Each year I make a short winter hike up into the Buffalo Bill Creek canyon to see the icicles that form on the canyon walls. This time last year I was just starting to learn to walk with a brand new titanium knee and hiking into the canyon was out of the question. Today, after hundreds of hours of working with the knee (including walking/hiking for over 1400 miles) the trip up into the canyon was extra sweet!
In past years the weather was more fitting for the formation of the icicles than this warm winter, and the icicles were larger and more beautiful and photos of them can be seen in older blog posts, but I brought back some photos of them today to show them from a slightly different perspective and because the story written in the snow told me that no on else has been there this winter; aside from this post they would be completely unseen. The first photo shows a little perspective of the cliffs on which the icicles grow. It is sheer in most places, perhaps 200 feet tall and a bout a quarter of a mile long, and difficult to photograph because the canyon bottom is so very narrow. Anyway, here are a few photos.
When I wander through the back country of western Montana, the roadless areas and the wilderness, I nearly always dress in full camouflage because I prefer to blend in with the natural surroundings and also because I find that it disturbs the native wildlife much less and often gives me the chance to be very close to them. However, here is an example of a real expert at camouflage and his life depends on the success of his strategy.
There is a cottontail rabbit in the above photo. His outline can be dimly seen just below the middle and to the left of center, a place where I frequently see him on my daily walks. He is so confident of his camouflage and his protected sitting place that he will usually just stay put while I walk to within 15 feet, even when my dog is with me. At the time of this photo he had his back turned to me (not his best side), but in the following photo taken a couple of hours earlier from the same exact spot (using all of the zoom my little camera could muster) he was watching me.
I have to admit that as good as my camo is, it pales in comparison to his!
Montana Highway 200 follows the Flathead River for the last 20 miles of the river before it flows into the Clark Fork River and in that 20 miles there is a stretch of about a half mile where a cliff used to run right up to the river. When I was a kid the old highway in that area had been constructed over a steep and winding path that went up, over and around the cliff. Later, the cliff was blasted out to allow the road to be rebuilt flat and straight, right along the bank of the river. The new cliff face now has numerous seeps from it which freeze in winter, making some attractive ice formations. The vertical lines visible in the ice in these photos are the old drill holes that were filled with explosive charges to blast the rock away. Ice has decorated the holes and in many places, water flows down through the holes and behind the ice.
This time of the year ice builds up along many of the western Montana rivers. So far this year it is less than in many years. Following are a few photos of ice along the Flathead River a few miles from where it enters the Clark Fork of the Columbia, about 110 miles south-southwest of Glacier National Park. In more severe years, the ice in this place covers the entire river and piles up on itself.