31 May 2011

The Decemberists: Road Trip, Bend Oregon

Every place, of course, has a history. Yet some places are more celebrated than others. When a place contributed to a nation's growth, shared its growing pains, and suffered for its contributions it is especially worth celebrating. Such is Butte America, the little city in southwest Montana that I call home, a place shaped by a century of copper mining and smelting.

A lot of film, literature, and music has been produced about Butte's history. This canon ranges from Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest (novel) to the recent PBS documentary film, Butte, America. Butte's Granite Mountain/Speculator Mine disaster (1917) has generated its own share of interest. 168 miners died, making it the world's worst hardrock mine tragedy to date.

The most recent contribution to commemorate the Granite Mountain Mine Disaster is the song "Rox in the Box" (click this link to hear it on YouTube) on the new album (The King is Dead, 2011) by the indie rock band, The Decemberists. For those of you that don't know this group, check out this song and other favorites such as Down by the Water -- good vibes reminiscent of Neil Young and REM. Here's the band ( photo by Autumn de Wilde for The Guardian newspaper):

Mrs Rover & I drove the 700 miles (almost 12 hours, with a lunch & supper stop) to Bend, Oregon, for The Decemberists outdoor concert. We camped at Tumalo State Park, enjoyed a sunset along the lava cliffs of the Deschutes River:

Took in some of the great local brews (Brew Werks selection pictured here):

Took in some of the sights (?) of Information-Age-Bend:

And saw our first California Quail:

I'd be remiss not to plug the duet Rodrigo y Gabriela that opened the show (check out a video of their music here). She is the most amazing guitar player I've ever seen/heard. Didn't even know it was legal to do that with a guitar!


26 May 2011

Skywatch Friday: Rocky Mountain Spring Skies

Spring is a distinct phase in our annual weather. It begins with the on-again (warm sunny days), off-again (blizzards) days of March and April. Come mid-May, most nights do not drop below freezing, the hills green up, and flowers bloom. And the skies, yes, the skies too show the transition (sunset view from my home in Walkerville, Montana):

On a little fishing trip on the other side of the Continental Divide (a half-hour away), the setting sun lit the sky over the Pintler Mountain Range:

By the time I got to the Opportunity/Wisdom turn-offs (my friend Chad Okrusch wrote this song about that strange place: Opportunity Blues ), the sky blazed behind the old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack:

It's a busy time for wildlife. The pronghorn antelope herds move from winter to summer range (yes, they do occasionally leap fences!):

"Hey guys, wait for me!":

A busy beaver swam around a small dam just above where I fished, slapping his tail a few times and generally showing his impatience with my intrusion:

And the ants swarmed out for housecleaning party:

I have no idea what they were doing, but they were VERY active:

On the Butte Hill, Cutleaf Daisies (Erigeron compositus) are blooming:

Look closely to see the tiny, finger-like leaves:

But it's the skies that keep calling out for our attention:

Spring skies? You bet:

16 May 2011

Skywatch Friday: Hiking & Trout Fishing

Final exam week + graduation + graduation parties = a "Skywatch Friday" post on Monday!

Let's start off with a skyview from graduate Emma MacKenzie's (MS-Technical Communication) apartment window here in Butte, Montana. Nailed up on a cross, various animal parts; as Wilson in the film Dead Man says, "looks like a goddamn religious icon:”

Before things got so busy, I did have a good afternoon fishing the Jefferson River. Some nice brown trout came to hand:

As well as (in a ratio of about 3 to 1) lots of feisty little rainbows:

Sometimes, in fishing, I become so intent on the water that I forget to look around at the canyon cliffs:

Or at the turkey buzzards circling above the canyon walls:

At the EIGHT buzzards circling above my head:

Must be something dead around here. MollyTheDog says "Dead? Nope. Absolutely not. Nothin' dead 'round here. Nobody here but us dogs. And goose wings."

And before things got busy, friend Dave Carter & I got out for a hike in the Humbug Spires, and especially scenic bit of the Boulder Batholith:

Along the Moose Creek bottom, the Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) is in flame:

On the hillsides, the Rocky Mountain Douglasia (Douglasia montana) blooms are at their peak:

That's worth a closer look:

And in the meadows, there are Wyoming Kittentails (Besseya wyomingensis):

Biscuitroot (Lomatium cous):

And swelling rosettes of Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva):

On the way home, drive past the Anaconda Smelter Stack and check out the elk, migrating from winter range to their calving grounds (the elk are on the meadow below and to the right of the stack):

Mountains throughout the Day
Butte America lies just north of the Highland Mountains. I like the sunrise view from my front porch as MollyTheDog fetches the paper:

The noon view from the front door of my workplace:

And the sunset view, again from home:

Yes, there is still a lot of snow up there. And just two weeks ago, we had a "surprise" spring snow storm and good skiing at The Moulton:

Schools out for summer: let's get out there!