24 April 2011

Skywatch Friday: Happy Earth Day

In the Rocky Mountains of southwest Montana, it's still winter in fits and starts. Here, a snow storm cell sits over the city of Butte, dropping some fluffy white:

As you might imagine, people are getting grumpy about this cool, wet spring. Human people, that is. For others, such as MollyTheDog, "It's all good." Here she is, romping on our walk to school one morning:

Dave Carter and I take a hike out in the hills once or twice a week. Last week, on a hike up a steep ridge grom a gulch near the Big Hole River, Dave found this outstanding obsidian tool, left by some Native American a long time ago:

Probably a knife point based on the asymmetry (projectile points need to be well-balanced). It had broken off in a classic "hinge" fracture (as a boy, how many steel knife tips did I break off, despite Gramps' warnings "Don't pry with that knife!"):

There is no naturally occurring obsidian in the Big Hole. Nearest sources are near Yellowstone National Park more than 100 miles away. The location of the find, looking uphill, is in the photo below. We hypothesized that the hunter shot an elk up near the treeline, it ran downhill and died, and Dave found the tool at the butchering site. A writer friend Paul Vang asked, "Why an elk? Why not a deer or sheep?" Well, we found elk sign in the area and it's not really mule deer (or antelope) habitat. Could've been a big horned sheep, though. But it's OUR story.

From the top of timbered ridge, here's a view to some nearby mountains. It'll be June before the snow melts off enough to hike there:

A century or so ago, this area (like much of the western U.S.) was mined extensively. Most of the remains from that era are rotting back into the earth, but occasionally someone has made an effort to preserve an artifact like this old cabin. Wonder what kind of tin cans they peeled open to make those roofing tiles?

Here's a couple of old miners standing guard at the drift, protecting their claim:

There are still a few dreamers around hoping to strike it rich. According to federal law, you have to "stake your claim" by marking it in a prescribed manner:

Mining? It's for the birds. Or so says this mountain bluebird, waiting for enough bugs to wake up so that he can feed nestlings:

Wherever you live, I hope you have a chance to get outside and enjoy the natural world that is our most valuable inheritance. Happy Earth Day! Be good to your mother.


Sylvia K said...

Marvelous captures! I do love seeing the pics of Montana and the wonderful memories I have of the 18 years I lived there! The arrowhead is great and what a wonderful find! Looks like a great day out! Hope you have a great week! Thanks as always for your visit/comment! Always appreciated!


Arija said...

Now that is an adventure I would dearly have liked to participate in. Finding artefacts is something I dearly love. Here in the desert there are many flint tools the Aborigines used and once I found a 'churinga', a grinding stone.

Thanks for noticing my 'Sreamy' I, I had checked, but was too tired to see much of anything. I think I'll leave it, it's kind of cute.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed everyone one of the photos, even the snow, since it was you getting it. Love the bluebird, almost missed it thinking it was the top of a fancy pole.

Where I grew up, we used to find arrowheads and other tool parts from a Cherokee camp. Nothing but flint, though.

Should Fish More said...

Nice pics, Pat. I was on the Big Hole Sunday, fished near Al's new shop, caught 2 on big nymphs. Beautiful day, water conditions good.

Judy said...

I do love our walks together - you do all the work, and I get to sit here and enjoy the scenery!!!

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

Gorgeous captures!
Montana is beautiful!

visiting via skywatch

ayvee said...

gorgeous shots...

Janie said...

Cute photo of MTD playing in the snow.
Your obsidian tool is a great find!