Montana Outdoors

January 22, 2018


For about a week now the weather here has been mild for this time of year (nights in the upper 20’s and days just above freezing) and on a hunch because there was a brief period of sunshine today, I made the short but difficult hike up to a favorite winter place I call Buttercup Ridge; a little earlier than in previous years.

The snow was knee deep in places on the climb up to the ridge, but when I reached the ridge top I caught a slight glimpse of yellow in a place between snow drifts and sure enough the first wild flower of 2018 was in full bloom.

Sagebrush buttercup

Sagebrush buttercup ~ Ranunculus glaberrimus

It had a couple friends quite close too, lichens already in their fruiting stage:

Cup lichen

Cup lichen ~ Cladonia pleurota


The next two photos show the ridge top itself. The first shows the view to the south across the Clark Fork River and in the second the little flower is barely visible in the lower left.

Buttercup Ridge

Buttercup Ridge

My timing was good. On the return I caught a shot of Baldy Mountain and the deep snow at its summit

Baldy Mountain

and one of a snow storm sweeping in across some foot hills from the Coeur d’Alene Mountains to the southwest.

January snow storm approaching

The incredibly hardy little flower will be covered in several inches of new snow by morning.


  1. Awesome find of the buttercup, I am glad you had a hunch! I bet it was a thrill when you did see it. All your photos are beautiful, Terry!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by bayphotosbydonna — January 22, 2018 @ 6:59 pm

    • When the snowstorm hit it brought huge flakes and deposited an inch of snow in half an hour. That will keep the flower warm from the colder night air.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2018 @ 7:40 pm

  2. Hi Montucky, What luck to find that gorgeous little ray of sunshine! Pretty macros of the lichens, too. Have a great coming week.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — January 22, 2018 @ 7:29 pm

    • It was lucky to hit the hour of opportunity. It will be snowy now for a few days.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2018 @ 7:41 pm

  3. Poor little thing came out too soon! Such a sweet reminder for us to hang in there. Spring is coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — January 22, 2018 @ 8:48 pm

    • It will be just fine. In that tiny location it is only a couple weeks earlier than usual for some reason I haven’t yet figured out yet. I’ve seen them there in early February for years now. It’s always a pick-me-up to see them this time of year.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2018 @ 10:06 pm

  4. It’s hard to believe you found a wildflower up there in January. That’s the kind of thing we expect in Texas but not in Montana.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — January 22, 2018 @ 9:06 pm

    • This is in a very small area in a specific place. Buttercups bloom all over here, but several months later.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2018 @ 10:07 pm

  5. It’s wonderful to see that gem in its natural setting. Even after our ice and cold during the past week, the buttercups down at the wildlife refuge were spreading, and clearly thriving. Of course, their conditions are much better than yours! I’m glad you were able to get up there to record it, and I’m happy for a blanket of snow to keep it warm. The following photos of Baldy and the snow sweeping in only make the miracle of that buttercup even more obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by shoreacres — January 22, 2018 @ 9:41 pm

    • I’m amazed to find them blooming there at about this time every year. I suspect there may be some kind of thermal condition there but I have not seen any other evidence of it. It is indeed a very hardy species!


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2018 @ 10:10 pm

  6. I know you were happy to see your little buttercups. It looks like a moderate to less than snowpack for this time of year. How has the winter been snow wise? Baldy was a beautiful sight for sure. Take care. Ron

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Anonymous — January 22, 2018 @ 9:46 pm

    • Hi Ron! The last I read, our snowpack up high is much better than normal, and there is still a lot of snow in the cooler areas of the valley. There will be a lot more to come before Spring actually arrives. Lookout pass ski area now has a 56″ base with 81″ at the summit.


      Comment by montucky — January 22, 2018 @ 10:15 pm

  7. Both the yellow Sagebush Buttercup and the Lichens emerging from their sleeping bag of snow are a joy to see.
    ……and the snow melting. Only seems like yesterday it was the start of winter for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Vicki — January 23, 2018 @ 7:00 am

    • Ironically, although it looks like spring now, spring is still several months away here. This morning there is fresh snow on the ground and the temp is about 27º F. There will be many more days of snow and (hopefully) snow melt before it arrives here to stay. The hardy little buttercups have evolved to take advantage of the nice days and somehow survive through the cold ones. There is always a miracle to be seen in nature.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — January 23, 2018 @ 9:35 am

  8. I love the contrast between “big” and “little” views in your photos. All beautiful and love your eye for the detail and range of scale in nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jessica Postol — January 23, 2018 @ 8:09 am

    • Your comment is interesting Jessica. Upon reflection, I think that, from many decades of enjoying the outdoors and the wild country, one develops an attitude of expecting to see beauty everywhere, from where you place each foot all of the way to the horizon as well as the sky above. The modern technology of the lens expands the array of ancient things that please the eye.


      Comment by montucky — January 23, 2018 @ 9:42 am

  9. Beautiful climb and pictures!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hanna — January 23, 2018 @ 10:39 am

  10. Well, look at that!! Whoo, I’m liking the look of that sweet yellow wildflower. What a hardy little fellow.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — January 23, 2018 @ 1:14 pm

  11. Thanks you soooo much for sharing this lovely find. I was able to post it too. Do so appreciate. Lores

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by dolores — January 23, 2018 @ 1:49 pm

  12. How lucky you are to have flowers in January. That must be a very hardy one indeed!
    Nice lichens too!


    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — January 23, 2018 @ 3:53 pm

  13. It always cheers me up to see those early blooms even though they are an aberration.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by montucky — January 23, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

  14. It’s moments like this that keep some of us alive, wandering and wondering what lies behind that tree, over that fence, up the trail. And when we find a kindred spirit, it makes the sharing even more special. Thanks, Terry.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sally — January 23, 2018 @ 8:05 pm

    • For me the anticipation increases the farther I get from the trail head. When hiking on a remote trail it’s not really “if” you will see something exciting, but “when” and “where”. The hard part of many hikes is deciding when to turn around. It’s always “just around that bend” a few hundred yards ahead or “in the saddle next to the peak over on the right”, or “at the far end of the big meadow” just another half mile up the trail. And yes it’s great to share experiences with someone who has been in such places or circumstances themselves. That makes communication complete.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — January 23, 2018 @ 10:00 pm

      • We are so fortunate to live in a time when those open spaces and distant places still exist. I fear we may be among the last to enjoy such treasures. All the more reason to record them.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Sally — January 24, 2018 @ 10:15 am

        • I think the same thing, and that has been part of my motivation to start and maintain my blog. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to record and pass on the entire experience of being in the wilderness.

          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by montucky — January 24, 2018 @ 10:20 am

  15. A lovely promise of things to come! What a glorious colour – really lifts the heart!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jo Woolf — January 25, 2018 @ 1:59 am

    • Exactly. That’s why I always look forward to making my way up there to see the first one!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by montucky — January 25, 2018 @ 10:29 am

  16. Your hunch paid off, you know those little flowers well. Love the photo of the incoming storm.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Candace — January 26, 2018 @ 10:49 am

  17. amazing! a flower!!!!!!! So beautiful.
    lovely your family portraits of the lichen.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tammie — January 27, 2018 @ 1:09 pm

    • It was good to find the buttercup. I’m looking forward to wildflower season already!


      Comment by montucky — January 27, 2018 @ 9:02 pm

  18. Such a hardy little flower .. and your photos are lovely. Is that just one farm?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Julie@frogpondfarm — January 28, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

  19. Your macros are great joy to admire. Seeing Coeur d’Alene was interesting, because I have heard the name before.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sartenada — January 30, 2018 @ 3:35 am

    • Coeur d’Alene is a very famous part of the history of this region and it is beautiful, from the lakes to the peaks.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2018 @ 10:47 am

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