Well…. maybe not today!
January 31, 2008
Mid winter is what memory and photographs are for. I can close my eyes and feel the cool breeze that was blowing across the top of the peak when I took this photo on June 21, 2007.
(Photo of the peaks of the Cherry Peak roadless area, taken from the top of Sunset Peak, just above USFS trail 385T in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of western Montana.)
January 29, 2008
Someone started up a new gym in the little town near here and I have to chuckle every time I go by: they advertise that they have a treadmill.
I do too, but mine is so much better. It’s the high ridge you can see at the skyline in this photo. The monthly fee for using it is $0.00 and imagine, if you will, what the walls of that exercise room look like!
It’s a little tough to use in winter, and so I use another at a little lower elevation, but I always enjoy looking up at the ridge and the tall peaks because I know on top of the highest one (it’s the middle one of the group of three in the left-center of the photo) is an old friend, the Big Hole Lookout.
It was built in the 1930′s and retired in the 60′s, but it still sits in the stark solitude of its perch on the cliffs above its namesake, the “big hole”. The pure white of the building and its surroundings in winter is quite a contrast to the shades of blue from the smoke of last August’s fires.
(Just beyond the old tower is the east edge of the TeePee-Spring Creek roadless area in western Montana’s Cabinet Mountains.)
January 27, 2008
In the middle of winter, while it’s nice to contemplate the beauty of all the snow and ice, it’s also enjoyable to occasionally reflect on what this cold world will be like once summer returns again.
The first two photos that follow were taken last Thursday, of Mount Baldy, a 7,464 foot high mountain near here with its cold cap of deep snow. As much as I’d like to be up there right now, I can’t be: for the time being, it’s prime avalanche country.
Last June, the mountain looked quite different than now and here are a few photos taken then, on the 26th to be exact, when, instead of longingly looking at it from below, I was able to view it from the top.
At the very peak the stack of rocks still remains which formed the base of a lookout tower, built not long after the turn of the century and replaced by a newer one years later. Both are now long gone, having been replaced by aircraft surveillance flights throughout the fire season. During the last year’s fire season, three temporary communications towers were in place near the ruins.
In fact, the trail to the top was created so pack strings of horses and mules could take the necessary material up for the tower’s construction and maintenance. Now it’s maintained by the Forest Service as a primitive hiking trail through the Baldy Mountain roadless area. (The mountains at the horizon are part of the Bitterroot range, 40-some miles to the south.)
Southeast of the peak, the trail winds past Baldy Lake. How I’d love to visit there this time of year, but that will have to wait until spring, probably mid to late May. In the mean time, the memories and the photos will have to suffice.
January 26, 2008
About fifteen years ago a wildfire swept through this area and, although it wasn’t an especially hot one, it killed a lot of trees. Once it was over, we did exactly the right thing to the area: we left it alone.
In her own time, nature will repair just about every catastrophe that strikes her wild country. She cannot, however, repair a subdivision.
January 25, 2008
Several days ago just before noon I checked the outdoor temperature from our sensor mounted in the shade of a big fir tree in the yard; 10ºF. A moment later I noticed that another thermometer mounted in the sun on the south side of our garage indicated 75ºF. An interesting contrast!
At this latitude, the winter sun rides quite low in the southern sky, giving its beams a nearly vertical angle against a wall or steep hillside, and even when the air temperature is quite cold, those steep slopes gather enough heat to melt most of the snow and maintain a comfortable temperature during sunny periods.
Mule deer and bighorn sheep especially, take advantage of this and can usually be found on steep south-facing slopes which are relatively warm and have natural food grasses exposed even when the surrounding terrain is covered with deep snow and the air temperature is in single digits or even below zero. (I also enjoy settling in on such a slope and having a warm and comfortable spot from which to observe the area below.)
This whitetail doe and her last summer’s twins also understand this phenomenon and are enjoying the comfort of the sun while browsing for food on a frigid winter day.