Montana Outdoors

August 29, 2008

Fireweed 2

I can’t let summer pass without featuring Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium. It’s a beautiful and prolific flower and because it is one of the first plants to start the regeneration of the natural surroundings after a forest fire, it always signifies to me the hope for and the expectation of something better and more beautiful to come.

With the exception of the last photo, which was taken along trail 345 to Bighole Peak, these photos were taken near the start of the trail into the Reservation Divide roadless area.





7395 August 2008 Fireweed closeup

August 14, 2008

Reservation Divide 2

The sights and tastes of the wild country. (One often hears the phrase “the sights and sounds“, but as autumn approaches, emphasis can shift.)

For several hundred years this old tree has looked out over the Nine Mile valley from Reservation Divide. I wonder about all of the sights it has seen; and also wonder if it would consider all that has changed to be progress.

Reservation Divide

As it passes through some of the more open areas along the ridge, trail 98 is nearly covered by huckleberry bushes, one reason why this area is a favorite of the bears. In places, the bushes are waist high allowing the berries to be picked without even bending over. (The bears aren’t the only ones gaining weight from eating huckleberries this summer.)

Reservation Divide trail No. 98

This year’s huckleberry crop is one of the very best. They are very large and numerous: many are 3/8 inch across. These berries are perhaps the most popular fruit that grows in Montana: currently they sell for $40 a gallon. Here are a few on the bush


and here are some I brought home in a container I always have in my pack. This is just over a pound. There are several varieties of berries. One is dark purple when ripe and red when not quite ripe yet. The red ones in my container are ripe, but just belong to another variety which is red when ripe.


Back in May and June, Oregon grapes were in bloom, providing bright yellow blossoms to brighten up the landscape.

Oregon grape blossoms

Now that they are ripe, the tiny berries are blue and certainly one of the most sour tastes in all of nature.

Oregon grapes

In the spring along streams springs or small seeps of water in the narrow canyons of the high country, the Thimbleberry blossoms, because of their size as well as the size and shape of the leaves, could be seen at long distances.

Thimbleberry blossoms

Now they are ripening and provide a real taste treat for the traveler.


August 13, 2008

Reservation Divide 1

U.S. Forest Service trail 98 follows the crest of the high ridge of the Reservation Divide roadless area. To the northeast of the divide is the Flathead Indian Reservation, and the terrain in that direction drops rapidly for 4,000 feet to the Flathead River a hundred miles down river from Glacier Park. To the southwest, the Nine Mile Valley through the Lolo National Forest lies below. It’s a wild place… and maybe a new favorite trail.

Today was a wonderful day spent in country like this

Reservation Divide

with company like this.


(Along USFS trail 98 in the Reservation Divide roadless area.)

March 8, 2008

Burgess Lake

Several hundred times I have driven past the small trail that leads from the side of Montana Highway 200 up to Burgess Lake, and on almost every one of those times I told myself that I should take a little time and make the short hike up to it. Well, Thursday I finally got around to doing just that.

There’s even a fairly convenient place to park along the highway about six miles from the mouth of the Flathead River and two miles inside the western boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation, and although there is no sign there to mark it and the trail itself is very small and unmarked, it isn’t really all that difficult to locate after looking at a map.

Flathead River

I’ve been told that the lake is only a quarter of a mile from the highway, and maybe that’s true, but the steep little trail is about twice that long, winding nearly a half mile up through a rocky ravine to reach the lake, about four hundred feet above the river at an altitude of about 2,900 feet, laying in a sort of a shelf on the mountainside with the Flathead river valley below and the high country of the Reservation Divide roadless area four miles and four thousand feet above. Winter is not the best time to negotiate that trail on the snow and ice covered rocks, but I made it with a little care, a great pair of hiking boots and a hiking staff I made last summer from a sturdy shaft from a hawthorn tree.

This photo was taken from about half way up the trail, facing toward the east.

East along the lower Flathead

The next three photos show about all there is to see of the little lake itself. It is around a quarter of a mile long and a hundred yards wide at its widest point, but is reputedly loaded with west slope cutthroat trout after Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in a joint effort with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe stocked it with 2,600 4″ fingerlings in 2002. It also has the reputation of being the rattlesnake capitol of western Montana, and after getting a really close look at the rocky terrain surrounding the lake, I think that could well be true. I plan to find out once the ice that now covers the lake melts.

Burgess Lake

Burgess Lake

Burgess Lake

Directly to the west about fifteen miles, across the North Siegel roadless area, and across the north end of the Patrick’s Knob roadless area is the peak of Patrick’s Knob itself, heavily snow covered this time of year. This entire area contains an abundance of elk, black bear and mountain lion.

Burgess Lake

Cutthroats or no cutthroats, snakes or no snakes, there are some beautiful views to be seen here for a fairly modest effort. These last two photos were taken from a little ridge above the lake. The first is looking due east, and the second, due west. They were taken one minute apart. There are few places that I know of that have that kind of diversity of landscape. Not a bad place to sit for a spell and enjoy a leisurely lunch!

Flathead River

Patrick's Knob

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