25 March 2010

SkyWatch Friday: Springtime in the Rockies

After visiting Portland, Oregon, and taking in the working beauty of the Willamette River and its cool bridges (like this lift bridge):

I was happy to be home in Butte, Montana. Big Sky Country where the deer and pronghorn antelope (shown here) roam:

I even got in a few last days of cross country skiing before switching over to hiking & trout fishing (next blog entry). The mornings are still cold enough to draw tiny, delicate, dendritic ice crystals from the snow as the sun rises in clear, blue sky:

Springtime in the Rockies: Hiking & Trout Fishing

The snow is still good high in the backcountry, and will be so through April and probably later. But I have put my skis away in favor of hiking and trout fishing. There is still a bit of snow on the open north-facing slopes of the side valleys along the lower Big Hole River:

The sunny sides are bare and call us forth for a cross-country hike. Here's Dave Carter (a retired colleague):

His daughter Chelsea Carter (a graduate candidate in Electrical Engineering):

And of course we brought the dogs. Here's MollyTheDog with an elk hoof she found in a melting snowbank:

The trout of the Jefferson River (formed by the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers) are feeding heavily after a long, slow winter. Rainbow Trout will be spawning soon, and the regulations call for catch & release on the Jeff:

Brown trout are fair game, though, and these three 15" to 19" fish were about right for supper with friends, cached in a snowbank to keep them ice cold:

MollyTheDog has turned out to be a good fishing companion, though she does not relish swimming the frigid waters of spring the way my late, great RolyTheDog did. Oh, no comparisons among dogs or children however--she's a good pup, never mind that one trout that she ate:

17 March 2010

Happy St Paddy's Day from Butte America

Butte, Montana, has one of THE quintessential St Patrick's Day celebrations in America. Butte's Finest have curbed the underage drinking in recent years (we were once a college student destination), and that has made for a much safer, family-friendly celebration. Still, it IS an Irish celebration, and drinking is a central part of it--as this enterprising soul selling liquor parade-side will attest:

The parade has gotten much smaller in recent years (and this is not an election year, either), but still has the requisite drill teams:

Several excellent piper bands, with the Edmonton Police Service Pipes & Drums being foremost among them:

And of course an appearance by St Patrick himself:

After the parade, Mrs Rover and I had a pint or two at the Quarry Brewpub (Chuck Schnabel has made an award-winning stout this year), and spent some time taking in the, uh, sights:

E'ireann go Bra'ch!

Winter AND Spring: Having it Both Ways

It's that magical time of year in the Mining City of Butte America, when you can ski the hills in the morning and catch trout on dry flies in the river valley in the afternoon: Springtime in the Rockies (link to a nice cover of this classic tune).

Around my home in Walkerville, Montana (on the hill just above Butte), the snow is nearly gone and the Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva) rosettes are greening up:

A few miles north of town at The Moulton (Montana's finest classic cross country ski trails) it's still winter. But you know spring is nigh because the mother moose has chased away her now lonesome, forlorn yearling (last spring's calf):

An Molly-The-Dog has managed to find a well-aged deer leg melting out of a snowbank:

The early morning air is frigid, but the warm sun grows delightful dendritic feathers of frost:

The Yankee Boy trail, the best trail in Montana's best ski area, is still good skiing up the steep climbs:

And down the twisting turns:

I feel bad for the Pilgrims that come to Montana in the summer, are enthralled by the scenery up in the hills, and end up buying a place where it's winter until May. That's great if they love snow & skiing & the hard drive to town, but many of them don't. That probably explains why many of those rural properties turn over so quickly.

Haven't been fishing, yet, but this afternoon I could feel the pull of the Jefferson River's big brown trout awakening from their winter lethargy. Stay posted.

Portland, Oregon: My Second Favorite City

I don't especially enjoy traveling, though once in a place -- whether Washington DC or Cleveland OH -- I manage to enjoy it. I love my adopted city of Butte, Montana, the way Socrates loved Athens. And like Socrates I would rather drink the hemlock than leave it. There are a few other cities that I like and could even imagine living in--Goettingen, Germany, is one, and Portland, Oregon, another.

I love these places because they provide what I deem to be the necessities of life: friendly, liberal people; good beer & food; art both in museums and on the streets; and ready access to Nature. On a recent trip to Portland for the annual American Society for Environmental History conference, I was thrilled to discover a little hole-in-the-wall brewpub, the Tug Boat Brewing Company (711 SW Ankeny St):
Truly excellent beer that lives up to the name "MicroBrew." Friendly bartenders and patrons that make you feel like a local in about 15 minutes. Though not a destination place to eat, there is a food and a few real treasures like the olive plate.

No visit to Portland is complete without a meal at the Dan & Louis Oyster Bar (208 SW Ankeny St):
My apologies to North Atlantic and Gulf Coast friends, but the oysters of the North Pacific coast & its cold, clean waters really are MUCH  better: sweeter flesh, firmer texture, and downright tastier. D&L serves a number of great varieties. The family has been involved in oyster farming for a century, and was instrumental in the great oyster restoration projects (which included halting pollution) of the 1970s (for more on this, see Oregon Oyster Farms):
Books are also a huge part of Portland culture, and for a wide variety of rare & cheap used books, nothing beats Powell's Books. They have a great website now, but it's still nice to browse physical atoms instead of virtual electrons:
Shopper types will also like the Saturday Market (also open Sundays). They're a little hard to see against the bright sky, but check out this pic of the cherry trees in full bloom next to the market:
Portland loves Nature, both in art and reality. The free light rail transit system and friendly streets make it an easy city to walk and explore, and you'll be greeted by public sculptures of playful otters:
Salmon-loving bears:
Busy beavers:
And watchful coyotes:
For inside art, Roughrider Teddy (he hated that nickname) Roosevelt will welcome you to the Portland Art Museum:
Take a boat tour of the Willamette River. It will cruise around the incredible Ross Island restoration project (led by Aududon and other groups), where you will be treated to bald eagles, a blue heron rookery. They don't call it "The City of Bridges" for nothin':

It's a working waterway, too, with tug boats:

Dry docks:

And other ongoing work (here, pouring cement for some dock structure):
Ready for a hike? Visit Tryon Creek State Park, an urban park within the city. As you'd expect, a meeting of environmental historians included a group tour:
We enjoyed the luscious cedars (this one with branches that became trees after the old tree fell over the creek):
Liked the lichen:
Were stunned by the Wake Robins (White Trillium, Trillium ovatum):
And could imagine the Steelhead Salmon (sea-run rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss) that still spawn in the tiny creek each winter:
A century ago, Oregon Iron Company logged the park and dreamed of making Portland "the Pittsburgh of the West." You can still find evidence of charcoal making:
One of the company's furnaces has been rebuilt at a local park/visitor center at Lake Oswego:
After a hike in the park, if you want to get high, everyone in Portland does it. Rides the Aerial Tram, I mean:
Music. Did I mention music? Great clubs & bars as well as street musicians, including the phenonmenon of "flash bands"--bands that assemble mysteriously on a street corner, with 60 or 70 avid fans (the band sends out a "tweet" to alert them), play for an hour or so, and then pack it in. [Sorry no pic of this--the one evening I went out without my camera.]

In conlcusion? YES:

12 March 2010

SkyWatch Friday: From Boston Mass to Butte America

One thing about the sky in Butte, Montana--it almost always has one. This statue at Boston's MFA is titled "Appeal to the Great Spirit." For sun?

Wait, wait, a glow in the sky! We can almost see it--though we have forgotten what "it" is:

Ah, now THAT'S better. Back in Butte America, the "Mining City," where the skies are NOT cloudy all day, and these streaming mares' tails hint of weather to come:

Sure 'nuff, by noon the cumulus are popping up, and if it wasn't still winter I'd say we were in for a thunderstorm:

Return to Skywatch Friday