27 February 2009

EcoRover Goes to Boston

I'm a homebody, and don't like to wander too far from the good elk hunting, backpacking, cross country skiing, and trout fishing in my backyard. But Mrs. EcoRover & I weren't about to miss daughter Emily swimming at her conference championship, either, as well as a chance to see friends Andy & Sarah Wilson and their daughter Emily from New Hampshire. So off we went.

Mostly, we sat and cheered in the morning, drank a pint or two for lunch, then cheered some more for the evening finals. But we did get out to a few sites, like the New England Aquarium:

With its amazing jellies:

Cute penquins:

Show-off of an octopus:

And hard working snails:

Looking at fish for two hours builds up an appetite for fish at our favorite spot, The Barking Crab:

Best oysters in Boston:

After a hearty lunch of oysters, crabcakes, and pints, it's time for a walk. For a little city, Butte America has great architecture, but I am partial to the grand old train stations found in cities; here, South Station:

You can't walk far above or below ground in Boston without taking in some of the great street performers:

For the girls, there was a little shopping time, which I find for the birds:

We also visited the Museum of Science, took in an IMAX show, and were totally enthralled by the butterfly house. Sorry for all the pics--these are only a few of what I shot:

And even in the big city of Boston, you can find a little wildlife. No, seriously. Like the infamous Charles River white geese, seen here from the Boston University bridge:

Alas, here we are back in Butte, missing oysters and seeing daughter Emily. Guess we'll head to Chico Hot Springs/Yellowstone National Park this weekend and drown our sorrows.

26 February 2009

Emily Munday Sets Records with Boston University Terriers

Here's the local newspaper write-up on daughter Emily's performance at her conference championship swim meet. Photos are by EcoRover.

Butte's Munday breaks record at conference meet

By The Montana Standard Staff - 02/26/2009

Butte native Emily Munday, a junior at Boston University, competed recently for the Terriers in the America East Conference Swimming and Diving Championships.

Seven NCAA Division I teams swam at the four-day event hosted by Boston University. The BU women took the title for the first time in 14 years, besting two-time defending champion University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

[Team and coaches in the pool celebrating their championship:]

Munday broke her own school record in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 54.73 seconds in the preliminary round, and went on to take top honors in the finals with a 54.88.

[Emily in lane 5, off to a lead in the first 50 yards of the race:]

[Preliminary times with a new team record of 54.73; closing in on the 54.54 conference record (next year!):]

Munday also proved a big asset to the Terrier's relay teams.

The Terrier women clinched their conference victory by smashing the school and conference record in the 400 free relay with a time of 3:24.30. The winning combination was sophomore Kirsten Tullis, Munday, sophomore Maria McIntyre and senior Eve Kinsella. Munday swam her leg of the race in 50.96.

[Kirsten, Emily (second from left, with cap), Maria and Eve after the big relay:]

The BU women's 200 freestyle relay team took first place and set a school record of 1:33.94. Munday led off with a 24.17, followed by Tullis, McIntyre, and Kinsella.

Munday helped her 200-yard medley relay team to a second place and another new school record of 1:42.24. Relay members included McIntyre, freshman Kristen Connors and Tullis, with Munday swimming the butterfly leg of the race.

Boston took third place finish in the 400 medley relay with a time of 3:49.41 by McIntyre, Connors, Munday and Kinsella. Munday swam the butterfly leg.

Munday also put points on the board in individual events with a fifth place finish of 23.89 in the 50-free and a fifth place time of 58.13 in the 100 backstroke.

[Emily with Evan Morris (BU '09), supper at the Union Oyster House:]

Munday is a marine biology major and has one remaining year of eligibility. She was a Butte Tarpon and Butte High School swimming standout.

16 February 2009

The Moulton Angel

Well, after blogging The Moulton Demon, what could I do? I am trapped in the structural symmetry of Yin and Yang...

But it was a suprise, just one day after sighting The Demon, to flush two Spruce Grouse as I was skiing down Moonlight Flat toward Claimjumper. Not quick enough to wingshoot them (you bird hunters will know what I mean), I found the place under a lodgepole pine where they took flight:

Angel wings. The world is balanced now and I feel much better.

Not too good, though, as I'm always a little nervous when the Moose people are about (they can be downright irascible about dogs and skiers on their turf). Luckily, this one kept to his browsing, barely taking notice of RTD and I:

A beautiful morning with good snow on or off piste, I could have stayed out touring all day. Well, not THIS day. Wouldn't want to miss closing time at the local florist, with a certain Mrs. EcoRover in mind:


The Moulton: Montana's finest cross country ski trails. Just five miles north of Butte America.

13 February 2009

The Moulton Demon

This morning dawned clear and cold. Despite the cold, the snow was fast. But I was not: a good morning for an "easy" (though still highly aerobic) workout, and a lot of thinking. Skiing along, you can feel yourself pass through warmer and cooler regions. This morning, the temperature around The Moulton trails varied from -8 deg F to +10 deg F. Why is that?

The mathematician and theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79) helped develop a statistical understanding of gas temperature:

When we say, "The air is -10 deg F," we are talking about the average temperature (i.e. kinetic energy) of many, many air molecules. If we plotted out the "temperature" of each individual molecule, the resulting graph would take the form of a Gaussian (aka "normal") distribution:

In the open air, the molecules mix, transfer energy to one another, and the air is a more-or-less even temperature. What would happen, Maxwell wondered, if we could sort the individual molecules. Install a partition, and herd the "hot" (fast) molecules into one side, and the "cold" (slow) molecules into the other side. All that it would take is a tiny being who could recognize each molecule as it came by, and open a little door to let the hot (or cold) ones into the other room. Thus was born Maxwell's Demon, from Universe-Review:

Alas, poor Clerk Maxwell, also known as "the life of the party" anywhere drinks were served, was allowed few such reveries. Mrs. Maxwell was something of a Demon herself (i.e. a Presbyterian) when it came to sorting out the fun in life. As soon as Clerk would get into his third pint and start to unwind, Mrs. Maxwell would say, "Mr. Maxwell, it is time to go home...you are beginning to enjoy yourself."

The old Moulton Dairy meadow is one of the coldest places along the trails. Forget easy explanations such as "cold air settles into low meadows on calm nights," or "Mrs. Maxwell lives here." No, let's go for the paranormal. A Moulton Demon that stands guard around the meadow, herding the hot molecules out and the cold ones in. In fact, THERE IT IS! See that layer of haze at the lower end of the meadow? That's the Demon, here caught on film:

Climbing the trails to Nipper Junction, we leave The Moulton Demon behind. It's warmer up here, as these little demon people that were so active last night know:

Probably the tracks (note the tail drag) of our common deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus):

Years ago, while camping in a cave, I first heard the song of the deer mouse. In the powerhouse (the central engine location for pumping rod-activated oilwells), Gramps tamed deer mice so they would come to him and take crumbs from his hand at lunchtime. Hmmm... I'm beginning to enjoy myself...must be time to go home.


The Moulton: Montana's finest cross country ski trails, just five miles north of Butte America.

11 February 2009

The Lost Art of Walking

As a devout peripatetic who walks 1&1/2 miles each way/each day to work and who loves hiking, I greatly enjoyed my downriver neighbor (Missoula Montana) Barbara Theroux's essay and book review. Enjoy! - EcoRover


On the Bookshelf
The Lost Art of Walking:
The History, Science, Philosophy and Literature of Pedestrianism

By: Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction, Missoula MT
for Headwaters News
Feb. 11, 2009

It is no secret that I am a walker. Many people comment that they can determine how early or late they may be in the morning based on my position on the Higgins Bridge in Missoula, Mont.

Several years ago, I gave up my car, moved to a central location and began walking everywhere. OK, I'll admit to riding the bus and calling the Green Taxi but for the most part I use my two feet as I work, shop and connect to Missoula. So I was delighted to discover a new book by Geoff Nicholson entitled THE LOST ART OF WALKING.

The book gives an account of the intellectual and cultural history of a most common activity--walking. This simple activity has inspired numerous subcultures, literary and artistic legacies, sporting events, personal memories, epic journeys, mystical revelations and scandals.

The author began work on this story-filled volume with a jaunt through the Hollywood Hills near his home in Los Angeles, promptly took a header and broke his right forearm in three places, thereby joining the ranks of Aldous Huxley, Thomas Jefferson, Oliver Sacks and others who walked and fell.

Nicholson was soon back on his feet, with this historical account of the who, what, where, why, when and how of walking, including his own adventures on the streets of Los Angeles, Manhattan and London.

Nicholson's witty style and distinct way of describing an ordinary activity make this a thoroughly enjoyable read.

While by no means exhaustive, Nicholson does himself tread a lot of ground; readers may find the ultimate effect is that they are inspired to put the book down for a nice long walk with a newfound way of observing the scenery.

Each section of the book can be savored and discussed.

Chapter 5 "As I Tripped Out One Morning: Music, Movement, Movies" is sure to start one thinking. What songs to you think of as you walk? Bob Dylan's "How many roads must a man walk down?" Fats Domino's "I'm walking"? OrAerosmith's "Walk this way"?

Frankly, I never thought about songs or movies, I just learned to appreciate the sights and sounds of my surroundings: a heron on the river, the snow in the Rattlesnake, the slurry bomber on Mt. Sentinel.

When I finished reading THE LOST ART OF WALKING, I was reminded of an event with Edward Abbey. Years ago, he was scheduled to sign books on the University of Montana campus in Missoula. The fans arrived, lines formed and we all waited.

Ed strolled into the store and apologized for being late, but commented that he had been having such a good time walking in Missoula. He complimented us on living in a place where we could walk everywhere, and challenged us to do just that. So many years later, the challenge still exists.

Geoff Nicholson gives us reason to slow down, learn about walking, and then makes one want to stroll across town. Are you ready to walk and reflect?


Barbara Theroux is the manager of Fact & Fiction, now part of the Bookstore at the University of Montana.

08 February 2009

Moonlight Ski

My friends called after supper tonight to cancel out on our planned moonlight ski--given the endless sunny skies and warm (c. 40 deg F) afternoon temperatures earlier this week, they thought the trails at The Moulton would be icy. After the age of 50, that seems to happen more and more often.

But as I watched the nearly full moon rise and realized I'll be back at work tomorrow and have a late class followed by a theatre night, there was no time like the present. RTD was ready to go, at least when she saw me put a couple of dog biscuits in my fanny pack.

It was delightful: 21 deg F when I stepped into my skis at the parking lot, and an inch of fresh snow on the perfect trails. We skied out to Moonlight Flat above the Neversweat/Sluicebox trails for a view of "Butte, Montana by night" with the various mountain ranges (Tobacco Roots, Highlands, Pioneers, and Pintler) glowing on the horizon.

RTD likes to look out over the valley and sample the sweet scents rising from the forest below.

It was a clear, still night and I was surprised to find the thermometer read just 4 deg F as we schussed back to the truck. The large, rapid temperature swing as the sun rises or sets with clear skies at 7,000 feet still amazes me. Life is good.

05 February 2009

Coping with Winter: The moose and red squirrel people

Winter is long in Butte, Montana, nestled along the spine of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Nothing like the endless dark subzero days of the Arctic, but long nonetheless. We human people cope with it by drawing together into tight groups at the brew pub on Fridays, taking in a round of potlucks, reading good books, and (of course) cross country skiing. Our survival is made possible by regular trips to the grocery store and/or a freezer full of elk, mule deer, antelope, and other game.

Our fellow creatures have their own coping mechanisms. The pine squirrel people (aka American Red Squirrel, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) have been rather inactive with the cold weather, and I was beginning to miss them. But warmer temperatures (it's been above 0 deg F at night) has brought them out of dormancy. What big eyes you have!

They are aptly named Tamiasciurus, which means "hoarding squirrel," as this nice November cache of pine cones demonstrates:

Now it is February. The pine squirrels dig into their cornucopias, their feasts marked by middens:

I like the chipper and industrious pine squirrel people very much. They are a good indicator for the elk hunter, for if you are moving slowly and carefully and becoming a part of the forest, the pine squirrels will not be much disturbed by you. Blunder around like the clumsy things we can be, trodding over caches and kicking fallen limbs, and the squirrel people will mark you out with their barking and buzzing alarm calls.

The moose people (Alces alces) have their own way. These twig eaters need a lot of browse, and their long legs propel them through the deep snows of the willow bottoms. But they are an upland animal, too, and in Montana are often seen along windswept ridges. This cow and calf have moved down the valley toward Walkerville from The Moulton where there is a little less snow and still plenty to eat:

Moose cows stay with their calf through most of the winter, but in mid-March or so the cows drive the "short yearling" away as they approach calving time. It must be a tough time for the calf, and you'll often see the forlorn creatures hanging out around horses in the spring, seemingly for whatever companionship they can find. This calf seems on the small side, perhaps late-born. For now at least, mom is keeping close:

RTD barks madly at cattle but seldom gives more than a little happy whine at the sight of moose, elk, or deer. How does RTD cope with winter? She says give me another dog biscuit, and I'll show you:

02 February 2009

Body Language and the Red Fox

It's tough to be a red fox person (Vulpes vulpes) nowadays. You just want to eat a few mice and baby birds, but most of the human people are out to shoot you or smash you flat with a speeding machine. I like red foxes, and still feel bad about the ones we trapped for the $5 bounty when I was a kid. I apologize each time I meet one.

With the environmental recovery around Butte, Montana, fox people have become fairly common in the Big Butte/Walkerville/Moulton area. I see fresh tracks most mornings around the house (they don't come TOO close unless it's a hard winter) and we see them in the headlights while driving home some nights:
On a summer morning, this one watched RTD (RolyTheDog) and I walk by, seemingly secure that an old dog person and its clumsy human companion were no threat:

RTD and I hiked out back in the Ryan Road area early Sunday morning instead of skiing. I was exchanging a few quorks with one of the local raven people when an exceptionally large red fox (I thought it was a coyote for an instant) looked over at us from perhaps a hundred yards away. Neither RTD or I showed an agressive posture, which I think counts for a lot in terms of how animal people perceive human people. We walked along and it paralleled us, watchful but curious, for several hundred yards.

In her younger days, RTD was hell on wheels when she came across fox scent (she liked to chase cats too, though if they stopped running so did she). There are some virtues in having a calm, old dog.