02 June 2009

Spring Campout: Trout, Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Wildflowers

We had MollieThe(New)Dog for a whole week, so it was time to get out for a little overnight camping. Pretty simple, really--toss some gear in the back of the pickup, drive a half-hour from Butte America to a spot with a good view & a trout stream, and set up next to the road for the night.

It's a little canyon where a creek veers away from a secondary highway. After dark, just one vehicle passed (only in Montana). Here's a view of the cliffs on one side [click to enlarge this and all photos]:

And the steep scree leading up to a forested ridge on the other:

Though a small stream you can jump across in August, it's roaring high with spring snowmelt. Here's MollyTheDog next to one of several beaver dams:

The beaver dams keep the water relatively clear and allow it to warm, so the trout were taking nymphs. Lovely rainbow trout run up from the Big Hole River to spawn:

And plump brook trout are abundant and make for a tasty supper:

In the meadows along the stream, the first Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) blooms:

Also a somewhat rare flower in this area, False Strawberry (Hesperochiron californicus):

And another "false" [?] flower, the False Dandelion (Agoseris glauca):

The day had been sunny, bright, and warm, but late afternoon cloud cover and a thundershower made for good fishing (you can see the sheets of rain sweeping across the valley):

The evening cleared just in time for a good meal over an open fire, and we were treated to a gorgeous sunset (this view is looking northeast, not west!):

Dave & JackTheDog met me for a hike the next morning. Here's two new friends, JTD and MTD, on a patch of old snow:

We hiked up a rather dry, rocky ridge with a southern and western exposure. We were suprised to see Bighorn Sheep here, a good 15 miles from their nearest "usual" location:

LOTS of wildflowers, although my low camera battery made focusing unreliable, so no pics of the Bluebells, Larkspur, Lupines, or Yellow Bells. But some pics did come out, including this Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata):

Ballhead Phacelia (Hydrophyllum capitatum):

Nuttalls Violet (Viola nuttali):

Longleaf Phlox (Phlox longifolia):

Some species of Saxifrage (Saxifraga spp), I think--at first I thought it was Death Camas, but the leaves are too rounded [if anyone knows this plant, please tell me!]:

And one of our tiniest wildflowers (just 1/4" long), Blue Eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora):

In a wetter meadow, there was some species of Cinquefoil (Potentilla spp) [if anyone knows the species, please tell me!]:

And Prairie Smoke (Geum trifolium; flower buds not quite open yet):

There were also many, many elk. We ran into them at every turn, even though we were talking loudly and kept whistling to keep the dogs close. How many elk can you spot in this fuzzy photo?:

We spotted the first spotted elk calf of the season, standing with the mother cow in a patch of lodgepole pine. I did not get a photo, as we quickly steered the dogs away so as not to disturb mother. In a week or so, the calves will be big (and fast) enough to travel with the mother cows in open meadow feeding areas. Stay posted!


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Wow--what a great post, EC. Sounds like MollytheDog is adapting nicely to your routine.

Glad you got to go camping.. AND--your hike (and seeing the elk) has got to be special. Love the wildflowers.

AND--that trout looked YUMMY... Got dinner ready??? I'll be there soon. ha

The Crow said...

I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful fish than that rainbow. A natural work of art!

Looks like you had Molly spayed recently. This outing is just what she needs to stretch out the kinks.


Lisa Wilson said...

Bighorn sheep are my favorite! I think I see 5 elk, but I'm sure there are more than that hiding around the trees.

Vicki ~ FL said...

Great shots EcoRover ~ you live in beautiful country to say the least. BTW, thanks for visiting my blog.

The Hunter's Wife said...

Beautiful pictures. Love the sunset picture. What a wonderful place to camp out.

fishing guy said...

ER: Beautiful captures in the mountains, it is so interesting when the streams run full after the rains.

Anonymous said...

Love that area. There are some small feeder streams that I've seen fingerlings in the summer. Never thought to fish it at this time of year. Good idea

Mike M. (David's friend)

lakeviewer said...

This is lovely territory. Thanks for the beautiful pictures.

Janie said...

I think I see 5 elk. Beautiful photos of landscape, flora and fauna. Looks like a marvelous hike with good fishing results, too.

EcoRover said...

Thanks, Betsy.

Yes, TC, Molly was spayed at the pound just before we met her.

You've got the elk eye, Lisa and Janie.

Thanks, Vicki.

THW, it's nice to be able to just throw down near the road--at least until early July, when the snow melts enough to open the high country for backpacking.

Thanks, FG--that's mostly snowmelt swelling the creeks, not rain.

Thanks, LVer.

David said...

the trout are beautiful, makes me want to throw a pack in the car and head north. so glad I visited here today, Thanks for your comment on Sugarloaf Mountain

Leslie said...

Great flower pics. Thanks for i.d.ing them. I'm learning my local wildflowers.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great post and great catch ecoriver! I love the elk...we have the largest elk herd this side of the mississippi...right in my back yard...we saw 4 just the other day on the way home! Glad you got to share the same beauty, and totally jealous you get to see mt.goats! :)