This year the snow has been deep and has closed all of the hiking trails, so when cabin fever forces you outside you seek out an alternate. Yesterday’s hike was on a snowmobile track that followed the west fork of Swamp Creek road. The track is quite firm, but stepping off of it puts you thigh-deep in snow. Still, it is better than no hike at all, and the forest is just a pretty as it is in summer (minus the ground plants and wildflowers).
After seeing a little blood on the snow along the trail, after following it for about a mile, we came to a large amount of blood in the snow just off the trail. Obviously an large animal had been shot there. Today I made a report of it to the local Game Warden and he will go there tomorrow to see if there is any forensic evidence that might tell him what transpired. Big game hunting is closed in the area except for Mountain Lion and I doubt that it was a place where someone might have encountered one. There were no distinguishable cat tracks, so I suspect poaching of a deer or elk was the cause of the blood trail. Maybe I will hear more or perhaps be asked to accompany the warden to the scene tomorrow.
Along a side road on our return I saw these ice falls in an area which, in the summer, produces some beautiful Saxifrage wildflowers. Not as pretty as the little blossoms, but still…
Each year I make a short winter hike up into the Buffalo Bill Creek canyon to see the icicles that form on the canyon walls. This time last year I was just starting to learn to walk with a brand new titanium knee and hiking into the canyon was out of the question. Today, after hundreds of hours of working with the knee (including walking/hiking for over 1400 miles) the trip up into the canyon was extra sweet!
In past years the weather was more fitting for the formation of the icicles than this warm winter, and the icicles were larger and more beautiful and photos of them can be seen in older blog posts, but I brought back some photos of them today to show them from a slightly different perspective and because the story written in the snow told me that no on else has been there this winter; aside from this post they would be completely unseen. The first photo shows a little perspective of the cliffs on which the icicles grow. It is sheer in most places, perhaps 200 feet tall and a bout a quarter of a mile long, and difficult to photograph because the canyon bottom is so very narrow. Anyway, here are a few photos.
Montana Highway 200 follows the Flathead River for the last 20 miles of the river before it flows into the Clark Fork River and in that 20 miles there is a stretch of about a half mile where a cliff used to run right up to the river. When I was a kid the old highway in that area had been constructed over a steep and winding path that went up, over and around the cliff. Later, the cliff was blasted out to allow the road to be rebuilt flat and straight, right along the bank of the river. The new cliff face now has numerous seeps from it which freeze in winter, making some attractive ice formations. The vertical lines visible in the ice in these photos are the old drill holes that were filled with explosive charges to blast the rock away. Ice has decorated the holes and in many places, water flows down through the holes and behind the ice.