04 May 2009

Montana Prairie Hike

As usual, our snowstorm of last week was followed by glorious bluebird weather. Friend Dave Carter & JackTheDog joined me for a hike on the prairie near Melrose, Montana, near the Big Hole River (half-hour south of Butte):

Sadly, RolyTheDog stayed home. Even a few miles of crosscountry hiking is more than her old body can bear. Jack had no one to share this tasty (?) antelope leg with:

This is also mule deer country, as evidenced by this partial skull with antlers:

And by this small band of mulie does and yearlings watching us from the rocks and Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) along a low ridge:

Strangely, we noticed that some of the dried deer, elk, and antelope droppings were very red--perhaps from eating Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) or some other plant with a lot of red pigment?

The droppings are sometimes impaled upon spines of the Plains Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha):

Much less common, the Cushion Cactus or Spiny Star (Coryphantha vivipara) is occasionally found here too. This one will be soon be bursting forth with its showy, reddish-purple flowers:

Hoods Phlox or Carpet Phlox (Phlox hoodi) is abundant and was in full bloom with its tiny flowers:

At first we thought these were blooms too on this Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tredentata). But it's way too early for sagebrush flowers, and I think these are some sort of gall caused by a Cynipid wasp:

The geology too is interesting in this area, with volcanic, granite, and limestone contact zones (and some small mines). We weren't sure what these nodules of stone were (perhaps harder inclusions with softer material eroded away), but they were interesting:

This colony of lichen reminds us that life and time wear away all things:

And don't forget to look up once in awhile. The two golden eagles were too far away for a good photo, but here's a good view northeast toward the snowcapped Highland Mountains just south of Butte:

12 comments:

troutbirder said...

Not the kind of prairie I'm used to.... which makes it all the more interesting!

Kristine Shreve said...

Looks like a beautiful hike. I wish we had mountains in Michigan.

Carol said...

Great photos...and interesting information...the mountain shot is beautiful...

CountryDreaming said...

The prairie near Melrose, Montana, near the Big Hole River is beautiful in a curving, sweeping solitary sort of way, with clouds to match and draw you onwards. Love the first picture, it makes me want to come along.

citizen of the world said...

Very nice. I especially like the yellow lichen.

Pam said...

You wander in a wonderful world, thanks for the journey and delightful photos...

~Sheepheads said...

Sorry to read about RTD. "Life and time wear away all things." I think Allie, my oldest lab, is having vision issues.

Life With Dogs said...

Something tells me Jack was ok with not having to share :)

Deer Passion said...

Absolutely beautiful hike!! I'm glad you took so many photos to share!

Janie said...

Beautiful country. I enjoyed the spring tour.

mountain.mama said...

That looks like a great hike!

EcoRover said...

Sagebrush prairie, Troutbirder, but the short- and tallgrass prairies have their charms and secrets, too.

Thanks, Kristine & Carol--I do love this high country.

Country Dreaming, just jump on that horse and ride into the hills!

Thanks, CitizenOTW, I do have a thing for the tiniest elements of nature. Blame it on Blake's influence.

Pam, there is beauty everywhere, so long as we don't forget to look for it.

Sheepsheads, our dogs and cats with their relatively short lifespans teach us great lessons about our own mortality and enjoying every day life gives us.

LifeWDs, probably--though RTD and JTD are buddies, and it's remarkable how easily dogs share with those in their pack.

Thank you, Deer Passion. Hope you liked the antlers!

Life is good, Janie and MountainMama.