06 June 2008

Finding the Sun Hole

Southwest Montana has had, in 100-year average terms, a very normal spring. That means it rains or snows everyday, creeks and rivers are overflowing their banks, meadows are like shallow swamps, and the hills look like the Emerald Isle. Beautiful, if a bit soggy.

Howard Smith and I found a break in the weather yesterday for a hike and troutfishing. He dreams of training his horse for packing in an elk camp, and he's got a few years on me and not a lot of years left to realize that dream. I wanted to show him a place that is both relatively easy to pack into and almost devoid of hunters. The latter is strange, since there are popular hunting spots on each side. Ah, but you can drive close to those places. While hiking and skiing, I've several times jumped good bulls out of this honey hole. Here's Howard taking a rest on our hike up the steep valley:

Wet feet and all, it was good to get out and see what's blooming this week. As we started out in several inches of fresh snow, the glacier lillies (Erythronium grandiflorum) was living up to its name:

The wet meadows were dotted with white globeflowers (Trollius laxus):

The dry ridges were lit up with creeping Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens):

And Nutthall's rockcress (Arabis nuttalli):

And wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana):

Oh yes, the wolves had also been out and about that morning, perhaps looking for an easy moose or elk calf. Big doggie. The tracks are six inches long from rear pad to toe nail:

Interestingly enough, wildlife biologists tell us that antelope populations increase with wolves in the 'hood. Wolves eliminate coyote predators, an important antelope predator. Coyotes systematically hunt antelope fawns, and antelope does have evolved to birth two fawns, one of which is usually sacrificed to the coyotes. This mama (the larger animal on the left-center)might keep her two fawns (they are at her heels--you might have to click on and enlarge this photo to see them):

After hiking, we hit some local beaver ponds for a mess of brook trout. I popped a beer for the ride home, settled into Howard's little Toyota with Roly-The-Dog snuggled up for the ride home, and appreciated one more great day under Montana's big (wet) sky.


troutbirder said...

Fascinating blog, great pictures especially of the mountain wildflowers I am totally unfamiliar with. Of course troutfishing is my thing and sons and I fished the Big Hole twenty years ago out of, I think, Wisdom

Chad Okrusch said...


Once more, I must live vicariously through your excellent blog. I agree with troutbirder--the pictures are beautiful. I'm home again and look forward to rewarding my writing with a fishing trip with you sometime very soon. Peace, Chad.