08 November 2010

More Elk Hunting Scenery

In some ways, this is the best elk hunting season I've experienced since moving to Montana more than twenty years ago. No thanks to the weather. There has been no snow down low (that changed today!) and the snow up high has turned noisy. And I have not (yet?) cut a tag for my elk bull.

Ah, but the hunting is GREAT! First of all, there's no pressure: having a freezer full of moose took care of that. Though I would like elk venison for my family, AJ's family, and all our friends that appreciate it. There's also no pressure because the woods are deserted--there are no elk cow tags for the areas I hunt, and so most hunters have moved to "better" places. Good on 'em.

Even better, I have been into elk nearly every time out: elk bedded in the dog-hair timber of north-facing slopes; elk rambling improbably through the mid-elevation lodge-pole pines at mid-day; and great herds of cows & calves as morning light seeped into open parks. I've even glimpsed a legal (brow-tined) bull or two, and one giant-antlered beast with his harem. He was a half-mile away, but still...

Sometimes the beauty of a mountain day takes your breath away (never mind the altitude and steep slopes!). Other times, it's delicately subtle--like this faint rainbow from a light spray of morning rain (see it, arcing above the dead tree?):

And there are naps in front of a cozy fire, with a pot of tea and a couple of moose tacos:

On a hike/elk hunt with friend Dave, we visited the ruins of several cabins. These were built in the late 1800s as part of W.R. Allen's timbering/flume operation, supplying wood for the smelter and mines of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company:

Note how barren is this landscape. The loggers scalped the timber from it and then the soil was poisoned by arsenic and sulfur dioxide laden fumes from the Anaconda smelter. Only in recent decades has the land begun to heal from this devastation.

In addition to the cabins, we found this strange structure--perhaps some sort of log loading area or landing associated with the network of flumes that sluiced lumber from the Big Hole River watershed, across the Continental Divide, and down to the hungry smelter at Anaconda:

Sometimes history is written in subtle ways on the land, like rocks marking an Indian tipi ring. Other times it's like the smallpox scars that marked the faces of Indians after their contact with white European culture. Geez, we do seem to have that effect on people and land. Will we, as a culture, learn the hard lessons of sustainable living before our greedy lifestyle causes us to perish from the earth? Let's hope so--as Thoreau said, "In wildness lies the salvation of the earth."


Sylvia K said...

Oh, it does look so familiar and so beautiful! Love your photos and they do bring back such delightful memories of the many years I lived in Montana! Still miss it! Thanks for your visits to my blog and comments, as you know, they're always appreciated. Have a great week!


Anonymous said...

The scenery couldn't be prettier. I am glad you told about the land becoming bare. Maine has been forested, cut bare, and now thank God, is back to being the state with the most trees for its size.

I read in the history of the Jackman/Moose River area of Maine that the first loggers, after cleaning out here, just moved steadily across the upper states. I guess some of them made it out there, huh?

Judy said...

Wow!! The first shot is perfect! Sidelight from the morning sun, the hint of a rainbow, and some clouds!!! I love it!!

Janie said...

I love the rainbow. Even without hunting success, it sounds like you're enjoying the wildness. Thoreau would be proud.
Hope you get your elk, too, before the season is over.

secret agent woman said...

I love sitting around a fire outdoors.

Sean E said...

I always wonder what sort of life those cabins lived during their prime.

Arija said...

Thoreau's comment is so apt. Unfortunately the wild places are eroded every day by man's greed and the scars are hard to heal, certainly in the short term. Maybe in a few millenia if left to itself the earth could recover. How long does it take to revegetate a desert if it is possible at all??

Glad you had a great time. It is always good to rely on your own resources and be at one with nature.

troutbirder said...

Just catching up on the hunting after our Irish vacation. It all looks good Pat!

Merri said...

ahh, you make me miss the mountains. One of my jobs was inventory-ing any historic (older than 50 years) stuff along ATV roads in a ranger district in the Sierra Nevadas - we found lots of arrowheads, metates (sp), grinding stones, old cans & bottles, mining/dwelling ruins... and of course we were always the only people out there, so we felt like we owned the mountains!
- The Equestrian Vagabond

John Bardsley said...

Great post as usual. Yours is an inspirational life. Thanks for writing it down.