Today began with bright sun and finished with heavy clouds and snowstorms. March is supposed to go out like a lamb, not a polar bear!
At the mid point of a short hike today the clouds were very interesting and so I brought back some photos of them. (I have a huge weakness for clouds!) The first three are over the Coeur d’Alene mountains, and the last over the Cabinet mountains, all taken from one vantage point inside the Cabinets about seven hundred feet above the valley floor. (The peak partially hidden by a snowstorm in the first photo is about a mile higher than the valley.)
On a day that featured bright warm sun at times and cold, wind-driven snow at others, it was great being outside. My accomplishments were minor: I caught a Brown trout and a Rainbow and released both, hiked about 7 miles in total and in between the snow storms snapped two photos that I really like. Taking the risk of boring everyone with more photos of these early wildflowers, here they are:
A Buttercup in the morning’s frost.
The prettiest little Yellowbell I’ve seen yet.
Here in western Montana, the plant life is quite sensitive to altitude differences, especially during a change of seasons. It was very noticeable this week in a couple of the places I visited.
At the altitude of the Clark Fork river (2,500 feet at this location), wildflowers are starting to bloom, the few poplars that grow here are starting to bud out
and their leaves are nearly ready to emerge.
The mosses growing on a huge boulder next to the water are bright colored and luxuriant.
But just a thousand feet higher, even though it’s only about two miles as the crow flies, this little fir tree is still huddled in its snow cave where it spent most of the winter. (The cave is still about 3 feet deep and the snow is quite icy, and so for it, winter will last at least another month).
Two more additions to the spring wildflower show appeared this week and I am glad to see them again! So small, so fragile; I suppose their major impact in this world is upon those who find them in the spring.
The Yellow Bell,
and the tiny Woodland Star.
(Ironically, as I was waiting for the photos to upload to Flickr, I watched a heavy snowstorm sweeping up the river. It was brief though.)
Yesterday the weather cleared a bit and Munson Creek seemed to call to me. USFS trail 372 was clear for about two miles up into the TeePee – Spring Creek roadless area before the ice on the trail became too hazardous for hiking. (It’s a very narrow trail along a steep mountainside.)
Not far from the trail head I began to see Moose sign, and as I watched for them (and also for bear since they’re now coming out of their dens), I walked right up on a group of four Big Horn ewes; a pleasant surprise. At about the two mile point there was a considerable amount of wolf scat along the trail. It was of various ages, the most recent perhaps a week old. I made a mental note to visit again in about a month, hike to the top and spend one night there. It would be great to see and perhaps have a chance to photograph a wolf pack!
Even from the relatively low elevations at the lower end of the trail, the scenery across the Clark Fork valley is great to see where the north side of the Cherry Peak roadless area is fully visible and only a few miles away. Tough to have to hike in this kind of country, isn’t it? What a pleasure it was to again get into at least a little bit of the high country!
Also can’t resist this one more post about them. Yesterday, however, I saw the first yellow bell of the year, so maybe I’ll be able get away from the buttercups for this year.