05 August 2011

Pioneer Mountains of Montana--A Hike and a Bear, oh my...

My retired friends Dave Carter and Leroy Friel kindly let me tag along on a hike in the Pioneer Mountain Range, an hour or so south of our home in Butte, Montana. Leroy, who taught engineering at Montana Tech for many years, is now working on a book about the Pioneers. On our way back, we saw this rangy yearling black bear (maybe lost his Mama?):

To get back to the beginning, here we are setting out through a horse gate at the trailhead:

There are, of course, lots of mining ruins in the area. The hills of southwest Montana were much more populated a century ago than they are today:

We hiked up to a chain of small lakes such as this one:

And continued on up to a ridge with a view of more (and larger) lakes below (and below the lakes lies the town of Polaris):

The area has lots of Rocky Mountain Goats as evidenced by much shed hair in the meadows:

As well as fresh tracks (note they are much blockier than the heart-shaped tracks of deer):

In a meadow along the scree at the head of a small lake, we stumbled upon this lovely spring-fed pool:

In the woods, parks, and meadows, wildflowers are at their prime:

I seldom hike in the Pioneers, having abandoned the area a decade or more ago when it was being over-run by rogue ATV ("four wheeler") riders tearing up the landscape. The Forest Service has been gaining some control over the motorized users of late and we saw few signs of use in off-trail areas. Though only 50 miles as the raven flies from where the Pintler Range that I frequent, the Pioneers have a somewhat different floral community. Leroy was an excellent guide and helped me realize that the popular wildflower identification guides I use denote only a fraction of the diverse species in our mountains. A few new-to-me species included Tweedy Snowlover (Chionophila tweedyi), a penstemon:

Cusick's Speedwell (Veronica cusickii):

Red-stemmed Saxifrage (Saxifrage lyallii):

Storm Saxifrage (Micranthes tempesitva; not a 100% certain ID--there are many saxifrage species and of course they hybridize too, just to complicate things):

There were also the first white Pygmy Bitterroot (Lewisia pygmaea) that I've seen:

Along the way we also noted many familiar (to me) species, including Parry's Lousewort (Pedicularis parryi):

Twin Arnica (Arnica sororia; this ID is also complicated, since not all the stems were twinned, and many appeared to be hybridized with Mountain Arnica):

Lewis's Monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii):

And Sticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum):

As we ate lunch up on the ridge, storm clouds began building and we could hear lightning a few miles away (Leroy w/ his fine camera and JackTheDog):

Cutting the hike a bit short, we ambled back to the truck though the storms passed around us.


Maria said...

What wonderful adventures you have!
Bears, beautiful lakes, mountain vistas, rainbows... all the mountain flowers...
Thank you for sharing with us ~ I hope summertime continues to be a wonderful time!
~ Maria

troutbirder said...

There nothing like a hike into new territory and new discoveries with friends. What fun. The thought of mountain storms is still scary to me. Looking down at lightening below me.... yikes. :)

tsduff said...

Thank you for the breath of fresh air... your pictures bring back some of the hikes of my youth (haven't had too many hikes in the past 10 years ha ha ha... I especially loved the little pool picture.

Have returned home to the San Francisco bay area after 2 weeks in Wyoming. I miss the open spaces, the thunder storms and amazing clouds scudding across the endless sky... Must return to "the World" Monday, but the break was good for my soul.

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secret agent woman said...

Cool bear encounter. I always like coming across the ruins of old settlements.

Janie said...

That's beautiful territory. Great bear photo, Eco. He does look a little thin.
We've been having thunderstorms a lot this summer, but finally we're getting a week of sunny weather.

Judy said...

Did you dabble your feet in that spring fed pool, or are you going to tell me it was still too cold? I SO want to go wading...
I love all the new flowers!!

BLD in MT said...

Stunning photos as always. That stream fed pool is very neat! I've never come across anything like that yet.

We were hoping to see some goats this past weekend, but no luck. There were plenty of other critters to keep us occupied at the binoculars though.

I just must spend more time in your part of Montana. Every little part is different.

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Nice shots, especially I like the fourth.


Merri said...

another nice hike! I always feel like I know a place better, I'm more connected to it when I can identify the plants and animals and birds.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Anonymous said...

I like it when i could go hiking with my family and see all of the different type of animals and know what everything is in the woods .I like going up to a special place where me and my family like to sit and listen to the different noise of the woods/nature .