I seldom participate in challenges, but Maurice at i AM Safari invited me to post in the current Black & White challenge and I have a photograph that is so similar in its essence to the one that he posted from half the world away that I simply had to post it.
When I was a kid growing up here in western Montana in the mid 40’s, we lived near the edge of town and about a mile away from our house (within my permissible roaming distance) there was a large section of natural prairie which in the spring was very nicely decorated by a profusion of wildflowers, most notably the state flower of Montana, the Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva). The Bitterroot has always been considered a valuable plant to the native Salish and Kootenai Indian tribes who cooked and ate the roots and large numbers of tribal members came from the nearby Flathead Indian Reservation each spring to camp and harvest roots on that section of prairie. They were very friendly people and were quite pleased to let a little kid like me help them with their harvest, and that became a real highlight for me every spring.
Sadly, that special place has now long been buried under the asphalt , concrete, and brick and mortar of commercial development that some folks call “progress” and Bitterroots have become very scarce. They do still bloom in places on the Reservation though (although not in great numbers), and each June I visit there to see and photograph the flowers.
Bitterroot ~ Lewisia rediviva
In June of 2011 a couple of miles from where I had been photographing Bitterroots I encountered a beautiful young Mule deer buck and was able to capture one of my favorite photos of that species, and probably the only photo in my entire library that I think looks fairly decent as a black and white conversion: a native mulie, perfectly at home in his natural habitat, wondering who or what I am and if I really belong there too.
On the Clark Fork River, a half mile down stream from where I live there are two sets of rapids visible from the highway, much admired and often fished and photographed. A mile down stream from them is a third set of rapids but not visible and hardly known, but it can be reached by a mile hike through a section of state land from the far side of the river. I enjoy fishing there and visit at other times of the year also to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
Today the temperature was about 20ºF and an icy breeze was blowing down river, but the sky was clear and it was pretty down at the third rapids
but what I found most interesting was the variety of lichens ( most of which I could not identify) growing on some exposed rocks and trees.
Green map ~ Rhizocarpon geographicum?
And a few photos of one I recognize, Brown-eyed Sunshine ~ Vulpicida canadensis.
After about a half mile of hiking toward a trail that I intended to visit today I tired of all of the snow and ice and turned back. I hike for the pure pleasure of it and saw no point in hiking where it wasn’t fun. And there are other places to go, one of which is Buttercup Ridge, where the very first wildflowers bloom every year about this time. It’s a small area, about 50 feet by 100 feet atop a very steep, narrow, rocky, cliffy ridge, and why buttercups bloom there nearly two months before they bloom anywhere else is a complete mystery to me. They do though, after all, bloom in western Montana and somewhere in their DNA they know that and they also know that before spring comes they may see temperatures of -20ºF and two feet of snow, but they bloom anyway. I love their attitude!
Sagebrush Buttercups ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus: (the water drops on some of them came from last night’s frost).
About a mile further up the mountain from the cliffs in yesterday’s post there is a rocky, south-facing, open ridge often frequented by Big Horn Sheep, elk and deer. There were none of them in residence yesterday, but I noticed some very pretty lichens and some small mosses which seemed to be thriving there on the rocks, none of which I can positively identify. For those who are knowledgeable in such things, here are some photos (and a couple of guesses about what they are).
Possibly Yellow-green cushion moss (Dicranoweisia crispula) That little moss was about the size of a quarter, and I noticed that there is a whole botanical garden around it in the space of just a few square inches.
Our unseasonably warm temperatures lately prompted me to make a quick visit to Munson Creek today and I found that all of the ice along the stream has melted, an extremely unusual condition for this time of year. Today’s high temperature was 53ºF while last year at this time the nights were down to -23ºF; quite a difference year to year! The stream water is only a little higher than usual though.