Fifteen miles or so up the road to the east of here there is a thin slice of Lolo National Forest land that borders the highway. It’s a steep, rocky, cliffy, brush-choked little column that leads up into the high country along the boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
One January several years ago, for some reason that I can no longer remember, I made a foray up into the area and after about half a mile made a turn to the west up through a channel in the cliffs and arrived at a steep, narrow little ridge that overlooked the valley from about 300 feet above. From the signs left by the animals I could tell that it was a frequent haunt of Big Horn sheep. There was also a surprise; a single buttercup plant already showing a flower bud right in the middle of winter. I chose to call the place “Buttercup Ridge”.
Each January since then I have visited that little ridge and found buttercups with flower buds. (Depending on the weather, they will burst into bloom by around the middle of February.) Just before noon today I visited Buttercup Ridge again and with only a little searching found two plants with nicely formed buds.
The following photos will show each bud, followed by a larger scale photo of where it fits into the foliage on the ridge, hidden in the brown grass of last summer or in the shelter of an Antelope Bitterbush, then a much larger scale photo which includes the more distant background. I have no explanation of why they bloom in this tiny area a full two months before they bloom anywhere else around here.
Since these photos were taken the buttercups have been covered by about two inches of soft wet snow and there is more expected tonight and tomorrow. They will be OK: they are used to it!
A month or so ago along a small stream about four miles up from the river, I encountered some beaver activity; several dams across the stream with nice ponds and one large lodge all ready for winter. Not far from the upper pond the beavers had fallen a fairly good sized tree and carried all of it away to stock their winter larder… except for this piece which was much shorter than all the rest of the pieces. Because of it’s size and shape I perceived it to be their football and since the season was over and they had obviously discarded it I decided it would be OK to take it home with me, although it added nearly 20 pounds to my pack.
This comparison illustrates why I perceived it to be a football:
On top of the people’s football you can see four front teeth that I had extracted several years ago from a beaver down by the river after realizing that he had no further use for them. I thought they might be interesting for anyone who has not seen the size of a beaver’s front “choppers”.