01 July 2011

Skywatch Friday: Elk Racks & Bitterroot Flowers

Summer came to Butte, Montana, exactly with the calendar this year. Before the summer solstice, nights were frosty, many mornings we woke to snow, and most days temperatures hovered in the 50s (deg F). After the solstice, it's been 70+ with plenty of bright, blue skies. On a recent hike through the Boulder Batholith near town, Dave Carter & I were greeted by the familiar spires of the rock formation that marks this area:

Just over the Continental Divide south of town, we navigate by our view of the Highland Mountains:

Molly & Jack TheDogs stayed peculiarly close to us, perhaps it had something to do with the fresh bear sign:

I'm scouting a place to bowhunt come September. We did not see any elk, but as usual saw a few dependable mule deer, including this young doe:

Now, if you find a rabbit's foot from a coyote kill, can the rabbit's foot possibly be lucky? Certainly wasn't for the rabbit:

There was plenty of elk sign, and hiking back to the truck we cut across a large, open park, only to come upon this very symmetrical 5-point elk rack with skull (possibly winter or wolf kill):

In the woods, the Kinnikinnick (Arcostaphylos uva-ursi) is blooming. Indians used the leaves medicinally (they have antibiotic properties) and smoked it. Not sure why they smoked it--I've tried it and it seems to have no narcotic effect:

At a small old mining site up on the ridge, Dense-leaf Draba (Draba densifolia) had colonized all the tailings piles:

Down low, the wet meadows are lit up with Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum; aka "Purple Avens"). The flowers are pretty but not all that showy--that has to wait for pollination and seed development, when the seed heads burst open with long, smoke-like tendrils to carry off the wind-born seeds:

After a long morning hike, what's better than stopping at Dairy Queen for ice cream? Including, of course, a couple of cones for Molly and Jack: 

Back home in Walkerville, on the west slope of the Divide, the wet spring has made for  lush blooms on the wild apple trees in the horse pasture behind the house:

The humblebees must be very grateful for the rich nectar:

I am grateful for the butterflies that are beginning to show up:

For the Field Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) that dot the sagebrush:

And, most especially, for the Rock Roses (Bitterroot; Lewisia rediviva). Aptly chosen as Montana's state flower, Bitterroots and other native flora have been colonizing the Butte Hill. Rare when I moved here 20+ years ago, they now carpet many of the most barren, rocky areas:

There are just a few blooms now, but it looks as though there are plenty of buds yet to open:

Happy 4th of July to American readers, and happy summer to all.


Anonymous said...

That is exactly how we got summer, overnight!
Well, that looks like another fun outing.

I laughed to see the dogs with the ice cream. My friends have another house in Rangeley, Maine, and always stop half way to get ice cream for the dog. She starts boucing around the car a couple miles before they get to the ice cream stand.

Janie said...

I would be worried, too, passing by all that bear scat.
Your wildflowers and views are lovely as usual. Love the bitterroot.
How nice that the dogs get their ice cream cones, too!

BLD in MT said...

I must say I just love your blog. It features the state (and great outdoors) that I love. I always learn something and the photos are just fantastic. I am quite pleased to have stumbled upon it not so long ago.

Happy Friday to you and I hope you have fun plans for your weekend.

Judy said...

That shot of the wild apple blossoms is gorgeous! I really love it!! And bitterroot has such a pretty flower! Be sure to post another, when there are those millions of blossoms!

Arija said...

Unfortunately neither of your wishes apply to me but I am not complaining, I like winter, especially as now, when it is raining.
What a great outing and post. I do so appreciate you not only showing us your flora but also giving their botanical names. Not that his lifetime I will have a chance to see and call them by their proper names but who knows, we may carry some memory into the next time around.
The elk rack is a beauty and your friend looks like a great companion.
Glad the dogs got a treat as well as the humans.

Happy days of summer to you . . . Arija

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

What a delightful journey! Thank you for taking me along!


The sky’s a most wonderful thing,
Enjoyed by both peasant and king;
No matter the eye
That sees the bright sky
The proper response is to sing!

© 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

Stormy Sky

Anonymous said...

What fabulous wilderness to explore! Those ice cream cones look OK too.

Arija said...

Just came back to add how much I enjoyed the apple blossom against the dark sky as well as the bear evidence. I am liable to take photos of evidence of who has been where as well. It is just so important to know who is around.

troutbirder said...

Beautiful and exotic flowers (to me that is). Now I've wondered before about the name Kinnickinnick. A river just south of us in Iowa. Always assumed it was some obscure tribe down there. Now I know better....

Trout Magee said...

Those are some great photos. Montana is a beautiful place. I like the dogs eating ice cream. good stuff. The apple blossoms against the cloudy background is awesome. Tight Lines.

secret agent woman said...

Glad you are finally getting some summer. Lovely photos. I never got the rabbit's foot tradition - seems like it out to be a bad luck thing all the way around.

chubskulit said...


My Sky Watch, have a happy weekend!