Montana Outdoors

May 31, 2007

May wild flowers, part 8

All flowers aren’t, well, just flowers. These unusual blossoms will, a little later in the summer, turn into wild currents.

Wild currents blossoming

And these will become large clumps of tiny, steel-blue colored Elderberries.

Elderberry blossoms

The grouse will be pleased when these little Kinnikinnik flowers turn into bright red berries, one of their favorite foods.

Kinnikinnik in bloom

Just recently the Indian Paint Brushes have started to bloom now in various places around here, adding nice splashes of red to the more open parts of the forest..

Indian Paint Brush

Along the edges of the meadows, where they are exposed to direct sun, these Trumpet Vines are climbing on the larger bushes and displaying their own version of orange.

Trumpet Vine

And at a higher elevation, in the deep shade of the creek bottom, the Calypso Orchids are still in bloom.

Calypso Orchid

These photos were taken on May 24 and May 25, 2007 at elevations from 2,500 feet to 3,500 feet along a two mile stretch of Buffalo Bill Creek in Western Montana.

May 29, 2007

May wild flowers, part 7

Filed under: Conservation, Environment, Flowers, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 7:16 pm

Mountain Bluebells Mertensia ciliata.

Various light conditions produce interesting displays, and the subtle blend of colors fascinates me. It makes them look as though they are out of focus.

Mountain Bluebells, (Mertensia ciliata)

Mountain Bluebells, (Mertensia ciliata)

Mountain Bluebells, (Mertensia ciliata)

Mountain Bluebells, (Mertensia ciliata)

Scarlet Gilia Gilia aggregata.

The only spot near here where I have seen these grow is on a sandy and rocky little area of river bank, where they provide a dramatic contrast to the sand, sparse grass and scattered pine trees.

Scarlet Gilia, (Gilia aggregata)

Scarlet Gilia, (Gilia aggregata)

Scarlet Gilia, (Gilia aggregata)

Vetch: Wild Pea Vicia cracca

These grow in small clumps but also in very large areas where they provide a beautiful array of colors. The ladder-like pattern of the leaves is distinctive.

Wild Pea, (Vicia cracca)

May 28, 2007

Tolmie star-tulip

From six feet up, the tiny 3/4-inch white triangle didn’t look like much, but through the miracle of a lens I found a new favorite wild flower. Near the start of a hike today on USFS trail #372 into the Munson Creek drainage in Western Montana’s Cabinet mountains, it was pleasing to see the Thimbleberries were in bloom along the creek, and these blossoms are much larger than most, nearly two inches across. It will be worth a trip back later when the berries are ripe! Thimbleberry blossom Thimbleberry blossom Thimbleberry blossom After another half mile up the trail the terrain leveled out somewhat. The area had been selectively logged many years ago, and the remaining trees, mature firs and Ponderosa pines are spread fairly far apart providing beautiful conditions of open shade with low bushes and plentiful grasses. It was there that the little white triangles began to show up in the low grasses between the trees. I had not seen this wild flower before and decided to photograph it. As the lens brought it up close, I fell in love with Calochortus tolmiei! Tolmie star, Calochortus tolmiei Tolmie star, Calochortus tolmiei Tolmie star, Calochortus tolmiei Tolmie star-tulip, Calochortus tolmiei Tolmie star-tulip, Calochortus tolmiei Tolmie star-tulip, Calochortus tolmiei Munson Creek is within the 13,902 acre TeePee – Spring Creek roadless area in the Lolo National Forest. This area would receive the protection of a “wilderness” designation under the provisions of the Wilderness Bill, HR 1975 as noted on page 52 of the Bill.

May 27, 2007

Memorial day.

Filed under: Montana, Reflections, Writing — montucky @ 9:31 pm

It was cloudy and cold that day in the late fall of nineteen hundred and forty four as a small boy stood with his family on the windy concrete platform of the old Milwaukee railroad station in Missoula Montana awaiting the departure of the train bound for the west coast.

The boy of three-plus years stood at attention in his miniature green uniform, authentically made for him by his mother’s hands. On each collar of his jacket he proudly wore the Globe and Anchor of the United States Marine Corps.

A few feet away stood a tall young Marine also dressed in a crisp green uniform. On his collars were shiny gold bars: on the left side of his campaign cover was a Globe and Anchor, on the right another gold bar.

When departure time came, the young officer hugged his mother, shook his father’s hand and then shook the hand of his young brother, followed by a sharp salute, then turned and boarded the train. His destination, known to him but not to the family; the South Pacific.

It was a cold winter that year but also one filled with foreboding and anxiety as the news of the South Pacific Campaign slowly trickled back to the town. The boy knew that something very important was happening from some of the words he overheard spoken and from an occasional glimpse of his mother’s tears.

There were letters received by the family during that winter, sporadic and short, but ever so welcome. Then one afternoon, when spring was at the doorstep of western Montana a large black sedan pulled up to the curb in front of the family home. The boy could see the tears well up in his mother’s eyes but he was still too young to understand.

A Navy Commander accompanied by an aide emerged from the car and made their way up the walk to the front door. After a short introduction, the Commander made a short and emotional statement: “The Department of the Navy regrets to inform you that your son has been killed in action during the battle for Iwo Jima.”


There is much, much more to this story, but to put it briefly for now, the Department of the Navy is not always right. Several weeks later a letter came in the mail in the young officer’s shaky handwriting and postmarked from the US medical facility on Guam, where he was slowly recovering from massive wounds incurred on the morning of March twenty-sixth during the last battle on the island and on the day Iwo Jima was declared officially secure. He was more fortunate than many of his comrades about whom the brief messages from the Department of the Navy were correct.

May 26, 2007

Evening swimmer

Filed under: Animals, Beaver, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 11:32 pm

After about a dozen casts, this evening’s fishing was interrupted by an old favorite visitor, a beaver. I enjoy watching beavers under any condition, but they’re especially fascinating when swimming in the open water of the river, where there are varying currents, rocks, pools, eddies; anything but smooth water. Beavers know how to negotiate all kinds of conditions with the utmost confidence and stay under complete control. They are truly some of the world’s greatest swimmers!

I have watched beavers swim perhaps a hundred times, but the lens of a camera sees them quite a bit differently than my eyes do and has the ability to stop their action. I now have a somewhat different understanding of a beaver in water.

He has seen me, but since I’ve frozen any motion, he’s not sure, so he heads my way just to check the situation out. I am fascinated by the turbulence in the water that the camera captured.


As he swam, he didn’t head directly toward me, but zigzagged his way. I took 6 photos from the side and amazingly they all look almost exactly the same. His swimming technique varied only slightly.


It was fortunate that any of the photos were usable because the sun had set and I had to shoot directly toward the bright western sky. No, he‘s not in a snow bank. There’s actually about 20 feet of water under him and he‘s swimming against a current of perhaps 4 or 5 mph.


May 25, 2007

Hornet nest

Filed under: Conservation, Environment, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 9:56 pm

Nests made by hornets and wasps, especially paper wasps are common and easily recognizable. I’ve seen hundreds of various types, but never one like this 2 inch by 6 inch masterpiece that hangs about 5 feet above the ground not far from a trail in a deep canyon near where I live:

Hornet nest

While I am curious about its internal construction, I will not disturb the nest to satisfy that curiosity.

It’s builder skillfully used instincts developed over thousands of years in crafting it; thousands of years living in complete harmony with nature. It is not built on a concrete pad, nor was any piece of nature destroyed to make a place for it. There was no necessity for the pollution from iron smelters to make its supporting girders, no fossil energy needed to move the necessary materials. A building permit was not required for it; no special use permits, no legal fees, no municipal regulations. It has no mortgage, incurs no property taxes, and when its useful life comes to an end, its material will gently return to the earth from where it came.

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