28 June 2010

Camping Where the Elk & Antelope Play

There's an old joke that Butte America is just 15 minutes from Montana. Environmental recovery has come along well in the old mining town, but there's still some truth in the statement. At our home in Walkerville, the poppies are lighting up the front yard:

And on the hill behind, the Bitterroots (Lewisia rediviva; aka "rock roses") are blooming:

With the clear skies, it was time to head over the Continental Divide for a few days camping in the Big Hole River valley. I drove up a little creek where the Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) blooms, scenting the air heavy & sweet:

And then up along a two-track until I came to a spring with a nice view of West Goat Peak--a good campsite:

I set up the spotting scope outside my tent so I could watch this mother antelope with her two fawns (one is nursing):

And a herd of elk cows and calves:

Dave Carter joined me for a wildflower hike. The high prairie is blooming--we saw Blue Camas (Camassia quamash), its root a staple food for the Indians that frequented this area over the past 10,000 years or so:

Silky Lupine (Lupinus sericeus)--both blue and the occasional white variant:

Little Sunflower (Helianthella uniflora):

Parry's Lousewort (Pedicularis parryi purpurea; such an awful name for such a beautiful flower!):

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum):

Yellowish Paintbrush (Castilleja lutescens):

One of the many species of Biscuitroot (Lomatium spp):

And Little-flowered Penstemon (Penstemon procerus):

We also hiked over to Indian Rock, an overlook and prominent outcrop where indigenous peoples camped and hunted:

The old tipi rings are littered with tool flakes from the jasper that outcrops further up the valley, both yellow:

And red:

It's still a good hunting area, as the coyotes or wolves that killed this mule deer will attest:

Even antelope can be stalked closely at times when they think they are invisible in the sagebrush:

Dave left and MollyTheDog & I enjoyed the evening skies, including a passing shower that graced us with a rainbow:

Next morning, I caught a mess of brook trout for breakfast:

While two buck antelope played tag on a nearby hill:

The sandhill cranes strutted and hooted:

And a Wilson's snipe (western cousin of the woodcock) watched from a fencepost:

All too soon, it was time to pack up for home. Let's go, Molly:

Yep: Butte really is just 15 minutes from Montana.

Skywatch Friday: Montana Summer at last

Our season is running right on the clock this year: winter it was seldome above freezing with alternating blue skies & snow storms; spring was below freezing at night & above during the day with cloudy skies bringing snow or rain most every day; and now summer with bluebird skies &  the occasional thunderstorm.

Mornings begin clear, clouds build in the afternoon (view to Granite Peak in the Pioneer Mountains south of Butte, Montana):

Fed by updrafts from the warm sun, clouds build into thunderheads:

Showers come:

Clouds pass to the east, the sun shines in from the west, and a rainbow lights up the sky:

By sunset, there are just enough clouds around for brilliant colors:

Goodnight moon:

22 June 2010

Happy Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice! As we transition to summer, it's sunnier & warmer day-by-day. Some years, after a June when it might rain every day, we can go July-August-September with nary a cloud in the sky. Friend Dave Carter & I took the dogs for a hike, intending to go fairly high in the East Pioneer Mtn Range south of Butte, Montana. Above the Hecla Mine, however, the snow was just melting off and the ground was soggy. We took a look at Granite Peak, turned around at the road's end, and headed back down the valley a few miles to hike a sagebrush park:

The mule deer, like these two yearlings (born last spring), are shedding their winter coats. Given the disproportionally large head and short nose that marks a yearling, I can never understand how hunters mistake them for adult deer:

There were a lot of wildflowers blooming, so I'll skip the narrative and get right to the pics, including Desert Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa; sorry it was splashed by dirt from the recent rains):

Lanceleaf Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum):

Mountain Death Camas (Zigadenus elegans; I wonder what eats the leaves?):

Field Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta):

Vetch (Hedysarum spp):

Prairie Rocket (Erysimum asperum):

Textile Onion (Allium textile):

A Mule-Ear species, I think (Wyethia spp):

Oregon Grape (Berberis repens):

And Bristly Cryptantha (Cryptantha interrupta):

The wet spring weather also has the mushrooms fruiting. All lovely and tasty looking, but I don't want to be part of a Darwinian natural selection project. The last one is probably an edible and very tasty Bolete (note it's been munched). The first one is like many of us in the workplace--fed a lot of crap and kept in the dark:

Toward hike's end, we cut through an aspen stand on our way down to the truck. Nice claw marks from where a bear climbed one:

JackTheDog was happy to find a spring for a cool soak:

While MollyTheDog could enjoy a minute with an elk bone:

Still waiting for the rivers to drop a bit for trout fishing, but in the meantime life is good.