30 September 2010

Skywatch Friday: Montana Autumn Skies (and 'shrooms and supper)

After a cool, wet summer, September has been our finest summer month. It began cool and clear, then became hot and clear with near record temperatures in the 70s (deg F). Moist air clings to the Butte valley, forming a cool layer of fog beneath the warm morning sky, the fog highlighting the Anselmo Gallows Frame:

Early in the month, some snow fell one night on a remote mountain ridge:

Cascade Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina) berries glow bright red against the cloudless sky:

On a hike in the nearby mountains, white limestone cliffs reflect the hot sun:

On another hike, some late afternoon cumulus clouds build up along the Pintler Range spine of the Continental Divide:

A rare cloudy morning contrasts with the fall colors of deciduous shrubs, with the Quaking Aspen (lower right) just beginning to turn color:


Hey, EcoRover is a fun-guy! Hiking around the hills while scouting for Bull Moose (see previous entry about the moose hunt), mushrooms (fun-gi?) were much in evidence. Some are shaggy:

And some are scallopy:

Life on a cowpie:

Or life on a stump:

And some with a funnel to drink life in:

Oh, wish I knew more about mushrooms and which were edible!

These things, I know are edible--tiny but sweet Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana):

And these--deliciouly puckery Chokecherries (Prunus virginianus):

MollyTheDog says this Mountain Grouse is edible, too:

Good dog, you deserve a treat (with your buddy JackTheDog) on the way home:


After all that hiking, we're hungry! What's for supper? Stir fried veggies:

Along with grilled grouse, moose steaks, and potatoes:

There's plenty of food & an extra plate, just in case you're in the 'hood.

20 September 2010

Montana Moose Hunt

-- Reader Alert: dead animal photos ahead --

As regular readers know, EcoRover drew a bull moose (Alces alces; the creature so nice, they named it twice) permit for an area near my home in Butte/Walkerville, Montana. Friend Dave Carter & I did lots of "scouting"--a pretty word for an excuse to hike our beloved hills. I decided to hunt here:

Turned out to be a good choice. Hunting along low ridges where I could look down into the willow bottoms, I spotted a small bull up a small side valley early in the morning. I thought I was at the end of the valley but heard two Raven People quork up the valley a bit further, just past a small timbered ridge that dips into the bottom. Ravens don't just talk a lot--they usually have something to say & I listen. A few minutes later, and single shot through the lungs (no loss of meat) from my little Sako .308 Winchester (with 150 grain all-copper Barnes bullet):

For some minutes I was in awe. Speechless. Then grateful, promising "I will honor your spirit and use your flesh well:"

I field dress and prepare an elk for hauling in just an hour or so. Bull Moose took three hours to dress, quarter, drag the quarters away from the butchering site, prop them up for cooling, and cover with branches to keep Raven off. Longer because I could not roll it over to ease the chore! Luckily, Bear stayed away for the night (hanging my shirt and hat near the meat might have helped) and next morning found me with five friends hiking in a mile or so from the nearest road. Job 1 was to hang the rear quarters for deboning and skinning (Ben Carter with Chukah-TheDog; photo by C Danielson):

Here's Little Brother AJ deboning a hind quarter (photo by C Danielson):

And EcoRover deboning a front quarters (yes, that's a Moose Drool t-shirt from the brewery in Missoula; photo by C Danielson):

Meanwhile the teams of Dave Carter & Ben Carter (shown here with MollyTheDog) and Chris Danielson & Don Stierle spelled each other hauling the head back to the truck (photo by C Danielson):

And here's Ben again, this time on his second trip to the p.up with a 60 pound load of meat. Oh, what a feeling to set that pack down! (photo by C Danielson):

AJ & I were the last to stagger out. The day's total, well over 300 pounds of boneless meat. Thank you to all the good friends who helped me. Let's hoist a pint together & declare, "Thank you, Bull Moose. We will honor your spirit and use your flesh well."

07 September 2010

Rendezvous 2010 at Dr Anaconda Lake

This year, life got in the way and we did not gather with friends for the annual "Dr Anaconda Lake" Rendezvous until the Labor Day weekend. In recent years we had moved the Rendezvous up to mid-August because, well, weather can be a bit tricky in early September in Rocky Mountains of southwest Montana.

This year we experienced a full range of weather: 80+ degrees with a clear blue sky at the beach, fierce thunderstorms with torrential downpours, and snow blowing horizontal: all in the space of 3 days of course. Day One at the beach (Montana's finest sandy beach), we lounged about, did a little boating, and checked out evidence of other beach visitors, like these Great Blue Heron tracks:

And Moose tracks:

At woods edge, this beautiful Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis). At about three feet long, it's a real trophy:

I like it when they pose & grin:

Day Two we got in some beach time, but oh look at that sky:

Sure enough, the rain came. Here are Don & Chukah-The-Dog beating a retreat to shore:

Then came severe lightning (I love it) booming and crackling on the ridges around us. Oh Hail! Look at it now:

The evening skies cleared allowing a good time around the fire, albeit a tad chilly:

Day Three MollyTheDog & I set out for a hike across the 2000 Burn. Each year since the big fire that burned well over 30,000 acres, I've enjoyed cross-country hikes to check on the recovery. Here is MTD in standing dead Lodgepole Pine trees with lots of 2-foot high seedlings:

In most places, most of the dead trees are still standing, making for easy hiking. The Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) can get a little thick & prickly, though:

There is also a bumper crop of Oregon Grape (Berberis repens) this year. These tart berries have excellent preservative properties and are good to mix with jerky for pemmican:

I like solo-hiking. Even the best of hiking companions (myself included) tend to talk too much. Chipmunk agrees:

We sat in the sun on the lee side of Chipmunk's rock enjoying some lunch and a pleasant nap. As I stood to leave, MTD barked mightily--at first I thought she must be barking at Chipmunk, but then I heard & saw the cow & calf moose running off from behind the rock. They must have bedded there while we were lunching/napping, and I regret not having the camera ready (I had it in a ziplock bag expecting weather). We walked cautiously around the big boulders that line this ridge, expecting to see elk or moose at any moment:

Though there was lots of elk sign, we saw no more big critters. The clear skies turned dark and a little snow blew in as we made our way down the ridge to the next valley over from camp (about 3-miles, though Celia says my miles always end up being double when she hikes my routes). Time to turn back. As we approached camp, I thought, "What is that wonderful smell?" My nose led me here, with Jim & Chunlan standing over a kettle grill:

What could be in there? What's for supper? Wow! Let's eat & pack up!

In the group pic below, left to right, we have (standing) Debbie Stickney, Mike Stickney, Pat Munday, Jan Munday, Jeff Schahczenski, Celia Schahczenski, Alex Macgregor, Chunlan Handley, Jim Handley, and Bill Macgregor; and (sitting) Don Stierle and Andrea Stierle:

Here's to good friends, warm fires, and tasty food.

02 September 2010

Skwatch Friday: Mountain Snow

The beautiful weather and clear skies of the past weeks made for good hiking & outdoor activities, but it takes weather to make a beautiful sky. This week, a cold front moved in, with stormy skies in the upper Clark Fork River of southwest Montana:

Temperatures plummeted to below freezing and though there was snow in town (Butte is about 6,000 feet elevation), the Highland Mountains south of town received a frosty coating of white:

Clouds lingered a few days, along with bracingly cool temperatures:

Happily, sunny warm skies are predicted for the upcoming holiday weekend. Let'g go camping!