07 July 2011

Skywatch Friday: Hiking Around Butte America

Summer has arrived with a vengeance--temperatures in the 80s everyday and most days not a cloud in sight. One sure way to avoid the heat is a hike in the hills surrounding Butte America. It's also a major mosquito year, but the dry heat should take care of them very soon.

Warm Springs Ponds

We hiked a pleasant morning around Warm Springs Ponds at the headwaters of the Clark Fork River. Here is Mt Powell reflected in one of the ponds, with the 500+-foot tall Anaconda Smelter Stack on the left:

Bald eagles have long has a nest site at the ponds, and we were at first puzzled to see two dark eagles (which we took to be a golden) near the nest while a bald eagle looked on:

We were even more puzzled when they perched together:

Mystery solved: birder friend Andrea Stierle explained to us that these are juvenile bald eagles--apparently not all juveniles have the white flecks or underwing markings that usually characterize them. Though not a birder, I appreciate the abundant flying things (well, maybe not the mosquitoes) that populate the ponds. These range from swarms of blue damsel flies:

To white pelicans:

And yellow-headed blackbirds:

Continental Divide

On a small west slope (i.e. Pacific-bound) drainage, we visited a favorite pond to celebrate Independence Day, roast weenies, and where the dogs could have a swim:

The dense grove of quaking aspens along the creek makes for good black bear habitat, with tracks and other fresh sign:

And the usual bear claw marks on some aspens:

In the lush grass along the creek, we found Starry Solomon's Seal (Smilacina stellata):

And on a dry, open slope, the first flowering Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) of the year:

ATVs (aka "four wheelers") frequently go (illegally) off road in the area, and it seems wherever they travel weeds grow behind them--such as this Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula):

Walkerville Creek

Friends Brent and Karina Patch are in town for the upcoming Montana Folk Festival. Brent and I hunted and backpacked together before he moved over to Pocatello, and we took this opportunity (along with two other friends and two dogs) for a hike on a small creek just off the Continental Divide near town. I've hiked and skied this area often, but we dropped off a steep ridge and came upon this tumbledown miner's cabin that I'd never seen before:

Inside, the old cook stove was about all that remained:

But nearby we found a few tasty morel mushrooms:

The wet spring has made fungi abundant, and even when I don't know the species (or whether they are edible) I love their shapes, textures, and colors:

The wet meadows (and they are still VERY wet--wish I'd brought a change of socks!) are home to Blue Camas (Camassia quamash; the roots were an important food source for Indians that once lived here):

Also our native Elk Thistle (Cirsium scariosum):

On the way back down to the LandRover, we stopped by a mid-elevation lake where the young (and young at heart; and dogs, of course) could cool down with a refreshing swim:

Back at the Rover, MollyTheDog was too tired to chew the elk leg bone she had found. She lay down on it, however--just in case someone else might want it.

This weekend: the Montana Folk Festival--three days of peace, love, and music with musicians from around the country.


Trout Magee said...

Wow thanks for taking me there with those great photos. I really like the one of the old stove in the miners cabin. I like the one of the Morels even more :) Yummmo. Great Stuff.

BLD in MT said...

With the moisture all spring it certainly has been a productive year for mosquitoes and mushrooms! I too have been enjoying the wide variety of mushrooms I've spotted, but I cannot say the same for the mosquitoes!

Have fun at the folk fest! I wish I could be there too!

Pretty Life Online said...

great shots for skywatch... Have a great weekend ahead!!! Hoping you can visit @ my little corner.

Anonymous said...

What a great place! It looks so peaceful - with stunning scenery.

Sylvia K said...

It is indeed a gorgeous place and your photos are superb -- next best thing to being there! Thanks for sharing the trip with us! Hope you have a great weekend! Enjoy!


Janie said...

Cute photo of MTD lying on her elk leg!
Love that first photo of the mountain reflected in the pond. Your Montana wilderness is looking good.
We're expecting a lot of mosquitoes, but we haven't run into hordes of them yet. The high meadows (10,000 ft) have just melted and are still very wet. Extra socks are always a good idea!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it looks like summer now. Just exactly how warm is the Warm Springs Pond?

Love the wildflowers. Elk Thistle is one I had not seen before.

secret agent woman said...

I love coming across old ruins like that.

troutbirder said...

Another great hike. I alway's love the gorgeous vistas you show and those strange and exotic (to me) plants.

EcoRover said...

@ Sandy: "Warm Springs Ponds" is a deceptive name--there is a Warm Springs nearby (site of Montana's state mental hospital), and the warm springs flow into Warm Springs Creek. This creek, which is not warm (it comes down from nearby mountains and the warm springs water is a much smaller flow) actually enters the Clark Fork River just below the ponds.

Sean E said...

Great photos in this post.