Montana Outdoors

April 20, 2011

A little red leaf

Filed under: Inspiration — montucky @ 9:45 pm

This is characteristically the time for the trilliums to be in full bloom along the Munson Creek trail in the TeePee/Spring Creek roadless area here in western Montana. The trail is a beautiful one that climbs steeply up the side of a wild canyon full of rushing water and thick undergrowth, then levels out for awhile to become the quiet companion of a musical little stream that bubbles along in the deep shade of tall cedars before it resumes it’s steep climb to Big Hole Peak.

There is always a small bloom not far from the trail head, but a much larger one a thousand feet higher, two miles up the trail. Today the ones down low were in full bloom, but the ones up higher were still a week or two away from their peak.

Since the bloom up high was just beginning, I took some rather strange and (hopefully) interesting photos of the trillium buds that I will post a little later. Today however I was captivated by this single small twig of an Oregon Grape. Isn’t it interesting how such a simple little thing can sometimes steal the whole show!

Oregon Grape leaf

November 9, 2008

Looking for God in all the wrong places

Filed under: Inspiration, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Reflections — montucky @ 2:12 pm

“Israeli police rushed into one of Christianity’s holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergyman after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus’ tomb.

The clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks broke out in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.” – an excerpt from THIS STORY in today’s news.

Another excerpt from the same story: “After the brawl, the church was crowded with Israeli riot police holding assault rifles, standing beside Golgotha, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and the long smooth stone marking the place where tradition holds his body was laid out.
The feud is only one of a bewildering array of rivalries among churchmen in the Holy Sepulcher.
The Israeli government has long wanted to build a fire exit in the church, which regularly fills with thousands of pilgrims and has only one main door, but the sects cannot agree where the exit will be built.
A ladder placed on a ledge over the entrance sometime in the 19th century has remained there ever since because of a dispute over who has the authority to take it down.
More recently, a spat between Ethiopian and Coptic Christians is delaying badly needed renovations to a rooftop monastery that engineers say could collapse.”

Now, I’m not a theologian, but upon reading that story a question of theology immediately comes to mind. Would God be more likely to be found in a factious congregation of rival gangs gathered at the ugly place where two millenniums ago a similar gang of cowards killed His Son, or would He be more likely to reveal Himself in the beauty of a mountain peak in the wilderness?

Cherry Peak roadless area

Or in the pure, cold, life-sustaining water of an unspoiled mountain stream?

Spring Creek

Yet the revelation of Him in those places of hope and beauty or the marvelous news of a solitary traveler in the wild country finding Him manifest in the innocent face of a simple flower growing in harmony with nature is never published in the world media.

Tolmie tulip

It’s no wonder that this world is in the condition it is in today!

February 24, 2008

A Poet’s Message

Filed under: Inspiration, Nature, Outdoors, Poetry, Winter — Tags: — montucky @ 11:52 pm

Their shadows silent in the dark,
His people’s future dim,
The empty page, white and stark
No words of hope from him.

Then on a breeze, small flakes of white
Lit dimly by a star,
Descended from the dark of night
And settled near, and far.

Upon the dawn the poet’s eye
Awakened by the snow,
Saw scenes from magic days gone by
Of beauty here below.

With fingers stiffened from the cold
He grasped his pen at last,
And on a page in letters bold
Scribed splendor from the past.

Words of wisdom, a phrase of mirth
Of meadows bright with verdant wealth,
The beauty of our Mother Earth
Her bygone days of vibrant health.

Hope kindled once again,
Heart to join the fight anew.
His message to the hearts of men:
“Within the wilderness, renew”.

(Maybe today it is time to consider something that John Muir said over a century ago, that going to wilderness is going home.)

March 21, 2007

Deer Trails and Highways of the Mind

Filed under: Inspiration, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Reflections, Writing — montucky @ 9:56 pm

The mid-October morning is crisp and cold. Your jacket feels good, even though the front is now opened slightly to let in a little of the cool mountain air and your wool boot socks are comforting on your feet. You look down and see your tracks mingling with those of other wild things who have recently passed this way.

The valley several hours below is hiding beneath a thick curtain of white clouds and as you look back down it is easy to forget all of the cares left behind in the world of man. The trail ahead points toward a small saddle on the ridge-line, and once you arrive, the trail is no more.

If you were to place deer trails on a map of the mountains, you would see no more than a seemingly random series of dotted lines going nowhere in particular. One commonality of these trails is that they are short. They have formed, not as highways through the wilderness with specific destinations in mind, but simply as the most efficient ways to traverse stretches of difficult terrain: once that has been accomplished, there is no longer a need for them and they abruptly end. Wild creatures do not confine themselves to roads. Every inch of the wild country is part of their home. Freedom begins where the trail ends.

Men build roads. When you encounter a small road and take the right direction, it will lead to a larger road and so on until you come to a town. Highways are made for common use and that use is governed by a large bundle of rules and regulations, signs and instructions that everyone is obligated to obey. Once uniformity is attained, traffic flows smoothly and (hopefully) safely. Certainly, I would not argue that there is not a beneficial purpose to all this.

But is it not a side effect of all this channeled purpose that man has also created highways of the mind? Roads (if you will) with common destinations and specific rules to be followed? Specific ways of thinking that are carefully taught to new generations who understand that they must be obeyed? The masses study the Times to learn what books should be read, what movies should be seen, what values should be theirs.

Who dares to leave these highways of the mind and what happens to them when they do? And what happens when no one ever again leaves these highways?

November 21, 2006

The Christmas cat

Filed under: Animals, Inspiration, Montana, Writing — Tags: , — montucky @ 7:11 pm

Christmas day had been an especially enjoyable one that year. There was the usual exchange of presents the first thing in the morning near a warm fire and later an excellent turkey dinner with all the fixings. Inside our modest little house we were warm and well fed and our family was all together for the holiday. Peace and joy, security and well-being were the order of the day.

Outside the house in the bitter cold of late December in western Montana things were quite different, and especially so for one small animal.

Late in the afternoon I stepped out of our back door into a foot of new snow and the stark white sky was just starting to spit out the first flakes of yet another heavy snowfall. As I glanced toward the little canyon just west of our house I saw a long black tail waving above the snow as its owner headed in a direct line to me loudly proclaiming the misery of her present circumstances.

It was a lonesome, scared, very hungry and quite desperate little cat. Her long black hair was matted in places and she was very thin, but most of all, through whatever chain of events that had transpired to get her here, she was completely abandoned in the middle of winter, out in the country, far from the nearest town and shelter. For her, here on the outside, life was a completely different situation than the one from which I had just emerged and although my state of literacy at that time didn’t include anything at all in cat language her message was very plain: “please, please help me!”

At that time both my wife and myself had an intense dislike for cats in general. Hatred might be a more accurate description. We hated cats! But, after all, it was Christmas and a fellow creature was seriously in need of help. I brought her inside and we provided her some small pieces of turkey from our sumptuous dinner and a saucer of milk, then an old blanket in an out of the way corner of a room. We would help her out until we could find her a home. Later, before retiring for the night I took her outside for a few minutes to answer the call of nature and she did what she needed to do and immediately returned to my feet.

In the days that followed, I hung notices in the nearest town with a description of our house guest and our phone number, but we received no calls. None of our closest neighbors had misplaced a cat, but one family who lived a half mile from us said they would like to have her if she wasn’t claimed by anyone.

While we waited for some potential activity we found that although the little cat was aloof and somewhat distrustful of us, she did tolerate being groomed and let us cut out the mats in her long black hair and brush her. She was actually quite pretty, and very well behaved.

After about a week it became clear that no one would claim her and so we took her up to our neighbor. About four hours later she appeared back at our door. We repeated the process with the same results. Then my daughter said: “Dad, can’t we just keep her?”. She was then christened “Miss Kitty”, and with a lot of reluctance on the part of my wife and myself, became a part of our family. That was Christmas, 1996.

Over the years we have become quite fluent in cat language and Miss Kitty has become equally fluent in ours, and the words on a small rug given to us by some friends are probably true: “The Cat, and her housekeeping staff reside here”. We have grown to love her oh, so very much.

Now and for the past ten winters, every time I step out the back door into the snow, I glance toward the canyon and vividly recall that long black tail heading my way and the plaintive little calls for help. And I am also reminded of how one small creature by her attitude and persistence was able to reverse years of prejudice and turn feelings of hatred into feelings of love. Maybe there’s still hope after all!

Miss Kitty

October 2, 2006


Filed under: Animals, Beaver, Inspiration, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 3:36 pm

Once in awhile a task comes along that seems at the moment to be just way too big. Sometimes I get that feeling when going out after a load of firewood, knowing I will have to fall at least four 70-ft trees, saw them into 18 inch lengths and load about a ton and a half of them into my truck.

Then I think about a beaver. He’s a lot smaller than I am (an adult can weigh around 50 pounds), and doesn’t even own a chain saw. Here’s what he can do:

(This tree is just slightly less than three feet in diameter and about a week after these pictures were taken, he had finished taking it down.)



Compared to my chain saw, his tools are pretty small, primitive, and strictly “jaw-powered”. This set I obtained from an adult beaver who had no more use for them, having departed for the big beaver lodge in the sky. The longer pair are his top teeth and the shorter ones are his lower. The orange colored sections are what are exposed.



After I review these photos, I think for a few minutes and understand how easy my task really is.

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