01 August 2011

Back Home Again: Montana Priorities (trout fishing, backpacking)

I loved Hawai'i, I really did. But not as much as I love my home along the Continental Divide in the Rockies of southwest Montana. It's a tough place to leave in summer, and first two priorities upon arrival: troutfishing and backpacking.

Check the first one off, on day 1:

The Big Hole River fished well on dry flies, lots of brown and rainbow trout rising to small caddis flies and a white aquatic moth. Still, when you want to bring one fresh trout home for supper after a morning of fishing, tie on a stonefly nymph (this beautiful imitation was tied by friend Don Kieffer I think. Or was it Mike Morris? Or Chad Okrusch? At any rate, THANK YOU you guys for feeding my habit.):

Next day, a few nights of backpacking. Strangely enough, although I can see it to the south from my house, I had never backpacked into the Highland Mountains:

We hiked up from Hell's Canyon, above the old Forest Service Guard Station (it's available for rent):

This area is dry and therefore below treeline--sagebrush prairie, ideal habitat for this big-eared Mule Deer doe:

MollyTheDog & I found a campsite on an elevated point of dry ground, near the creek but breezy so the mosquitoes (the air is thick with 'em this year, following that long wet spring):

We built a fire and cooked a good supper:

And fell asleep cooled by the breeze from a snow cornice on the ridge above our camp:

Hiking upward through the twisted krumholz and avalanche chutes, I could see the cones of Whitebark Pines shining dark against the blue sky:

 A squirrel had cut a cone but not harvested it, so I enjoyed the pine nuts, a tasty if sticky treat:

In the woods, Heartleaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia) carpeted the ground and Fritillary Butterflies find these flowers especially tasty:

Also in the woods, the occasional Pine White Butterfly:

There was lots of elk sign (such as this big wallow) and though we sent one huge bull crashing from it's bed I was not quick enough with the camera:

Several other widlflowers bloomed in the woods, including Trappers Tea (Ledum glandulosum):

And Green-flowered Wintergreen (Pyrola chlorantha):

As we began to rise above tree-line, wet meadows were still full of spring flowers such as these Shooting Stars:

In transitional (between wet and dry) areas, there was Arrowleaf Groundsel (Senecio triangularis ):

In drier areas, Silvery Lupine (Lupinus argenteus) dominated the floral community:

In the driest and rockiest areas, the star of the moment was Lanceleaf Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum):

Froma meadow leading to the saddle between Table Mountain and another, unnamed, ridge, you can see why this mountain deserves its name:

We surprised a herd of Rocky Mountain Big-horn Sheep. There were 12 in all (8 ewes and 4 kids); here are some of them:

Pausing to watch the sheep, my binoculars found a flock of robins mobbing something on the meadow past the roll of the ridge where we could not see. I thought maybe it was a Peregrine Falcon or other predator, so we hike closer. It was a Coyote, mousing and seemingly oblivious to the pesky birds. MollyTheDog and I hunkered down into some krumholz where I plucked a blade of grass and used it to make a high-pitched "dying rabbit" squeal. Coyote approached steadily but cautiously, coming to within about 60 yards before it scented us and bolted:

We continued our steep scramble up Table Mountain, pausing for breath occasionally, and taking in this view of Red Mountain:

When MollyTheDog finds a snow field, she KNOWS what to do. Oh the joy of life's simple pleasures!:

In the Alpine meadows and "rock gardens" of Table Mountain, I was pleased to find some new (to me) varieties of wildflowers. Who would think that the flora would be so different from the Pintler, just a few miles to the west? New species included Alpine Buttercup (Ranunculus eschscholtzii; lower left yellow flower):

Globeflowers (Trollius laxus):

A variety of Phlox probably kelseyi var. Missoula:

And Old Man of the Mountain (Tetraneuris grandiflora):

Familiar, though always welcome, were  Moss Campion (Silene acaulis), shown here with a Tortoiseshell Butterfly:

Tiny Alpine Forget-me-not (Eritrichium nanum), shown here with a buttercup for size comparison:

 Cushion Buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium):

Cushion Phlox (Phlox pulvinata) shown here with a humblebee:

Once on top, it was time to hang out at the peak monument, enjoy lunch, and engage in soulful contemplation. Great views of course, including a view north to Butte (left) and the Berkeley Pit/Continental Pit copper mines (right). That's my house in the upper left of the photo ;-)

A hike down and back to camp, a good night's sleep, then the hike out. Back in Butte, were treated to an evening thunderstorm and a rainbow:

I think I already found that pot o' gold...


Anonymous said...

That was some outing you and Mollie the Dog had. I think Montana welcomed you home.

Everything was so prettly, but I am taken with the rock garden, and its flowers.

BLD in MT said...

Whew! That looks like some trip. You are sure right about having already found the gold! I count my lucky stars to have been born here.

secret agent woman said...

It occurs to me that its a good thing we are all drawn to different sorts of places - and Montana seems to be a perfect fit for you.

troutbirder said...

I enjoyed your Hawaii pictures but "home waters" and mountain hiking/camping looks really good to me.

Wolfy said...

Your posts are as good as it gets!! Great wildflower / wildlife phtos, and a true appreciation of all th egood stuff we should all be fortunate to enjoy.

Thaks for sharing - I love reading your posts.


~ Sheepheads said...

Great post ER.

Educational, as always. Thanks for taking the time to write & shoot.

I know MTD is happy someone is back. ~Wrm Rgds

Janie said...

With so much beauty in your Montana mountains, I can see why you were glad to get back. Looks like the fish were waiting for you.
MTD knows how to enjoy the snow, just as my Daisy does.

Merri said...

priorities man, priorities! thanks for taking us on your lovely hike. it's too HOT for me here so I'll enjoy yours till it cools down enough here in southern Idaho for me!
- The Equestrian Vagabond