Montana Outdoors

July 10, 2009

Tiny blossoms, big country.

Today as I stood by the old lookout cabin at Big Hole looking out at this scene, across the miles at Baldy Mountain and beyond the roadless area with that name to the grand Mission Mountains at the horizon, I noticed also some little white blossoms at my feet.

Big Hole Lookout

What a wonderful setting in which to have my first encounter with these enchanting little wildflowers!

Spotted Saxifrage

Spotted Saxifrage

Spotted Saxifrage,
Saxifraga bronchialis


  1. How I would love to stay a few nights in that L.O.! The spotted saxifrage is enchanting and unique. The Mission Mtns are one of my favorite mtn ranges. Great photos!


    Comment by Maureen — July 10, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

    • Somewhere around the end of August I will be staying for a few nights at that location. That old cabin is rather rare and the local Ranger Station has money in its budget this year to do some renovations to it in order to preserve it and I will be one of the volunteers doing the renovation. It will not be turned into a rental though. Another volunteer for the renovation is a guy I have gotten to know through this blog and who I am very much looking forward to meeting soon. He manned that lookout during the summer of 1966. I’m sure that project will be material for some (I hope) interesting posts.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2009 @ 8:49 pm

  2. I love that first shot with the Lookout, so much detail in the wood, and the clouds are awesome. And another beautiful flower in your wonderland. That sounds like a great project you will be working on…fun and important.


    Comment by Candace — July 10, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

    • That old cabin was built somewhere in the early 1930’s and it’s in surprisingly good shape. I visit there several times each summer. It’s 2 to 3 miles from the trail head with a vertical climb of 1,500 feet on a beautiful trail. It makes a very pleasant hike and also a good conditioning workout.


      Comment by montucky — July 10, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

  3. You do have the most interesting wild flowers there!! And wow…that top picture with the barn is gorgeous!


    Comment by Stacey — July 10, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

    • The peak is high enough that you can see for many miles in each direction. It also seems to be an area that hosts a whole bunch of different flower species. One of my favorite places!


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2009 @ 8:32 am

  4. Again, fab photo! I love the overview, but the unique flowers take the show!! Your flower photos are exquisite! Great find.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I have a few hundred photos of Montana and N. Idaho. Our daughter lived in Missoula for a while, so we know Hwy #200 well! πŸ˜€ We used to live within spitting distance of the Pend O’Reille at Oldtown, ID. We often drove up to Sandpoint, and on to Bonners Ferry, where our friends lived – who we “farm sat” for a couple of times. Watched the Eagles along the Pend O’Reille and took many many photos of them and the lake/river. I was a budding photographer at the time and had an old camera without a additional lens. Still don’t have a lens. 😦

    We had moved to Oldtown from Spokane when my DH and I retired. But then he passed in 2003 and I moved back to Spokane, met my present DH. He moved me to Arkansas!!! How I miss the NW!!!

    Thanks for listening to me ramble. And again for stopping by my blog. πŸ˜€


    Comment by Iona — July 11, 2009 @ 1:22 am

    • I know all of that country quite well and in your travels on Hwy 200, you went right past my house. I live between Plains and Thompson Falls. It’s impossible to forget this country!


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2009 @ 8:36 am

      • Yep, if you live between Plains and Thompson Falls, I have passed your home, several times. πŸ˜€ If I had known then what I now know, I would have stopped by to say: Hey! IF I could find you home! lol


        Comment by Iona — July 11, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  5. Fabulous captures! I especially like the top photo with the rustic cabin and mountain & sky vista. Wow! I could sit there for hours and hours to just contemplate and be and breathe.


    Comment by Anna Surface — July 11, 2009 @ 7:09 am

    • It’s one of several places where I do just that, Anna. the actual peak of Big Hole is another half mile and it’s within the TeePee/Spring Creek roadless area. It’s slightly higher and covered with flowers.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  6. Terry:

    I don’t ever remember seeing those lovely flowers when I was stationed on Big Hole LO, but I do remember a stack of fire wood next to the west side of the LO, and inside that stack lived a huge collection of lady bugs — very charming.



    Comment by Chad — July 11, 2009 @ 7:19 am

    • I just thought I’d check out the trail before you get here, Chad. It’s in good shape: looks like the F.S. trail crew made the hike. Above 6,000 feet the bear grass is still in full bloom too.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  7. Very pretty! Love the red spots on them!!


    Comment by 3bdigitalart — July 11, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  8. Saxifrage — beautiful!


    Comment by Patia — July 11, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  9. Great view and amazingly colourful little blooms. Perfect post. Such contrast: the giant west compared to the tiny, simple beauty saxifrage.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — July 11, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

    • There is certainly a lot to pay attention to. I wish more folks were able to see what I do.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  10. The best of the big and the small. Great view and lovely little flower.


    Comment by Kateri — July 11, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

    • It’s also much cooler up there. The building is right on the edge of a cliff that drops down around 500 feet and down there in a shaded area there are still piles of snow.


      Comment by montucky — July 11, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  11. The flowers are beautiful but that view is awe-inspiring! The mountains, the sky, it’s just perfect!


    Comment by edvatza — July 12, 2009 @ 6:29 am

    • That view and others like it are my favorite things of summer. On a real clear day, usually right after a good rain, the air doesn’t have as much haze in it and the mountains in the distance are quite clear. I’ve always wanted to get up there on one of those cold, clear days in winter when the air is crystal clear, but that would require a 9 mile trip by snowmobile (and I hate those) plus over 2 miles on snowshoes. It would be a terrific photo op though!


      Comment by montucky — July 12, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  12. The Lookout is a fantastic shot. Wow… what a view. The flowers, never seen such a flower before. They are beautiful.


    Comment by Preston Surface — July 12, 2009 @ 9:06 am

    • I will be co-leading a hike up there in a few weeks with some folks from American Wildlands. I hope they will like it!

      Those flowers are found only in 8 of our western states and western Canada.


      Comment by montucky — July 12, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  13. The 1st photo is so beautiful with the mountain range and clouds in the background. And the flowers are gorgeous…of course all your wildflower shots are gorgeous!Thanks for sharing!


    Comment by Sandy — July 12, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

    • Thanks Sandy! I’m glad you enjoy seeing that place: it’s one that can’t be seen from the highways. Those flowers were a complete and very pleasant surprise!


      Comment by montucky — July 12, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  14. That’s a lovely little flower indeed! Saxifrage are always a treat to see for me, as we don’t seem to have many in California.


    Comment by Adam R. Paul — July 13, 2009 @ 9:14 am

    • I’m not sure how plentiful they are here either. These are the only ones I’ve seen, but I suspect they’re not rare, just that I’ve missed them. Now I’ll be sure to look!


      Comment by montucky — July 13, 2009 @ 8:37 pm

  15. that is an absolutely breathtaking view, but in all of the vastness one’s eye is definitely drawn to the patch of wildfowers. there is such beauty in the little things in life!


    Comment by kcjewel — July 13, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

    • That’s so true, Jewel. I think that’s one of the purposes of wildflowers, to illustrate that point.


      Comment by montucky — July 13, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

  16. There’s that cabin again,… oh how i’d love to stay up there a few days!


    Comment by Cedar — July 14, 2009 @ 6:56 am

    • It’s certainly a great place to spend some time and there is plenty of room for setting up a small camp for a few nights although few do it. I’m sure looking forward to spending a few nights up there next month!


      Comment by montucky — July 14, 2009 @ 7:46 am

      • Not many people have the time nor the inclination go go about chronicling and photographing wild flowers or the fantastic places with a view that you do.

        I’m just curious. Does your spouse [if you have one] go with you on your excursions?

        How often do you make the forays out into the wild?

        What percentage of your year, would you say, do you spend on excursions?

        Do you have a “day job” – or is THIS your day job?? And if so, what is it called?

        Are there people standing in line to become whatever title you hold??:D

        It might comfort you to know my DH accuses me of being too logical. πŸ˜€


        Comment by Iona — July 14, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

        • It’s a somewhat long story, Iona, but those are reasonable questions and I’ll try to answer them.

          My wife is not able to go with me on the outdoors trips because of health issues.

          After I retired several years ago, several things merged that began all of my excursions into the back country. I knew that some good continuous exercise was something I needed and will always need: I love the wild country of the Rocky Mountains more than anything else I can think of, and I live right in the middle of a lot of it, very close to seven of Montana’s roadless areas and not all that far from about twenty more.

          I started out hiking about 6 miles a day on a quiet country road that passes by in front of our house and figured out very soon that I could almost as easily make those hikes into the back country some or most of the time. In 2007 my almost daily walks/hikes totaled 1306 miles and in 2008, 1280. This year so far as of today I’m at 692, so just about on the average. The results from a health standpoint have been incredible, and I don’t plan to ever stop.

          I have always taken a camera with me so I could bring back photos so I could show my wife the things that I saw in the back country and the high trails. I also started posting photos to my weblog and found that other folks also enjoyed seeing some of Montana that’s beyond the cities. Two years ago I upgraded the camera and upgraded again in January of this year to the Nikon that I now use. In a few days my digital photo album will pass 9,000 images.

          I try to hike some every day, often in the evening after dinner or if the weather is hot, early in the morning. Twice a week or so I try to make a longer trip on one of the Forest Service trails into the the real wild country or a roadless area. Winter is harder because the snow and ice block access to the high trails, but I can still cover a lot of the lower elevations in the valley and at least some of the trail on snowshoes.

          I have begun to realize more and more with each passing day how critical the forests and wild country are for the sustenance of our life here on Earth and it’s my hope that the folks who travel these trails with me through this virtual medium will fall in love with them as I have, start to understand the importance of these areas and want to protect them as I do while they are still here to protect.

          I have had a number of conservation groups use my photos in their publications or websites and I can think of no better possible use for the photos. I’m very pleased that just the past week, the conservation organization Earthjustice used a group of my photos on a new page on their website called Roadless Now.

          My title? I guess if the avid surfers back in the 60’s had the title of “surf bums”, mine must be “trail bum”.


          Comment by montucky — July 14, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  17. What a marvelous thing it is that you do! You are to be applauded for your efforts.

    We all are quick to enjoy the fruits of your excursions. Yet, not many of us take the time to realize what it costs you personally, not in just the lack of creature comforts, but physically and expense-wise to get these results.

    Sorry your wife cannot see the things you see, except of course, in photos.

    The wilderness is invigorating! Covering the amount of miles and heights you do must add to your health alone by intoxication from viewing all of God’s wonders.

    I guess my next and hopefully final questions are on the subject of safety: Do you hike alone or is there someone who goes with you? It is best to practice the buddy system.

    There are dangers out there – ranging from animal dangers, or threats, or forest fire, or a simple fall which could injure you. And you can’t rule out illness.

    Have you got some sort of back-up system, say satellite phone?

    I pray you remain safe in this wonderful job that you accomplish.

    You likely have all these bases covered and here some nosy person is questioning your capabilities! If you were to act like my DH, he would be insulted. That is not my intent. It is my interest that you remain safe. I’d hate to think you could be threatened or injured because my delight in your results encourage you to take risks.


    Comment by Iona — July 14, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

    • You are right, the spiritual benefits of the back country hikes is wonderful and the experience is always rather intoxicating.

      I nearly always hike alone, by choice. I am well experienced and I really feel more at home in the back country than I do anywhere closer to civilization. The most dangerous part of a back country hike is the drive to the trail head.

      Spending time alone in the wild country teaches, demands actually, a high level of confidence and self reliance and it isn’t for everyone, but I’m very comfortable with it. If one takes a reasonable amount of care, the actual dangers are less than what one encounters most of the time in the city and I consider the biggest element is that out there I have control without being at the mercy of another person who may not be under control. Ultimately at any time, in any place, we are vulnerable to unusual hazards or illness, a situation that is a part of being mortal.

      Thirty some years ago my wife was also concerned about my safety out there but she came to realize that I’m probably much safer there than I ever was at my places of work.

      I do not take any additional risks to bring back photos or stories: those happen as a result of my travels which would be undertaken anyway, they are not the reason for the travels. There are risks in everything we do: I think overall they are less in the back country than in the populated areas. I do appreciate your concern however, and thank you for that!


      Comment by montucky — July 14, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

      • That is good to know. πŸ˜€

        My late DH was an experienced logger and woodsman. After he became ill with cancer, he still insisted on going back into the woods to cut cord wood. Alone. Our sons did well when it came to producing cord wood, when they had the time to go with him. But they still could not put out the work that their father could.

        I worried about him, but then came to the conclusion that he was out doing what he loved. And if he died that way, then he went doing what he loved to do.

        He was in the woods up until just 6 weeks before he passed.


        Comment by Iona — July 14, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

  18. Your flower/houseboat pictures are beautiful. Striking colors that let the flowers POP right out with clear resonance that vibrates the artist in me. I am a writer/photographer using nature as my inspiration. I live in the Midwest, but travel to Florida each winter and have been in several countries. I must say your photo’s are as good as any I’ve seen. Cedar – love that name. I have an in-law Cedar and live close to the Cedar River. Thanks for the “eye candy”.


    Comment by Darlene Waldorf — July 16, 2009 @ 7:13 am

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