02 February 2012

Skywatch Friday: Venus in Montana?

Here in southwest Montana, one is seldom bored with the sky. Well, except perhaps for those seemingly endless bluebird days of July and August when it can be weeks between clouds. Even then, the happy feeling that one gets from clear air and the distant viewshed makes it hard to complain.

It's a mile-and-a-half walk from my college office to home. Some days, especially if I've been dealing with faculty union or administrative issues (instead of engaging with my friendly colleagues or teaching my beloved students), I really need that 30-minute walk to relax. A sky like this really helps (view is looking up Missoula Gulch from Montana Tech; not "gallows frames" or mine headframes):

Seeing this band of clouds pushing eastward, with clear skies to the west, made me hope for good colors in the east as the sunset. I was not disappointed. As reached my home in Walkerville, the cloud band had reached Butte's east ridge of the Continental Divide and the sun was low:

It's a great color and effect. My childhood friend, physicist Gary Robertson (Oh, the miracle of FaceBook!) tells me it's in part a belt of Venus effect as the pinkish sunset glow is highlighted by the lower dark band caused by the earth's shadow. Within minutes, the color shifted to red and soon it was dark:

Dave Carter and I got out for a hike in the hills along the Big Hole River and were welcomed by this familiar view of Browne's Bridge. Though it's been well below freezing at night and a lot of ice has built up on the river, the hills at this low elevation (c. 5,000 feet above sea level) are bare of snow:

After cross country skiing most mornings on the hills just north of my home, it's nice to hike around on bare ground. A bald eagle rose up from its roost along the river, making a nice contrast against dark clouds:

It wheeled around in a wide gyre before catching a wind current and gliding out of sight:

The dogs too found happiness in the day as we came upon a pronghorn antelope carcass, perhaps having been wounded by a hunter (and poor marksman) before the coyotes found and ate it:

Though no meat remained, MollyTheDog was perfectly content to carry a leg along for the next mile or so before finding greater interest in the scent of a jackrabbit or some mule deer that we jumped from a coulee (note cactus at lower left--tough on doggy feet!):

The mineral laden soil and desert climate result in salt deposits in low lying areas where water collects after a storm. Here, patches of saltbush, greasewood, or the spiny Shadscale ( Atriplex confertifolia) grow (note some sort of red blister rust or fungus, probably from last year's exceptionally wet, snowy spring):

Back to our parking spot and one last view of Browne's Bridge, as seen under the arms of a cottonwood tree, before we're on our way home:

Alas, dear readers, this will probably be my last post from Montana for c. 5 months as I leave next week for my Fulbright in Chongqing, China. I am strengthening my legs (and the software on my MacBook) to leap the Great Firewall, so hopefully once there I can access blocked sites such as FaceBook and Blogger.


Sylvia K said...

Terrific captures for the day! Always love those beautiful Montana skies! Hope you've had a good and have an even better weekend!


Joyful said...

Stunning scenery. I love all your photos.
How fantastic that you are going to China. I hope you will post sky photos from the Great Wall if you get there. Bon voyage and safe journey.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Another great post. I know I would very much like Montana. What a wonderful walk home you have.

Lea s Menagerie said...

Interesting post!
Great photos!
Lea's Menagerie

Janie said...

I hadn't heard of the Belt of Venus effect, but it certainly makes a beautiful sunset.

Arija said...

I wish you God speed. I hardly think you will be able to blog from there but I certainly hope you will somehow for your input will be sorely missed.

Monetary considerations apart, I cannot imagine any one wanting to leave the paradise you live in.

Richard Gibson said...

Those pics of the lone bald eagle are great. They all are, but I especially appreciate those. See you Sunday!

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Very good photos.

Regards and best wishes

Veronica Wald said...

Let's hope you'll either succeed in posting from Chongqing, or that you'll bring back massive fodder for many future posts. I was in China in 1980 and in 1983, and to this day there's material from those trips for an occasional blog. The photo ops are terrific, too.

Either way, HAPPY TRAVELS!

troutbirder said...

Good luck Pat. It should be a wonderful experience. Go with the flow and don't let the political bedbugs get you down. I have a former student who lives and writes in Shanghai. We share emails although I don't know about the blogging question...

BLD in MT said...

A wonderful Montana tour as always. Good luck in China. I am sure it will be a most educational and worthwhile experience for you. Safe journeys!

Anonymous said...

Not only did I see great photos here, but I learned something. Thank you!

☆•.¸.Mildred.¸.•☆ said...

Wonderful series!
My favourite among the skies is the second shot! And love the capture of the doggie too:o)
Thanks for sharing And thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment;o)

Have a fabulous weekend****

ps: thanks for "the belt of Venus" which I had never heard of before;o)

Laura said...

fantastic skies!

Judy said...

What a glorious sunset!! You walk faster than I do, if a mile and a half only takes you half an hour...
Have a safe trip, and I hope I see you again in less than 5 months!!!