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

March 14, 2010

A search for a trail, surprise #2

Friday’s search for the beginning of an old trail was successful, but equally satisfying was a surprise at the beginning of the descent, when we walked right into this herd of elk, who had been snoozing just over a rise from where we made our ascent. After all of the time spent last fall hunting for them…

Elk

(See if you can find all thirty in the following photo.)

Elk

I especially like the two last summer’s calves at the left side who seem to be discussing the situation.

March 16, 2009

Almosta hike

Sheds. That was today’s excuse.

It’s still not spring. The trails that can be approached are too icy for hiking.

It’s not still winter. The snow’s too icy to walk on, not deep enough for snowshoes.

However… I was reminded by a friend the other day that it is about the time of year to hunt for sheds; last year’s antlers worn so proudly by the deer and elk and “shed” in late winter or early spring. The deer have already shed theirs some time back, and the elk are still doing so. It’s a “this time of year” sport in these parts to go looking for them and it can be quite lucrative: they sell for some amazing prices.

In my case, it was an excuse to try a hike on some steep south-facing ridges in the Patrick’s Knob roadless area where the elk spend much of their winter on open, grassy slopes like this one. The lower areas at least, are already free of snow.

Sesame ridge

In the late summer or early fall, the “velvet” covering an elk’s new antlers begins to itch, signaling that the antlers are fully formed. The bull will rub trees like the one in the next photo to rid his new antlers of the velvet, polish them and give them a preserving coat of tree sap. They often return to the same areas to get rid of the old antlers in early spring, and those are good places to find sheds. But not today.

Sesame ridge

Soon after the display on my altimeter passed 3,600 feet, a thousand feet above the Jeep, the ground was frozen hard and last night’s snow was causing the steep slope to be slick and hazardous. I stopped to eat a sandwich, admire two extraordinary trees and get one last photo overlooking the Clark Fork River flowing through its deep canyon between the Patrick’s Knob roadless area and the South Siegel roadless area.

Sesame ridge

Sesame ridge

I know now that the sheds are much higher up the ridge, resting in the deep snow, waiting for the next trip when spring really comes to the high ridges.

February 28, 2009

In search of a trail (2)

Yesterday my son and I tried again to find the lower end of the Fourteen Mile trail (USFS trail 1714), this time in 4 inches of new snow, and tasted a little success with the discovery of some old blaze marks on a tree a few hundred feet above the river. We lost it soon after because of the snow but I’m sure now that with the appropriate topo maps I will be able to locate it, although not until most of the snow has melted.

The following photo illustrates why I want so much to find the trail. It was taken from about three miles from the Jeep and a thousand feet above the river, and the top of the trail is still several miles and 3,500 feet further up the mountain. I have to think the views from the upper reaches will be worth the climb.

Our companions at this point were five huge Big Horn rams who were also looking out over the river. The trail is in the Patrick’s Knob Roadless Area of western Montana’s Coeur d’Alene Mountains and the country across the river is in the South Siegel Roadless Area.

South Siegel Roadless Area

February 15, 2009

Worth a climb

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Patrick's Knob roadless area, Photography, Photos, Pictures — montucky @ 10:57 am

I have long held the opinion that mountains can be properly viewed only from high places. Here are a few photos from the home of this season’s first Buttercup:

A Big Horn’s view of the worldDSC_0136

(Big Horn sheep habitat in the Cabinet Mountains overlooking the Clark Fork Valley with the Coeur d’Alene Mountains in the background.)

East shoulder of Patrick’s KnobCoeur d'Alene Mountains

(A knob just to the east of the lookout. This is the view the Buttercup has to the south. It is within the Patrick’s Knob roadless area.)

The Clark Fork ValleyClark Fork Valley

(Viewed from a thousand feet up the southwest slope of Henry Peak.)

Clark Fork River
Clark Fork River 

(A backwater of the river rimmed with ice.)

February 12, 2009

In search of a trail

Today I spent a few hours searching for the lower end of the Fourteen Mile trail (USFS trail 1714), with little luck except to find several great locations where it isn’t.

This icefall along the highway was rather pretty though

Icefall

and I enjoyed seeing an eagle soaring above a sharp ridge in the Patrick’s Knob roadless area,

Soaring

jumping a dozen head of elk on this rocky hillside above the river,

Rocky ridge

and admiring the winter-green water of the Clark Fork flowing between its ice-caked banks.

 Clark Fork River

I’ll find that trail yet before spring: it’s still going to be a long winter.

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