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)...


Cutthroat Stalker said...

Happy b-day Mrs. ER! Sounds like it was a leisurely one.

Is that an open pit silver/cooper/? mine to the east of Walkerville? It looks pretty deep.

I'm not seeing much snow in your pictures. And wildflowers? What are you doing with wildflowers at 6000' already? We're barely getting buds and green sprigs here at 4500'.

Very interesting about the Biscuitroot. Have you tried?

-scott c

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi ER, Gee--you must live in the most beautiful area of the country... We thought we were 'high' here on the Cumberland Plateau--yet we are only 2000 feet!!! ha

Thanks for visiting my blog. I post one blog everyday (when we are not traveling). I post at 4 a.m. (via timer).

My hubby was a college professr also (math and computers). We are retired now---and love hiking and visiting waterfalls. We've seen over 315 different waterfalls since we got married in 2001..

We also have many other interests (birding, photography, nature, etc.)... SO---I hope you will return to my blog. I am going to enjoy checking out yours.

mountain.mama said...

You are very much ahead of us in blooms, but we'll catch up soon. 37 years of marriage to your favorite? Congratulations!

fishing guy said...

ER: What a great day to share the trip around your beautiful mountain home. A really neat commune with nature.
BTW: We are considered the mid-west in NE Ohio but we are in some rolling country and not that flat areas latter on.

Anonymous said...

You have very different wildlfowers than we do - I'm enjoying seeing the little violets and other delicate spring wildflowers aorund here.

By the way, a patient mentioned to me yesterday that shew as going to stop at a creek and collect some watercres on the way home!

troutbirder said...

Hiking the neighborhood, then a drive, checking out the wildflowers and then a birthday dinner with that special someone at a small town restaurant. Life is good Eco!

~Sheepheads said...

It is amazing how big the Goldens are. I watched one above the Blackfoot Sunday when I was riding back to town. Huge birds. There was another one near the Johnsrud access dead with its head missing. Not a nice sight.

Kristine Shreve said...

Sounds like a nice day. And Happy Belated Birthday Mrs. ER.

EcoRover said...

Hi Cutthroat Stalker, the Alice mine just east of Walkerville was primarily a silver mine. It was owned by the Walker brothers and managed by their employee Marcus Daly when he first came to town.

Snow is back today, but it will make the spring forbs grow.

I have not tried Biscuitroot, but have eaten many others incl. Camas and Bistort.

Betsy, I wake up feeling blessed everyday. I look forward to seeing more of your waterfall and other nature posts.

MountainMama, spring cannot be denied. Mrs ER & I dated some years before we married; been hitched just over 32.

Thanks, FishingGuy--the "midwest" question stemmed from a recent conversation with someone who had lived in Ohio a few years and vehemently denied that it was the "midwest"--claimed it was the East.

Our violets will be coming along, but man of the N Rockies flowers are fairly localized.

Yes, TroutBirder, life is good. And it certainly beats the alternative!

Sheepshead, I'll have to stop by and take a look at your big stoneflies. But yes those goldens are meaty, and the salmonflies even bigger. So sad to hear of a dead golden eagle. What's with that? My guess is it caught its head in a trap--I've heard that is fairly common with coyote sets.

Thanks, Kristine--glad we didn't have this snowstorm on Mrs ER's bday or there would be no end to hearing about it!

Janie said...

Sounds like a lovely way to celebrate a birthday. Good to see you have wildflowers. We're getting some too. I like the horse and wildlife photos.

John Theberge said...

Great series of photos, I like those flower shots.

Deedee said...

Happy Birthday, Mrs Eco!

CountryDreaming said...

Mmmmm, that beautiful yellow Biscuitroot and its starchy description is enough to make me hungry. I also love the landscape around Big Hole River. Sounds like a wonderful way you celebrated Mrs. ER's birthday!