Recently I acquired an ATV to allow access into the high country beyond where the Jeep can go during winter. It will never be ridden on the trails, but it will give me access to the trail heads at the higher elevations under just about all conditions. I took it out for the first run today on the access road to the Big Hole peak trail head and finally turned around about two miles beyond where the Jeep could have gone. Those last two miles I rode right on the top of a dense snow pack about two feet deep. Besides enjoying complete all-around visibility and the feel of the cold mountain air I was pleased to find out that it will indeed do what I wanted it to.
Every year about this time the first wildflowers in this part of western Montana begin to bloom, months ahead of the rest. They are Sagebrush Buttercups (Ranunculus glaberrimus) and on a thin ridge that juts out from some cliffs a dozen miles upriver the first of blossom opened today. There was just one today, but in a few sunny days there will be many more. For whatever reason their success strategy tells them to open so early, it works.
The tiny cup lichen are also still doing well and displaying their bright red fruit.
At least once every winter I try to visit the waterfall on the stream that feeds Rainbow Lake (AKA Dog Lake) about twenty miles from here on the Flathead Indian Reservation, and I chose today for this winter’s visit. I included snowshoes with my equipment, but found them to be unnecessary this time: it was one of the areas that received very little of last night’s snow. To my surprise I found instead a brief period of sun and some blue sky!