06 August 2007

Many Miles Lake II: Big Hole Watershed Lake Revisited (Hiking with Emily)

Daughter Emily Munday is home from college for the summer, and has been busy swimming, working with the Clark Fork Watershed Education Project, and catching up with high school friends. The summer swim season is largely over (she won five state titles at last week's Montana State Long Course meet, see http://www.mtstandard.com/articles/2007/08/02/sports_prephighschool_top/20070802_sports_prephighschool_top.txt), and so had a day free for a hike. She chose our old family favorite, Many Miles Lake along the spine of the Continental Divide on the Big Hole River side.

We left the house at 6 a.m. or so, wanting to get an early start on the expected heat. An early start also puts you in synch with the critters, like these cow elk heading back up to their bedding ground with full bellies after a night of browsing in the valley meadows:
Hmmm... What's been going on with the trees in this area?

Well, taking notice of unusual trees aside, hiking can be a stop-and-go process with Emily. She notices things. There are a lot of grouse whortleberries (aka red huckleberries, Vaccinium scoparium) shrubs in this area. It's an important subalpine food for bears, grouse, mountain goats, and other critters;

Like Emily:
Emily brings a naturalist's eye and a sense of fresh wonder to the world. I hike along, notice "False Hellbore," and pass on. Emily says, "Hey, look at these ants tending their aphid herd;" and, "Hey, look at the gentians!" Gentians are not as common here as in some Pintler basins. When abundant, we gather a handful of leaves for a deliciously bitter tea:

As the trail nears the lake basin, it drops over the nose of a wooded ridge, and you look across the basin to the opposite, very rugged ridge:
Along the creek connecting the various lakes are meadows of bright summer wildflowers, something in the aster/sunflower family, I think: They are good butterfly food for the seasonally abundant Fritillaries (Speyeria sp?) and Milbert's (?) Tortoiseshell (Nymphalidae sp?). I'm no entomologist, let alone Lepidoptera specialist, so I'm guessing the names here (see http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/):

The Many Miles Lake basin is typical of our Pintler glacial cirques, each one beautiful and rugged. Here's the view from the upper lake:
As a beautiful place, is it too much to ask for fellow hikers to pick up their own trash? Does the concept, "Pack it in, pack it out" mean anything to yous guys?
The lakes provide excellent fishing, thanks to the aerial stocking effort of FWP, and to some natural reproduction in the lake inlets. We caught a few for supper, though the weather front & wind that moved in made casting miserable. Here's a mayfly looking for a rest, and a friendly hand:
Emily had packed in her fins, snorkel, and wetsuit, but the weather just wasn't conducive to it. What began as another hot, sunny day began changing in the late morning. At first, we thought maybe it was just the haze building from the many forest fires in the area. However, by noon the clouds were heavy, the wind picked up, and we were glad for our polarfleece or wool shirt. Glad to see the weather moderate: by the time we arrived home, c. 7 pm, it began raining and continued much of the night. This week's weather is predicted to be seasonally normal: highs of about 80 deg or so; overnight lows in the low-40s. 'Bout time.


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I love nature, I'm always impressed with this our nature gives us specially because of the trunks above I had never seen something similar in my life and the small butterflies are amazing.

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