Montana Outdoors

July 28, 2013

’tis the season for huckleberries

About this time in late summer one of the delicacies of the northwest begins to ripen and nearly everyone in these parts take to the mountains to harvest a few huckleberries. Black Huckleberry, Vaccinium membranaceum, is perhaps the most common in this area but I read somewhere that the native Indians were able to recognize 21 different species of them . I can recognize only three, but what the heck… they’re all good! I did a brief search and found an advertised price of $69 for a gallon (about 5 pounds).

Today I ventured out to pick a few and succeeded in getting enough for my wife to make one of the most delicious pies that anyone has ever tasted. And, at today’s going price, the berries I brought back at least paid for my gas.

The location:

Today I chose a section of USFS trail 404 (the CC Divide trail) just inside the southern border of the Patrick’s Knob – North Cutoff roadless area south of the town of Plains Montana. Trail 404 proceeds for many miles along the crest of a high ridge that roughly separates the Lower Clark Fork River from the St Regis River

From Trail 404

From Trail 404

The trail:

Trail 404

Trail 404

Trail 404

Trail 404

The star of the show:

Huckleberries

Huckleberry

The competition: 

When attempting to acquire about anything that is desirable, there will be competition. Today the largest competitor was probably back in a thicket somewhere sleeping, but others were out and about.

Dusky grouse

Adult male Dusky grouse, Dendragapus obscurus.

Dusky grouse

Dusky grouse, this summer’s chick.

Dusky grouse

And always there are flowers:

Fireweed

Fireweed

Harebell, Bluebell of Scotland

Harebell, Bluebell of Scotland

Fireweed

November 11, 2008

Harmony

Filed under: Blue Grouse, Cabinet Mountains, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — Tags: — montucky @ 11:22 pm

Harmony

July 9, 2007

Another day cutting wood

Oh yes, there are always a few other things going on at the same time.

Here are the results of the day’s work; 3,000 pounds of hard, dry Lodgepole sitting in the bed of the county’s dirtiest truck. This photo was taken on the road that allows access to the high country at the head of Siegel Creek. To the abrupt right, the creek bed is about 600 feet below and nearly straight down, and the cliff can be seen to the left: consider for a moment the guys who put this road in here in the first place. I tip my hat to them! It’s a bumpy, rocky son-of-a-gun of a road, but a very good one. It is comforting to know when you’re up here in really bad weather, that the road will never wash out (ice is a different story).

Firewood

Flower season is about over for this year. Indian Paint Brushes are still abundant, but that’s about it except for the Fireweed, which is just beginning to bloom. Here’s the start of it (these stems are about four feet tall):

Fireweed

And the critters.

If it were late September, this Blue Grouse would be tomorrow night’s dinner:

Blue Grouse

The high country has its resident scamps. It is plain by the look on this one’s face that he is a SCAMP!

Ground squirrel

Hey, Scamp, your posture is terrible! Stand up straight!

Ground squirrel

That’s better!

May 14, 2007

Blue Grouse and firewood

Filed under: Birds, Blue Grouse, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Wood cutting — montucky @ 8:23 pm

For those of us who heat our homes with wood-burning stoves, doing so is one of those enjoyable things that we pay for up-front. Now that we have enjoyed the warmth, security and beauty of our winter fires, the cold part of the year is over and it is time to begin getting ready for next winter by cutting and hauling our new wood supply. The Forest Service sells permits to cut wood in the National Forests for $5 a cord: I use 4 to 5 cords a winter, heating a 2,000+ square foot house. My heating bills are therefore minimal, but I pay for it up front with a lot of hard work.

On my trips into the back country the last two weeks, it was apparent that this is already a very dry year. The reports of an early and long fire season may well be correct, at least here in Western Montana. The woods are very dry: I would compare their state now to what one would usually see in late June or early July. Even in areas (like the one I was in today) where there are still banks of snow remaining, the clear ground is dry. A lightning storm would surely be able to easily start a wild fire. Therefore, wood cutting must be done earlier than usual, and I started today.

I spent most of the day at an elevation of 6,000 feet cutting lodge pole pine that was killed by a fire in 2002. It has been drying ever since, and now it’s just perfect. It seems such a shame that most of those dead trees won’t ever be used. We are in such high demand for energy today, and yet there are thousands of acres of prime firewood that will not be harvested, and at the same time, folks all over will pay high prices for heating fuel or electricity to heat their homes. In the area where I cut mine, I would estimate there is enough dead and dry lodge pole pine to heat 10,000 homes for a winter, and that is a conservative estimate: it could easily be two or three times that number. Sadly enough, the upcoming fire season will most certainly create more fire-killed trees to replace these.

One of the pleasures associated with cutting firewood is where it is done. My work today was next to the borders of three of our remaining roadless areas, the Reservation Divide area, South Siegel area and North Siegel area. I had to stop short of where I had intended to go by 4-foot snow drifts over the road, but that’s OK: I’m glad it’s still there!

Grouse hunting is one of my passions, and this is one of the areas I hunt each fall. They are fairly plentiful, fun to hunt, and the Blue Grouse lives in the most beautiful parts of the wild country; the pine, fir and spruce forests above 6,000 feet. Today I was fortunate to see a pair of them and be able to get within camera range.

Here’s a male Blue Grouse in his prom suit trying to attract a mate. It is a rare sight. One of the endearing traits of these guys is that they always (and I mean ALWAYS) keep a tree or brush between themselves and a hunter. After about 15 minutes of playing peek-a-boo with this guy, trying to get him out of the heavy cover without flushing him, I was able to get a few photos, and they show him fairly well, even though there is still that little bit of brush between him and the camera.

Blue Grouse Cock
Blue Grouse Cock

Blue Grouse Cock

Blue Grouse Cock

And here’s the object of his affection. (If you are not familiar with Blue Grouse, they are about the size of a medium sized chicken, and are absolutely delicious! Grouse “nuggets” are one of my favorite foods.)

Blue Grouse hen

Blue Grouse hen

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