Montana Outdoors

March 20, 2010

Another early arrival

Small-flowered Woodland Star Small-flowered Woodland Star, Lithophragma parviflorum.

The first bloom of this flower that I encountered last year was on April 7th. They are quite small, the flower measuring about 1/4 inch across. They bloom early here and I have found some in bloom all summer long in various areas.

For more information:
The Burke Museum
USDA Plants
Cal Photos database

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March 18, 2010

Spring evening

Filed under: Cabinet Mountains, Montana, Outdoors, Spring — Tags: , , — montucky @ 11:19 pm

One of the wonderful things about springtime in western Montana is the way the weather (and consequently, the scenery) changes so dramatically within minutes. This evening my friend the Pointer invited me to go for a walk on the road to the Big Hole trail head, and these photos were taken on the hike within about an hour. (The snow on the road was at about 5,000 feet elevation.)

Patrick's Knob 5:24 – Spring snow flurries sweeping the distant Coeur d’Alene mountains.

Big Hole road 5:47 – A mile farther and 400 feet higher at a switchback on the road.

Baldy Mountain 6:21 – The last of today’s sun touching the tops of the Cabinet mountains.

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March 14, 2010

A search for a trail, surprise #2

Friday’s search for the beginning of an old trail was successful, but equally satisfying was a surprise at the beginning of the descent, when we walked right into this herd of elk, who had been snoozing just over a rise from where we made our ascent. After all of the time spent last fall hunting for them…

Elk

(See if you can find all thirty in the following photo.)

Elk

I especially like the two last summer’s calves at the left side who seem to be discussing the situation.

March 13, 2010

A search for a trail, surprise #1

No trip into Montana’s outdoors ever takes place without surprises. The first surprise on this outing was actually two surprises, and pleasant ones, too;

Yellow Bell
Yellow Bell, Goldcup, Yellow Fritillaria, (Fritillaria pudica)

Alpine chickweed
Alpine Chickweed, Bering Chickweed, (Cerastium beeringianum)

both blooming about a month earlier than usual. (I was glad that I did stow the macro lens in my pack.)

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March 11, 2010

A search for a trail

For two years, a trail has been on my mind. It’s name is “Fourteen Mile Trail” (AKA USFS trail 1714), and it extends from the Clark Fork River near the old ferry landing at Fourteen mile, about seven miles to the lookout at the top of 6,800 foot Patrick’s Knob in western Montana’s Coeur d’Alene Mountains.

Two summers ago while working as a volunteer with the Forest Service I helped clear about three miles of the trail from the top along the high ridge to where it begins its descent to the river. I understand that the middle part is very difficult to follow and it is practically unmarked. (It crosses some very rocky, open areas where there are no trees to hold the traditional blaze marks.)

At the moment, the top part is under about five feet of snow, and so now is a good time to search for the bottom end of the trail.

A week ago I visited the very bottom which is easy to find, and took the following photo at the river level: after about two miles however, it all but disappears.

Clark Fork on the cutoff

It begins to climb rather gently from the river as can be seen in this photo

TR 1714

but becomes very obscure when it reaches the gap to the left of the cliff. When I arrived at that place there were several sheep trails leading upwards into the high country to the left. While contemplating those trails and wondering if one was actually Trail 1714, I noticed a flat, arrowhead-shaped stone on the ground about a foot long. Someone had scratched “Trail 1714” on the stone and drew an arrow which points toward the best defined of the sheep trails. (If you look very closely, you can probably make out the marks on the stone.)

Trail marker TR 1714

A great clue, not conclusive, but it has been on my mind. Then today, a serendipity. At the local grocery store I encountered an old friend whom I haven’t seen for a year or so and who, out of the blue, invited me to go with her to search for the Fourteen Mile Trail! We chose to go on Friday. (Results of the search this weekend.)

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March 8, 2010

Burying the hatchet

Filed under: Montana, Outdoors — Tags: , , — montucky @ 9:09 pm

“Bury the hatchet”, is an old colloquialism meaning “to make peace”, alluding to the practice by Native Americans of putting away the tomahawk at the cessation of hostilities.

Down river a mile or so from this cliff along the Clark Fork

Cliff by the Clark Fork

there is a fairly sizable flat, forested area, also along the river, running roughly a half mile long and a quarter mile wide. Remaining there are signs of some kind of activity from many years ago, perhaps a small logging operation or maybe even mining activities. At the western edge of this area, a big old Ponderosa pine has since put an entirely new twist on the old practice of “burying the hatchet”.

Buried hatchet

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