30 April 2009

Skywatch Friday: Spring Snow, BE GONE!

In Montana's Northern Rockies at 6,000 feet, spring comes in fits and starts.

Morning dawns on Big Butte just west of our house in Walkerville, Montana. Oh brother, here it is late April and another snowstorm:

RolyTheDog, fetching the paper, finds that her old legs slip easily on the icy sidewalk:

Let's leave the Landie in its parking place and walk to work this morning:

A chilly 18 degress Fahrenheit, but the frost crystals on an old grass stem are lovely:

By early afternoon, the low sky began to lift (view over Immaculate Conception Church in uptown Butte):

And by late afternoon the occasional "sun hole" began to appear (Big Butte, with the "Big M"):

Come sunset, we knew a sunny day would follow (view northeast from Walkerville):

And it did (view southeast over the town of Butte from Montana Tech college):

26 April 2009

Spring on the Continental Divide: Westside, Eastside, all around the town of Butte, Montana

Butte, America, sits in a cul-de-sac of the Continental Divide at an elevation of about 6,000 feet in the Northern Rockies. Walkerville is an old mining community that sits on the hill above Butte.

Saturday was Mrs ER's birthday. We began with a short walk with RolyTheDog out back of the house. Our neighborhood in Walkerville lies at the very edge of built up space with very little "sprawl" beyond. The land was heavily damaged by mining and smelting for a century beginning in the 1880s, but today it is a recovering ecosystem. Each year, we find new native (and some exotic) plants and animals colonizing the area around our house.

Our first wildflowers are coming into bloom, including Biscuitroot (Lomatium cous), with its starchy root that was an important staple for Nez Perce, Northern Shoshone, and other local Indian tribes:

And the cute, almost whimsical little Wyoming Kittentails (Besseya wyomingensis):

No walk around our neighborhood is complete without saying "Hi" to some of the neighbor horses. This friendly mare is raising her colt with the friendly, open demeanor shared by most Buttians and Walkervillains:

A fine looking yearling, and a poser too:

For the afternoon, we drove a half-hour across the Great Divide for a hike up a side coulee along the relatively pristine Big Hole River:

Where the deer and the antelope (and the bighorned sheep) play. Here, some mule deer and big horned sheep ewes:

In this landscape, even an old wrecked car takes on a rusty beauty :

We watched a golden eagle soaring effortlessly high on a thermal, a flock of turkey buzzards searching for the smell of carrion, and the usual mountain bluebirds and red-shafted flickers.

One of my favorite spring flowers was blooming: Hooker's Townsendia (Townsendia hookeri) aka "Easter Daisy." Or are they the similar Townsendia exscapa --both have hairy, silvery gray leaves, are rare in much of their range, and grow flowers without stems. Schlieman (2005), Wildflowers of Montana, says exscapa lacks a hairy tuft on the tip of the involucral bract (?). Anyway, I love 'em:

The day ended with a Happy Birthday dinner at our favorite restaraunt, the Old Hotel in Twin Bridges:

Mmmm... a rack of lamb, a glass of old vine Zinfandel (my favorite wine, of late), and Thou (aka Mrs ER, my favorite for 37 years)...

24 April 2009

In Praise of Watercress

In "Outside The Nashville City Limits," (click link to play song) Joan Baez sings:

"...And standing there with outstretched arms
he said to me, You know,
I can't wait till the heavy storms
cover the ground with snow,
and there on the pond the watercress
is all that don't turn white

Watercress! Nasturtium officinale. What a beautiful reminder that life is good even when a late-April blizzard overtakes you on a hike in the Northern Rockies.

To find this place, park on the S-turns near the Continental Divide above Anaconda, Montana. Cross over the creek on the little beaver dam:

Or wade/swim the icy creek (RolyTheDog style):

Hike up the little valley until you come to a lush, green place where some homesteader (or perhaps Indians--the location is near a major aboriginal trail) rocked up a small pond:

And someone planted non-native watercress, a healthy and tasty herb:

The water bubbles up from a limestone formation and is 62 deg F year-round. Yes, literally "bubbles up" as in this close-up photo--it's carbonated "sparkling water:"

A visit to these healing waters and a few mouthfuls of the peppery herb really perked up my spirits when I was caught out in a spring blizzard while on a hike yesterday. If you have watercress near you (it has been introduced to springs everywhere in the United States), go visit it and enjoy!


The geology of the Butte, Montana region is comples, and it's not unusual to find limestone, lava, granite, and other diverse formations sandwhiched together as they are near the watercress spring.

23 April 2009

Skywatch Friday: What Raven told Bear

Raven told Bear that anyone can fly.
You simply need to find a place high
and ride the solid blue sky:

So Bear climbed an aspen:

But when he got to the top, the sky was gone.
Spring Blizzard had swallowed it up:

Photos taken near Butte, Montana, aka Butte America, except Raven which is by MalasAr.

22 April 2009

Happy Earth Day, from Butte America

From: Ecorover
To: Earth

Dear Earth, how do I love thee?
Let me count the months and ways.
A few of the many gifts you send.
Thank you, Earth. - ER

January, the moon's long path on cold, clear nights (view west from Walkerville):

February, hungry moose in meadows (Moulton ski area north of Butte):

March, warm days on the prairie desert ("Hogback" of lower Big Hole River):

April, westslope cutthroat trout, our native fish:

May, calving elk on summer range (upper Big Hole River):

June, antelope on lush green meadows (upper Big Hole River):

July, meadow flowers in the high country (Goat Flat, Pintler Wilderness):

August, mountain peaks and Alpine lakes (Phyllis Lake, Pintler Wilderness):

September, big horn sheep on canyon cliffs (Gardiner River):

October, mule deer hunting, meat for winter ("Little Brother" AJ with his buck):

November, elk hunting, the freezer is full:

December, we gather and celebrate:

20 April 2009

(Not) Taking Too Much For Granted

Roving around the ecology of southwest Montana and Butte America, there are many things things and places that are easily taken for granted.

Every sunrise brings another chance to see the world in a new light:

Walking RTD out back in the morning light, there was an ant mound with the denizens just waking up for the day:

You know how it is when you pull a camera out--every ant person comes running to have its photograph taken:

That's Ernestine-The-Ant in the left center; she's the one presenting her best profile and batting her eye:

Nearby, there's unusual dark lichen growing on an old chunk of silver ore:

After driving 5 miles of backroad to the Butte-Silver Bow County landfill to recycle newspaper, cardboard, motor oil, and a car battery, I was a little miffed to find the dump closed. But on the way home, along Orofino Gulch Road, there's the familiar sculpture garden with some great pieces made from old horse shoes and junk iron, including the last of the buffalo:

Moose (with a miner in the background):


Mule deer buck:

Draft horse:

And, my favorite, an over-the-hill cowboy carrying his saddle:

After the trip to the dump, Mrs ER, RTD, and I drove over to nearby Warm Springs Ponds to check in on the nesting osprey:

Bald eagle:

And various waterfowl such as this brace of cinnamon teal ducks:

Watch where you step. There are lush rosettes of some unknown plant:

And delicate Moss Campion flowers (Silene acaulis):

In the distance, Mt Powell stood guard over the Deer Lodge valley:

Back home and after supper, RTD and I walked out back to catch three views of the setting sun. South to the Highland Mountain Range:

Southwest to (left to right) the West Pioneer Mountains, nearby Big Butte, and Mount Fleecer:

And, with darkness quickly sweeping over the earth, west to the Pintler Range: