12 May 2013

Spring Wildflowers and Trout: Montana Awakes from Winter's Slumber

Our weather along the Continental Divide in southwest Montana has warmed but it's still very dry. On a recent family hike, dark clouds filled the sky and lightning flashed along the mountain ridges. But only a light rain graced the land, barely enough to make donning a jacket worthwhile. Outstanding sky, though, as with this "sun hole:"

Each spring at this time, I fish a small tributary of the upper Big Hole River. The main fare is brook trout--I like a mess or two dusted with cornmeal and fried, with a plate of sauteed dandelion greens on the side. Here's a tasty trout for the table:

The creek this year is lower than I have ever seen it in early May. Still, the rainbow trout are spawning (they run upstream from the larger river). I saw several very large fish (20"+) and caught a few nice ones, too--always exciting to hook up with a big fish in a stream you can jump across:

The high prairie, at first glance, looks desolate. But let's take a closer look. In this photo, you can see an arc of higher grass that defines part of a tipi ring:

Inside the ring, you can find buttery-yellow and blood-red flakes of jasper, knapped off by Indian sharpening their tools:

A friend I grew up with many years ago and with whom I've reconnected via FaceBook, suggested I try a test on the yellow jasper: heat it to see if it turns red. So on my way home from fishing I stopped at a local jasper mine used by Indians and picked up a few chunks of yellow jasper. Sure enough, at home in the kitchen over a gas flame, the heated yellow jasper turned red:

A close look at the bunch grass prairie also reveals many wildflowers.  Though they seem stunted by this spring's drought, there are many varieties to be found, including:
Hooker's Townsend Daisy (Townsendia hookeri):

Mountain Douglasia (Douglasia montana):

Cutleaf Daisy (or Dwarf Mountain Fleabane;  Erigeron compositus):

Sagebrush Buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus):

Wyoming Kittentails (Besseya wyomingensis): 

Pretty Shootingstars (Dedecatheon pulchellum), both purple:

and white: 

Sagebrush Bluebells (Mertensia oblongifolia): 

and Hood's Phlox (Phlox hoodii): 

Daughter Emily passed through on a cross-country drive to the East, so we set off on a family hike to a favorite place: 

It's near a now-abandoned ranch established c. 1900:

There are always interesting artifacts to be found (strictly catch and release): 

This is a calving area for elk, and they time their return for "green-up." Here are a few early arrivals (they begin calving here c. 20 May): 

Along the creeks and willows, a few white-tailed deer can usually be found: 

Molly-The-Dog enjoys the remaining snowfields, but they won't last long with another 80-deg F day or two:

See you in the hills! 
EcoRover out. 


Sylvia K said...

It does look like the Montana that I remember! Thank you! Have a wonderful week!

Arija said...

So glad you have not given up blogging entirely. Thank you for the botanical names as common names rarely mean the same plant in different districts.
Just as well Molly can enjoy herself a little while longer, we have her namesake in a border collie cross here.
I'm all for trout fishing and eating outdoors of course. Haven't had a chance for a long while though. Your way of doing them sounds delicious, especially with the side dish of dandelion. City slickers would scoff at that but dandelion is such a versatile plant, from salad greens or sautéed to coffee substitute and the most delicious liqueur from it's flowers.
interesting about the indian artefacts from jasper, here the locals used flint. It is all a matter of availability. Does jasper harden with 'cooking'?
I too am a firm believer of leaving found objects for history and others to marvel over, also of what you carry in, you also carry out.
Wonderful wildflowers even with the dry and lovely scenery as well as those momentous clouds.
Greetings from The Land Down Under.

Should Fish More said...

I've been thinking about a trip up to 'notellum' creek since the big hole is apparently in run-off. Doesn't sound good for later in the summer, though.

John Bardsley said...

Thanks EcoRover!

Janie said...

Very interesting to find a teepee ring and the rock chips inside. I had no idea jasper would turn from yellow to red with heat.
Your wildflowers are looking lovely. Spring is well on its way.
Must've been nice to have a brief visit with your daughter and enjoy a favorite hike with her.

ZielonaMila said...

Beautiful photographs, I love such views:) Greetings

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of any tributaries of the Big Hole that would be open until this weekend.

The general fishing season doesn't open until the 3rd Saturday in May.

BLD in MT said...

Grand photos as usual--those clouds are really something! And the flowers! We watched a grizzly rolling in the snow last weekend...it was one of the last patches around the area. Sometimes a critters just got to cool off! : )

Secret Agent Woman said...

Really cool opening in the clouds. I'm always struck by how different your wildflowers are from ours.

Maria said...

I'm finally getting out and about in blogland tonight.
I love all the beautiful photos of the flowers ... And the abandoned ranch... Wow... What a view!
Someone should adopt that spot!
It was lovely to visit and to see that you are enjoying family and Molly too!
- Maria

troutbirder said...

Ah spring in southwest Montana I love it. I always enjoyed catching those brook trout for the frying pan and perhaps may have fished the same creek one time. Shooting stars are always a favorite....:)

Judy said...

Love your catch and release stuff!! I have brought another load of stuff from my Dad's collections, and will be processing those photos as my back allows...