Montana Outdoors

January 19, 2007

My neighbor, the beaver

Filed under: Animals, Beaver, Conservation, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 7:29 pm

Today, instead of going on my usual hike through the foothills, I chose to scramble for a few miles along the bank of the Clark Fork river and enjoy some of the winter scenery there, and in so doing walked right into the yard of the resident beaver.

Back in October I wrote a post “Overwhelmed?” about beavers and some of the tasks they perform. That setting was about a hundred miles from where I live. This encounter was closer to home.

A hundred yards downstream from this scene

Clark Fork in winter 1

is this beaver lodge, and judging by its small size, probably the home of a single beaver or a small family. It will suffice for the winter but will be swept away by the high water during the spring run-off in May.

Beaver lodge

Besides cutting the small willows along the bank for food, this guy chose to put the branches of a small pine tree in his larder. While they will often use pines in building their dams, it is rather unusual to find one that is used strictly for food.

Beaver food

This is what the chips which are laying at the base of the stump look like up close. The grooves made by the beaver’s teeth can clearly be seen.

Beaver chips

This is just another tiny piece which interlocks into the huge puzzle of the natural world.

January 15, 2007

A River of Ice

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 9:06 pm

The Clark Fork River flowing just below where I live doesn’t freeze over, but the Flathead River does; in a way. Here are some photos taken this morning of a section of it about 160 miles downstream from its headwaters in Glacier Park. At this point, the river narrows and provides the potential of forming an ice dam which covers its entire width.

Flathead in winter 1

Several miles upstream, there are large sections where the river spreads out and the surface is calmer, allowing ice to form. Then pieces like this break loose and float on down into the narrow section.

Flathead in winter 2

Here, a half mile below where the first photo was taken, the ice chunks ram together and bridge across the entire width of the river.

Flathead in winter 3

One often hears of “whitecaps” created on a body of water by the wind. Here are some created by the cold:

Flathead in winter 4

Some of these blocks of ice are fairly good size. The nearly vertical one in the next photo is roughly 5 feet long and 4 inches thick. While trying to get close enough to take this picture, I stepped out onto the ice and my left foot inadvertently found a thin pocket of ice and broke through. I pulled my foot back out of the water and, while saying a soft “Thank you!” to the inventor of Gore-Tex, watched the water on my boot freeze almost instantly upon contact with the air.

Flathead in winter 5
For the next section of about a mile in length, the Flathead literally becomes a river of ice.

Flathead in winter 6

January 13, 2007

Sorrow

Filed under: Montana, Nature — montucky @ 1:01 pm

 On the sudden death of a good friend:

In times of deep sadness, when the existential reality of mortality drapes across our shoulders like a coarse black cape, we each have our own unique sanctuary into which we retreat for solace.

For many, it’s a deep faith in God, and that provides the greatest comfort. For others, it is a gathering of friends and family, and a communal sharing of feelings that are not well kept entirely within. A few do look strictly inward and examine their feelings there.

Sometimes we drift into the thought that death is not a part of the order of things, but then we must realize it is indeed an integral part of the world in which we live, and at some point we must know that the timing of it is not of our own choosing.

The natural world which displays so much of the beauty and joy of life also contains the darker scenes that are also essential parts of the whole.

A long, long walk alone down a road like this:

1-6-2007-4

does not make one forget, but does bring perspective and suggests the freedom of the spirit needed to become whole again.

The geese are still on the river, the eagles still soar and wheel above, the deer still feed by night in the valley fields and slumber by day in the woods high on the mountainsides and the brilliance of the stars in the deep blackness of the night displays a reminder of the awesome magnitude of this world of which we are a part. Peace finally comes with the full understanding that from Nature’s perspective, even now, nothing is out of its place.

January 12, 2007

2º Rainbow

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 11:08 pm

This morning at sun rise, the temperature was already twice the night’s low of 1º and heating up fast. It should reach the double-digits by this afternoon.

Here in Western Montana we are blessed with rapid weather changes and temperature swings. Three days ago the high temperature was a record-breaking 52º and last night we had practically no temperature at all. Besides amusing the residents around here, this quirk of Fahrenheit set up the conditions for something I have never seen before.

Because of the recent mild weather the water in the river is warmer than usual for this time of year, and when the air temperature dropped last night it caused columns of steam to rise from the water, more than what is normal. When the rays of the rising sun encountered one of the steam columns, it created a rainbow; a 2º rainbow. It can be faintly seen roughly in the center of this picture (taking a photo into the sun isn‘t all that easy).

2º Rainbow

This is what the steam columns look like not looking into the sun:

Steam columns

Now, while I’m wasting too many megabytes of server space anyway, it’s probably a good time to share my sympathy for a friend who owns this ranch and has to look at this scene every day:

Ranch

January 8, 2007

The exercise room

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Reflections — montucky @ 11:14 pm

Now that the holidays are past and all of the major feasting, snacking, sipping, guzzling and other over-indulging is over, it has occurred to me that getting some really good exercise should be the order of the day.

For so many folks across America, it’s the time fire up the car, drive a few blocks or so down to Curves and exercise. Unfortunately, that’s not an option for me for several very good reasons:

1. They have some kind of “gender bias” thing going on down there and won’t let me in.
2. Several of the regular patrons of our local franchise inadvertently overheard me refer to that fine establishment as “Bulges” instead of Curves. (Luckily I have the ability to run very fast and jump over things.)
3. Scientists have determined that the mere act of witnessing all the jiggling that goes on in there is by itself very bad for one’s health, although it may turn out to be an excellent appetite suppressant. Studies are still going on.
4. I don’t need to go there because I have a very fine exercise room of my own.

My exercise room differs in many ways from the exercise rooms commonly in use in all the major cities. First of all, it is in the shape of a triangle rather than the customary rectangle; an isosceles triangle to be more exact. It has a very high ceiling, and somewhat more floor space than the average exercise room; 136 square miles (or roughly twenty times that, if you include all the ups and downs). I can enter it by simply walking out through the door of my house.

Holding up the ceiling at one corner of this room is the rocky, 7464 foot peak of Mt Baldy in the Salish Mountain range. The ceiling support seventeen miles to the west of that is a huge rock slab at the top of 6922 foot Big Hole Peak in the Cabinet Mountains, and the third corner sits right next to the lookout tower atop 6837 foot Patrick’s Knob, part of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains.

The ceiling, rather than being painted one drab color, changes colors constantly. Sometimes it is deep blue, sometimes pure white, or gray, but most often displays a kaleidoscopic mixture of these colors, with a few swirls of reds, pinks and yellows thrown in for accents. I must caution you however: it frequently leaks drops of rain or permits snow flakes to drift down unexpectedly.

The walls have been skillfully painted with various scenes of mountainsides, peaks, valleys, grassy or snowy meadows, high ridges, rock cliffs and a huge variety of tree species. On most days quickly movable curtains of clouds frequently shift back and forth and display the scene of one wall for a time, then cover it and display one of equal beauty on another. It’s very good for the neck muscles if one attempts to take in all the changes.

The floor is not flat like the floors of most exercise rooms. There are all kinds of elevation variations in this one, most often called “hills” or “mountains”, always pleasant to climb, if for no other reason, just to look over the other side. Sometimes you can hear the soft rustle of bright green floor-grass against your boots (it‘s very relaxing to listen to the swishing of the grass while trying to avoid stepping on any of the wildflowers). During the winter you can often skate on this floor. In summer, in many places you can swim in it.

Although the price for its use is very reasonable (merely a little effort), it has always amazed me that so few people ever use it

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