Thursday, April 29, 2010

All quiet on the western blog

I'll be out of town for several days, so I won't be posting anything until probably the middle of next week.  It's a good time for a break anyway.  Blogger "improved" its photo upload function and made it much more tedious to upload photos.  Hopefully, they'll get it fixed by the time I get back.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hiking up the ridge

On Tuesday, while the weather was still nice, I hiked up the ridge behind my cabin—the same ridge where, about six weeks ago, I had my snowshoeing debacle, where I made it up the ridge fine, but slipped and bounced most of the way down on the slick ice sheet under the snow.

All the snow was gone from the "trail" (then).

 Looks like someone left a broken trekking pole at the base of that tree.

 Still climbing.

The decommissioned Forest Service road still had a little snow where the sun couldn't get to it.

 Views from up the ridge.

On the return trip, I retrieved my broken pole.

Spring Snow

This is just the beginning.  We need the precip, but at this point, I'd prefer rain.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Montana Spring

After several sunny days in the 60s, winter asks "Remember me?"  Tonight it's windy and rainy, and the rain is mixed with giant snowflakes.  Here's what the weatherman forecasts for Sula:

Tuesday night: Showers and thundershowers this evening, mainly cloudy late with periods of rain or snow. Low 32F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precip 80%.

Wednesday: Rain and snow in the morning will become rain and snow showers in the afternoon. Cold. High 39F. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of precip 60%.

Wednesday night: Cloudy with rain and snow in the evening, becoming all snow late. Low 27F. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of precip 70%. Snow accumulating 1 to 2 inches.

Thursday: Periods of snow. Cold. High around 40F. Winds WNW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of snow 70%. Some snow accumulation possible.

Friday: Periods of snow. Highs in the low 40s and lows in the upper 20s.

Saturday: Mix of rain and snow showers. Highs in the mid 40s and lows in the upper 20s.

No more icebergs

The East Fork is finally free of ice.  Since we had a very dry winter, the snowpack in the Bitterroot Mountains is at around 44% of normal, so the river will stay low unless we get some serious precip this spring.

There are only a few isolated pieces of ice in places along the river bank.

Looking upstream.

The same view on July 14, 2009

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hiking Blodgett Canyon Overlook

I had to go to Hamilton on Friday to have my snow tires switched out and get the last of the deer scars buffed out of my back door.  While driving aimlessly around town in my loaner Jeep, I ended up on the Forest Service Road to the Blodgett Canyon Overlook trailhead.  I hadn't planned to hike, but I had a couple of hours to spend, so I went on up.  It's a short hike, just three miles round trip with only 540 feet elevation gain. 

This is near the beginning of the trail, looking back toward Canyon Creek.

"I'm just a tree stump, not a Columbian ground squirrel or anything."

A rock formation at the end of the trail, at the rim of Blodgett Canyon.

Looking west, up Blodgett Canyon.

Looking east over Hamilton and the Bitterroot Valley at the Sapphire Mountains.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

White-tailed Deer

These youngsters stopped by to make sure my grass was growing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring in the Bitterroot

"in the spring, when proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything." William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

Friday, April 16, 2010

First Wildflower of the Spring

I'm pretty sure this is the Early Buttercup.  According to the field guide, it is "one of the first flowers in spring, blooming just as the snow cover begins to disappear."  It is an important food source for blue grouse and other wildlife in the early spring.

A Country Evening

With the snow finally gone and the weather so nice, I fired up the fire ring for the first time since the fall.  Once the coals were right, I cooked some sausage and beans (sorry, no food pics).

The view from the house.

My neighbor across the river was burning off his pasture.  It made for a neat effect.

The East Fork at dusk.

Venus and the moon setting over the western ridgeline.

By the light of the slivery moon.

Mercury was visible, too, directly below the moon, right above the clouds.  For a good guide to the current goings on in the night sky, see Sky and Telescope's website.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Springtime in Sula

Springtime gets to Sula a little later than it does in the rest of the Bitterroot, but it has finally made a good showing.  Although we got a fair amount of snow on Tuesday, the sun is now out and the sky is blue.

The East Fork is a river again.

I'm itching to start hiking again, but the trails and many of the Forest Service roads into the backcountry are still largely covered with ice or closed because they are too muddy.  We're making good progress, though.  The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 60s for the next five days.  Heat Wave!  It's just nice to be outside in good weather.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nature helping poor art imitate nature

Inspired by all the good artistry going on at Lapin's Garden, I tried to get in touch with my inner Bobness
and paint a freehand picture of the southern Bitterroot Mountains.  It has been years since I've tried to do any oil painting, and I was never very good at it, anyway.  I quickly remembered why I haven't tried it in years.  It's never near as easy as that afro-wearing individual makes it look.  He takes a few quick strokes with his knife and makes gorgeous looking mountains, and then he dabs his fan brush around to make a bunch of realistic "happy little trees." 

I think my paint must've been too dry, because it didn't spread properly to make good mountains, and it wouldn't stick to the canvas, so my trees just weren't happy at all.  By the time I was about two-thirds done, I got disgusted and quit.  I exiled the unfinished painting out to my deck.

I took this photo from a safe distance.  The painting looks better the farther away you get from it.

Then Mother Nature stepped in.  During the last big snowstorm, the snow blew in horizontally out of the north.  While I was out playing Thoreau, being "self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms," I noticed that the wind had plastered some of the fresh snow onto the painting.  The effect was pretty cool, giving the painting more of a three dimensional look.  (The trees still ain't happy, though.)

I may take another shot at painting a mountain scene in the near future, but don't look for me to be growing my hair out into an afro any time soon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Yellow-bellied Marmot

This is the first marmot I've seen in the Bitterroot.  There were two of them hanging out in the road as I was coming home yesterday (before the snow hit).  The name "marmot" always reminds me of those old Bugs Bunny cartoons, when Yosemite Sam called Bugs "You flea-bitten varmint."  That would make this one a flea-bitten marmot.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring in Montana is a Tease

It started out as a nice day, gray but pretty and warm-ish.  Most of the old snow was gone from all but the most shaded areas.  Then this swirling snowstorm blew through.

About an inch of new snow on the deck railing, and still falling.

The squirrel and the juncoes had to dig for their lunch.

This junco preferred the feeder.

Mountain chickadee and junco.

Junco Brady Bunch.