap, and know how to use it. Hikers have been mauled while they fumbled with the trigger lock. The pass above the Granite Chalet (I forget the name of the pass—maybe Swiftcurrent?) is a short hike from the highway, and it’s good bear country. For a real adventure, hike the trail into Granite Chalet that comes off the pass at the top—it’s the so-called “Garden Wall” trail. Very narrow ledges that you must sometimes share with goats. Those rapier sharp horns right at crotch height give you something to think about! Don’t look them in the eye. Good memories, those parks.

I’ll probably get started on research come September. For now, it’s summertime in Montana and I begrudge every day lost to office or to yard work.

Mussigbrod Lake campout was wonderful, the lake warmer than I ever remember it. We played for hours with the Tahiti boats, including swimming from them out in the middle of the lake (past the weed beds that clot the shorelines). They are a little hard to get in and out of in deep water (much harder than a canoe—which is easy once you get the technique down), and once I inadvertently flipped Roly-The-Dog out of my boat. I was worried for her, but she nonchalantly swam the ¼ mile or so back to shore, and was ready to go in the boat with me next time I went out. Little Adler is just 6-years old and yet he is totally comfortable with paddling way out into the lake. I also fished with Adler, and he caught a bunch of grayling—including 4 completely on his own. Adler is getting to be a good shot with the BB gun, with no can safe at 20 feet or so. Brent & I made my annual hike through the 2000 burn Saturday morning, leaving camp after a quick cup of instant coffee at 6 a.m. We saw and kicked out several bunches of elk, including one confused spike that jumped out of his bed, ran a short ways, then stopped and came back toward us before taking off again. Of course, while we were gone, Jan had a mulie doe parade her 3 fawns right past the tent as she was drinking her brewed coffee. Some trees are beginning to blow over, but for the most part it’s still easy to travel cross country. This might be the last year for that, as my forester friend tells me it is inevitable that the trees will soon blow over creating an impassable landscape of pickup sticks.

Brook Trout, Raspberries, Beer, and Grayling


Fished way past dark and stumbled my way out of lower German Gulch last night, 'bout shit my britches when RolyTheDog and I walked up on a moose in the half moon light. Being out at night is magical. Owl hooting. Coyote singing. Strange rustling noises. I was so inspired I drove the old RR grade in the dark with the headlights off until I hit the blacktop. Once upon a time I'd have to use drugs to get into that kind of state. Thrills come easier with age, I think.
Felt the same way nestled into the brambles and picking raspberries yesterday. Watching the little spiders that look like raspberry blossoms perched and waiting for their prey. Examining each shoot from several angles to find the ripe fruit hidden beneath the glossy green leaves. Admiring the beauty of our native humble bees as they worked the blossoms, unrolling their tongues to sip the nectar. Moving slowly so the thorns ride over my hide instead of digging in. Wow. Life is good.
As for beer, I believe in the aphorism, "Moderation in all things. Including moderation." I'm usually happy with one or two 12-ounce American Budweisers. But with the right group and inspiring conversation/celebration, I have a thirst for 3 or 4 pints of IPA. The combination of high-alcohol and mildly psychotropic hops is marvelous. I guess I'm more careful about eating too much than drinking too much!
Back at work today, trying to wrap up a letter from scientists to the US Fish & Wildlife Service re: fluvial Arctic grayling (i.e. "Big Hole grayling"). Bush regime has sent word down that there shall be no more ESA listings. This means the lackeys at FWS have to figure out a way to remove "Distinct Population Segment" status away BH grayling. DPS status is overwhelmingly supported by the genetics and field studies. If some prominent grayling biologists weigh in, it might prevent FWS from tying itself into a pretzel to deny the science.

Spring Weddings and Hikes


Jan & I will be at Josie Youderian's wedding at the 320 Ranch in the Gallatin this weekend. Josie graduated from our program last year. She is marrying a fellow named Chad--it's a good story how I met him: we nearly had a head-on collision as I was driving out too fast from Bear Mtn with pieces of a bull elk in the back, (exhausted having shot him first thing that morning (it was one of the few elk I've gotten out of the woods in the same day), while Chad was driving in too fast with a cow elk tag in his pocket. I suggested he walk past the gate on the road and hunt the parks, he did, and he shot a cow that evening (as he told me when I saw him on campus the next day).
Anyway, an offer to hike LaMarche Creek trail brought back good memories. That is a lovely trail, and I have hiked it in and out many times. It gets a lot of horse use, as you will see by the ruts. There are usually elk and moose in the willows and meadows along the creek. The creek is full of trout. It's a long way in to the divide, but if you do get that far there will be lots of snow in June. The woods are very wet this time of year. The skeeters are also emerging in force now.
I had a largely uneventful but beautiful hike yesterday up along the ridge north of Moose Cr and then back down through the creek bottom. I was hoping to find some sort of old logging road or trail, since elk use that area a lot but I've hesitated to follow them not knowing how I might get a dead one out. Many times I have had elk bail off the top of Bear Mtn and run into the upper valley (which is a sort of a big bowl). What I found was a lot of scrambling over rocks and deadfall on the ridge, and a lot of scrambling over deadfall and through woody brush (tag alders, alpine laurel, and some other species I did not recognize) through the bottom. For the most part, the whole basin seems to be a hellish jungle full of elk, moose, and bear sign. Lots of fresh bear sign, so I was not surprised to see a tawny-golden colored little bear flipping rocks in a slide area at the very head of Moose Cr as I watched through binoculars from a steep rocky point a half mile away. Later, down in the bottom, a calf moose heard RolyTheDog and I crashing through the brush and came crying over to investigate us. I pleaded with it to please go away while Roly and I hurried off in the opposite direction. I am terrified of moose in thick brush. It rained much of the day, but did clear around noon so it was delightful to shed my raincoat, build a fire, and enjoy a hot cup of tea. I kept adding punky wood to the fire to discourage the skeeters. I will stick with my judgment of not following elk into the upper reaches of the Moose Cr valley. It's a pleasant enough hike, but nowhere you'd want to haul an elk from.
I have seen several mule deer bucks in the velvet. Their antlers are very noticeable now. Some elk bulls already have antlers two feet long.

We had a late crowd at daughter Emily's graduation party. Some of the hunters and I got into a nice beery conversation about elk racks. The following morning, Brent & I took a nice long hike along upper California Cr in the rain as Brent was interested in seeing some Indian stuff. He was amazed at how many antelope were in that area. They were seldom seen there when he lived here 10 years ago.
We have the last (I hope!) of the graduation parties tonight -- for Emily's friend Keith who has been admitted to the Air Force Academy. The party is at their family's place up in the Highlands, so I hope to learn a little about the elk there. Leroy (he teaches here at Tech) and others consistently kill bulls there, but though Dave & I hunted it hard for a few years we never figured it out.

Spring Camping at the Home Ranch


Saturday was gorgeous, with clouds sometimes obscuring the Pintler peaks, but with lots of sun and gorgeous views to Goat Peaks, Pintler Peaks, Mts Howe, Evans, Short, and Haggin. There were a few sprays of rain throughout Saturday and then on Sunday morning. While we were setting up the tents, a nice buck antelope tormented RolyTheDog. The buck would let her chase him and get within a hundred feet or so, and then sprint way ahead and turn back to watch. At one point, he even ran a circle around her. He behaved very territorially.

First thing after setting up our little tents we drove over to Moose Cr for firewood, saw a nice mule deer buck in velvet, cut a big pile of standing dead aspen. Back at the Home Ranch, we hiked up the valley. Lots of elk, of course, and we had the rare treat of watching a cow nurse its little spotted calf. While we were napping on a sunny slope out of the nagging wind, a bull bugled just below us in the pines. We saw just one moose, though a few weeks ago we saw more than a dozen so they are around somewhere.

The ground is a profusion of wildlflowers, everything from glacier lillies and prarie smoke to bluebells and phlox. While we were admiring the flowers, a doe antelope nervously watched us from higher ground. No doubt she had a fawn hid on each side of the low ridge. As we were leaving -- circling to avoid disturbing her -- a young bald eagle began hunting over her, looking for one of the tasty young fawns. On our way back down to camp, I was looking along Deep Cr and found a live mussel about 1/2 mile above the ranch buildings. I've found shells there before, and wanted to confirm the presence of the seemingly rare Margaritifera falcata that Em studied up at Clam Creek near Mussigbrod.

For much of our hike we followed the old Indian road on the bluffs above French Cr. Surprise, surprise--the highway dept has laid out the new Mill Cr Highway route right along the old Indian road, through campsites marked by tipi rings and lots of beautiful blood-red and butter-yellow jasper flakes from the mine up the valley just above the ski area. I suppose the highway makes more sense on the bluffs than in the creek bottom--if and only if they obliterate the old highway. They will probably build new access roads to Moose Cr, Frenchtown, etc. Speaking of the jasper mine, Dave & I stopped there on our way home Sunday morning and hiked up the ridge, took in the quarry sites, found a campsite at a little spring just below the quarries. It's beautiful stone, and I even found one lone flake of obsidian-like material. Dave also noticed that the quarry area has an oddly unrandom seeming distribution of food plants--incl blue camas, huckleberries, Oregon grape, currant, strawberries, and raspberries. Wonder if the Indians didn't do a little gardening at regularly used spots. Or maybe they just took a dump and planted what they had been eating.

Lots of birds to observe, from the osprey hunting a circle upstream over the old irrigation ditch and then around and downstream over Deep Creek, to the great blue heron that flew upstream to its (presumably) fishing site and then downstream to its (presumably) nesting site. The heron's last flight was a about 1/2 hr after sundown, and its first flight about 1/2 hr after sunrise. It seemed to make the flight every few hours. The sandhill cranes seem a little scarcer than usual, though it might because they are molting and hiding out. One "pterodactyl on native ground" flew low over our heads, and we wondered how it could stay in the air with so many missing primary feathers. The huge swallow flock that lives in the old barn is a constant amusement. They all swarm out together, feed -- sometimes for only 15 minutes or so -- and then all swarm back into their nests to feed the young.

Wow. It's great to live in SW Montana. It was hard to head home Sunday morning.

"It is not enough to fight for the West; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still there." - Ed Abbey

Fishing and Chainsaws

Jan & I took AJ over on the Jeff near Lewis & Clark caverns yesterday after he & Jan got out of school. We found a sunny spot for Jan to set up the picnic station, and AJ & I began fishing up a run. Wearing just hip boots, the kid is a fearless wader. No bites until we got to a nice pool. AJ's first cast into the pool brought him a 17" brown, second cast a 13" brown. Then it got a little slow for awhile and we caught some nice rainbows that we had to release. We decided to fish another 10 minutes and then head down to Jan for supper. AJ's last fish was a 21" brown of about 3 pounds. A whopper. His family will appreciate the meal. AJ caught his fish on worms cast upstream and retrieved dead drift, then allowed to swing down. It was his first time fishing a stream or river, and I think he's a natural.
I had not fished the Jeff for several years, and forgot how magical it could be in this window before it's blown out.
A friend is trying to talk me into taking the Forest Service chain saw course. I don't use mine much anymore, and I did take a chainsaw safety course in 1981 offered by the oil refinery where I worked. We burned a lot of wood in those years -- wonderful white and red and black oak, sugar maple, shagbark and pignut hickory, beech, and cherry. I had a trailer that was twice the size of the Rover. I knew some loggers growing up and when we moved back to Bradford; most of them had a horrible chainsaw scar or two. One guy was reaching up over his head limbing a tree, the saw kicked back, and the chain ripped his head open from above the hairline to just near one eye. He looked like Frankenstein's monster.
If you use a saw and don't already have one, get yourself a peavey -- it will save you a lot of work, keep your chain from dulling in soil & rock, and prove a safety benefit.

Springtime in the Rockies

Dave & I had a good trip in the Rochester Basin.We did a lot of hiking in some very rugged country, though much of Rochester Basin is gorgeous and fairly level high prairie -- wideopen prairie country. Dave took pics of old mines, I admired shooting stars (flowers), meadowlarks, elk, antelope, and found some tipi rings, etc. A lot of elk came down to a spring in the morning. They will be splitting off and calving soon. Appleman was to go with us, but changed his mind and skied the southern end of the Tobacco Roots instead. Hard to believe he's still skiing. Says he'll ski until the rivers get high and make for good kayaking.
Saturday evening we had a little rain shower (not even enough to drive us away from lounging 'round the fire), Dave got some great pics of a rainbow, and RolyTheDog chomped down on a small porcupine. Her first bite ever. Not sure what got into her. Pulled about two dozen quills from the roof of her mouth, tongue, and lips. Pulled several more the past day or two -- they keep working through from the inside and show up on the outside. Glad I had pliers with me.
We saw some bear hunters driving around, but we did not see any fresh bear sign.
I got an email from an old friend today -- he reminded me that it's time to plan the Memoridal Day campout. If the weather is decent, we plan to camp at the Home Ranch. If the weather is not so good, I'm liable to be there alone, listening to the bare-headed bulls whistle while the cows calve. I'll plan on making camp Friday. On Saturday (27 May) evening, I'm giving a talk at Anaconda's "Blast from the Past" festival http://goldwest.visitmt.com/listings/16217.htm, and we'll probably hang around the event much of the day.

Mud Season


The Moulton road gets pretty muddy past the last house. I've not had any trouble with either Jan's Subaru or my Toy pup, but I have confidence and pretty well know what each will do. If you go first thing on a cold morning, the road will be frozen and no problem, but it does get soupy come early afternoon. It's not bottomless though.
Nice spring snowstorm. We got nearly 12" at the house. I had to go out on an errand last night at 10 pm or so, and it was a little tricky getting back up our hill and parking. It'll be gone today if the sun stays out.

Dave co-opted me out on a hike in the lower Big Hole hills last week, looking for what he suspects is a jasper deposit (didn't find it). It was cool and a little wet in Butte, but gloriously warm, sunny, and dry there on the wide open prairie and rolling hills. Saw the largest buck antelope ever. Not another sole or human structure in sight for miles. What a great place to ride horses that would be.

Cross Country Skiing near Butte Montana


... Interesting bunch of characters on the road above the parking lot this morning. One nice vehicle was in the parking lot, with foot tracks and tire tracks going up the road from there. In all, there were four big old 4WD pickups stuck when I skied up past. The "old man" -- the 40-something year old Dad of one of the mid-20s boys -- told me his son and a buddy had gotten stuck late yesterday. When they got back to town and drove the buddy's truck up, it got stuck too. When the Dad and another buddy returned to help out this morning, they got their two trucks stuck as well. [this reminds me of how we used to shoot turkeys in Appalachia, so long as you kept shooting the one in the rear, the others were oblivious...]
When I went past at 10 a.m., the Dad was carrying beers from his truck up to the boys who were using a Handiman jack to lift one truck, then kick it sideways off the jack. Three little kids (ages c. 5, 7, and 9) were playing nearby, along with some mean dogs. The boys all seemed pretty drunk at 10 a.m., and had obviously been there about 2 hours. When I came down the road at noon or so, they had two trucks free and were working on the other two. Dad was carrying beers up to the boys who were again working with the Handiman jack. No winch or come-along.
They looked a rough and dangerous bunch. Real Butte good old boys. Probably live on Colorado St off of 2nd St and drink at Klapans or the Mint (they make the gang I see at Pissers look like an upscale private club). When I asked the two who had originally gotten stuck if they knew the road, they said they did. But the road doesn't go anywhere. Only to the camps/summer homes around the meadow. I suspect they had set out to rob the camps. That happens every few years.