29 July 2010

Skywatch Friday: Summer Fun in Montana

The Bell Diamond mine headframe (aka "gallows frame") stands watch over the dancers at the Cool Water Hula celebration in Butte Montana [all pics enlarge, of course, if you click on them]:

Windmills dot the skyline along the Columbia River on a recent trip to Portland Oregon:

A nearly full moon rises over the high sagebrush prairie on a campout in the upper Big Hole River basin of southwest Montana (near Butte America):

A high sun and bright sky make for poor catching but great fishing on the Big Hole River just south of Butte:

Smoke billows from a forest fire about 100 miles from us during a float on a tributary of the Clark Fork River a headwater of the Columbia River:

Yesterday we had clouds in the sky (and a thunderstom) for the first time in weeks. But I blinked and missed it all.

28 July 2010

Summer Fun: Elk Rib BBQ, Camping, Celebration, Floating

Summertime in Butte, Montana: hot (80+ deg F) clear days, cool starry nights, maybe the occasional cloud or thunderstorm. It's time to party and live outdoors.

Elk Rib BBQ
Normally we time our annual elk rib BBQ with the blooming of Bitterroots on the Butte Hill, but we postponed this year in deference to daughter Emily's visit home. It all begins with elk season and the added bit of labor of hauling the ribs (bones and all) out of the mountains instead of boning the meat. Cooking starts off with a 24-hour vinegar-based marinade, followed by a dry rub and long, slow, moist smoking:

This year we were blessed with hickory scraps -- next to apple wood, my favorite for smoking meat -- from the custom cabinets Ben built for our kitchen. I use a big kettle grill with a pan of water under the trays of meat, drink a lot of Quarry Brew Pub beer, and fuss around keeping the temperature between 150 and 200 deg F for an entire day (or, sometimes, the previous night):

As party time approaches, the ribs get a finish mopping with raspberry chipotle sauce and a bit more time in the smoker to produce a nice glaze:

Add Quarry Beer, tasty side dishes, and a yard full of friends:

And enjoy:

My old friend Don Kieffer and his wife Kathie blessed us with a visit from upstate New York. Don & I took off for a night in the hills to watch the full moon rise and be serenaded by song dogs (coyotes) & chirping herds of elk (you might recognize this favorite spot of mine from last month's camping pics at the same place):

On the high prairie, the temperature went from the afternoon high of mid-80s to a frosty (yes, ice on anything above grass level) morning. Here's the morning mist rising from the spring meadow above camp:

Morning sun bathing Saddle Mountain (East & West Goat Peaks) in the nearby Pintler Wilderness:

And a big pot of coffee on a crackling fire:

On the way home, we stopped for an hour of fishing on the Big Hole River. Fishing was great although the catching left a lot to be desired, at least on dry flies:

MollyTheDog had a great time too, fetching sticks from the swift currents:

Celebration with Live Music
Our friends at Farm 51 near Bozeman hosted a party to celebrate their adoption of B--a wonderful party complete with live music from Mountain Moongrass, a keg of beer from their local brewery, and more yummy BBQ. Here's new mom Jen dancing with B to a lively tune:

Our friends Don & Kathie taking in the friendly fest (Montana is truly a small town with very long streets--in this case, those streets extended all the way to upstate NY):


And more kids:

Donkey (aka "Brave Protector of All Goats) would have liked to party with us too, but had to make do with frequent visits over the fence:

If you're in the Butte America area and have a chance to give Mountain Moongrass a listen, don't miss 'em--they play a nice range of tunes, including my favorite TownesVan Zandt tune,  "Pancho and Lefty" and originals such as "Miner, Oh Miner." (note Donk listening in at upper right in pic below):

For many years, ever since daughter Emily began investigating the connection between entomology and water quality in local streams as grade school science fair projects, we have floated our Tahiti Boats (inflatable "kayaks") on the "Mill-Willow Bypass"--two nice streams that were built into a new channel to bypass the minewaste polluted waters of Silver Bow Creek. It's one of several creeks that converge to form the Clark Fork River. Here's Emily enjoying a perfect Montana summer day--hot sun & cool clear water:

And here's MollyTheDog in a rare moment when she's sitting in my boat instead of swimming, running, and leaping:

Emily again, this time negotiating her way over a beaver dam:

We saw lots of wildlife--including ospreys, great blue herons, ducks, muskrat, and beaver. But only the darning needles (Look out, they'll sew your mouth shut!) held still long enough for me to get my camera out of its protective ziplock bag. I like the way they have stolen the blue of the summer sky:

As the shadows drew long, a long peculiar cloud stretched over the sky--smoke from a forest fire near Hamilton about 100 miles away:

Oh yeah, in between all this good fun we managed to find Emily her first car--a sweet, blue, bug-eyed 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX (yep, with the turbo...). I figure after 6 years of driving my 1972 Series III LandRover, she's ready for a car like this. As Neal Young might say, "Long may you run" (pic from hoobly.com--I forgot to take one!):

21 July 2010

Portland Oregon/Vancouver Washington Visit

Daughter Emily & her boyfriend Evan are relocating from Boston to the Portland Oregon area. A long day's drive west of our home in Butte Montana, we made the trek, met Evan, and spent some time helping the two get settled in. Butte America is at the headwaters of the Columbia River, and we followed it down, taking in the broad river plain dotted with agricultural fields and ridges dotted with wind farms:

We camped at Paradise Point State Park just north of Vancouver Washington--across the Columbia River from Portland. It must have been a grand park before the interstate was built nearby, and even with the highway the old growth cedars and other trees are lovely:

Boy Scouts sell firewood--here comes Emily with a wheelbarrow load:

I like camping while visiting places, in part for leisurely camp breakfasts of sausage, coffee, pancakes, and eggs (and Mrs Rover likes that I do all the cooking & washing when we camp):

And of course s'mores at night:

Camping also has happy surprises like this amazing slug Emily found on her sandal one morning:

And there are the amusing moments when RV "campers" discover you can't drive a ridiculously large house & SUV through camp without losing some paint (yes, I know, the Schadenfreude will bring me back as a slug-level on the karmic wheel, but still):

After getting the important stuff out of the way (i.e. finding housing), we played tourist. I deeply appreciate the area's commitment to environmental sustainability, evident at every turn:

Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden is an amazing place--we spent hours there, after the imperial lion invited us in (like ravens, you want to do what imperial lions tell you to do):

Such a beautiful place--the architecture:

Water lillies in the meditation pond:

And particular forms of cultural understanding, like the writer's house with its "Four Treasures" of paper, brush, ink, and inkstone. As a writer, I like the notion of style (the word "style" derives from "stylus"--the implement that took on an individual writer's distinctive way of writing, so that each pen developed a personality):

The garden's bonsai trees are absolutely stunning. A few of my favorites include this outcrop-wrapping beauty (with a shadow that completes its beauty):

Tiny larches reminiscent of those growing at treeline here in Montana:

And a stately pine complete with a lightning scar down its trunk (how DO they do that?):

Lastly, the garden's piece de resistance--a teahouse with an incredible selection of exotic brews and wonderful "snacks" (the English word totally fails to capture the simple elegance of a tea egg):

Everywhere you turn, there is delightful public sculpture--from the critters that populate the streets of Portland:

To the interpretation of life's dimensions and possibilities at Vancouver's Washington State University campus:

We spent a long Sunday morning at Portland's Saturday Market (open on Sundays too, of course):

There are blocks and blocks of high quality, unique arts & crafts, and also a festive atmosphere with performers ranging from the amazing silver juggler man:

To acrobatic stilt dancers:

And music:

No visit to Portland is complete without a stop (or two, or three) at Dan & Louis Oyster Bar:

And perhaps a long wait in line for a yummy treat from VooDoo Doughnuts:

Portland being Portland, there's something surprising around every corner, whether it's Wacky McWiener:

Or sand sculptures at Pioneer Square:

We wish Emily & Evan much happiness in their new life here, and we look forward to many happy visits!