17 December 2009

Skywatch Friday: Divided Skies

Butte America is at the headwaters of the Clark Fork River in southwest Montana. Our water flows to the west slope (Pacific Ocean side) of the Continental Divide. Historically, Indians and white trappers called the upper Clark Fork valley "the lodge of the white-tailed deer"--this was because the deer sought out saline seeps and wintered in the relatively snow-free valley. Note the lack of snow in this photo of lower Mill Creek (the many electrical lines and substation served the once great Anaconda Copper Mining Company smelter and railroad):

South a few miles from Butte, up and over Mill Creek Pass, is the Big Hole River valley. This water flows to the east slope (Gulf of Mexico). Clouds dump their snow on this side of the mountains, thus leaving the Clark Fork valley in a "rain shadow." For a cross country skier, this means that the Sugarloaf Mountain (aka "Mount Haggin") ski area gets much more snow (especially early in the season) than The Moulton ski trails near Butte. Here's MollyTheDog on the freshly groomed Crooked John loop:

A day later, 8 inches of snow covered that nice grooming job, making a good opportunity to take the backcountry skis for a trek around the Little California loop (this turns off from Crooked John, the main access loop):

Along the trail are some old cabins used by logging crews more than a hundred years ago, when the Anaconda Company clearcut all the timber to feed its smelter and mines. The old cabins lend the area a sense of place, and whether hiking, elk hunting, or skiing I like to stop by--like visiting a familiar friend:

Happy trails!

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Grace Olsson said...

ih...u are like me....lots snow in Sweden....arghhhhhhhhhhhhh
great shot, dear
have a nice friday

Max said...


I added a link to my CV on the blog. You can find my scientific work there.

I could go on all day about introduced vs "natural" species since many birds do quite well nesting in exotic plants at my study sites in New Mexico.

I did not grasp the concept of rain shadows until I moved to Oregon where they are more pronounced than in Montana.

Maria said...

It's amazing to see the differences between the mts. and the valley. Here near the Helderbergs of NY...we get so much more snow than people who live a half mile down the road. It's funny that way...

Sometimes, during the hot and humid months, however, we get bypassed when the weather is severe.

Loved seeing that ol' cabin.
~Enjoy your wintry weekend~

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Beautiful sky shot. Love the shots with your dog in them. My lab loves the snow.

Janie said...

Interesting that a short trip to the other side of the mountain can make such a big difference in snowfall. Looks like the cross country skiing is great.
I always like to stop by the old cabins, too, to feel that sense of history.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Beautiful and lovely shots !! Great and Amazing !!

mountain.mama said...

That makes me want to get out my skies and go!

secret agent woman said...

I love old log cabins. That one reminds me of the cabins in the Smokies.

eileeninmd said...

Cool photos, nice skywatch photo! I love the dog, is it a black lab?

troutbirder said...

It looks so peaceful and quiet. My kind of place. I miss cross country skiing & competitive tennis the most. I still hear the words of the surgeon who put in my fake knee..."be careful, & it will last a long time."