Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Montana Weather

Hail and sun falling on the East Fork.

Among Us

This very large mushroom was growing near my cabin.  I think it is a variety of puffball, maybe a common earthball, but I don't know much about mushrooms.  It looks gluteal to me, to put it mildly.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Yesterday evening I opened the back door to go out onto the deck, but I immediately jumped back inside because there was a cow elk grazing just across the river.  She didn't see me and couldn't hear me over the sound of the river.

From inside I watched her graze along the river and then circle back to where she started.  Nearby a small animal was skulking in the high grass.  I thought it was a coyote at first, but then it bounded out on spindly legs to join the cow elk.  It was her young calf.

These were the best pictures I could get without going out and possibly spooking them.

Full Moon Rising

I was tempted to quote the CCR song, but there's nothing bad about this moon.  If you ever get the chance to watch a full moon rise over a nearby ridgeline in an otherwise dark sky, it's worth the effort to see it.

These are from different vantage points.  I tried everything I could think of to get the moon and the trees to focus, but I only got the trees.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hiking the East Fork

It was an overcast day, with a chance of rain, so I packed my raingear (as always) but left Shakespeare at home in case I got caught in a deluge.  After I got a few miles down the trail, the sky got dark and the wind kicked up.  Although I had my raingear, I didn't necessarily want to have to use it right then so I turned around.  It was a good hike, and I got back to the trailhead before the serious stuff hit.

The river is still up after the wet spring.

Mule deer.

Smattering of wildflowers

Red-naped sapsucker.

Looking downstream on the return trip.

On the way out and the on the way back, I flushed a spotted sandpiper from the same spot near the trail.  I figured she must have a nest on the ground here.  It's well-disguised in the center of this pic.

Closer look.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Boot Camp

Since it rained from mid-May until Mid-June, I'm behind on my backpacking fitness.  I'm planning to do a lot of long-range backpacking later this summer, so I need to get to work.  I've declared the next two weeks Trail Boot Camp.  I'm going to take big hikes pretty much every day, alternating days of elevation gain with days of flat-out distance.  Yesterday was a light elevation day, up the ridge behind my cabin and along the Forest Service Roads up there.  Today, I'll hike up the East Fork for several miles.

To simulate carrying a backpacking load without actually loading up my backpack, I decided to add a little weight to my day pack.  I didn't want any metal plates clanking around in there and testing the seams of my pack, so I added the largest book I own—The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

It's a heavy book.  "The weight of this sad time we must obey; Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”  From King Lear.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


My bad. I didn't tell anybody I was going to be away for a while.  We had some friends in from Dallas last week, so I spent the second half of the week in Bozeman.  When I got back home, I had to focus on getting my workshop stuff done.

Our Texan friends had never been to Yellowstone, so we took them on a one-day whirlwind tour through the park.  They experienced an entire year of Texas weather in one day: cold rain, snow and warm sunshine.  We saw all the usual suspects—bison, elk, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, deer—but I thought we were going to get skunked by the bears until we saw two on our way out of the park.

 This trip was when we saw the short rainbow that I posted earlier.  It was the widest rainbow I've ever seen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Random Thoughts From Sula

  • Is anybody else tired of the word "flotilla?"
  • These days, I think more people see my blog posts on Facebook than on the blog.  I have my Facebook page set up to import the posts as notes.  It doesn't always work, though.
  • My un-hip spell-checker wants to change "be-yatch" to "be hatch." I would've thought it would choose "be yacht." 
  • Etouffee sounds like it ought to be Cajun for "Did you eat some of that, too?"
  • Jole Blon!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Random Thoughts From Sula

  • My favorite Gatorade flavor is grape.
  • I recently went into a store, and their music system, which may have been an 8-track, was playing the Osmonds, "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl."  That's an unfortunate song to have stuck in your head all day. 
  • Yesterday was the hottest day so far this summer.  It got up to 76° in the Bitterroot Valley, and I was burning up.  If I were to go back to Texas, where it's already 100°, I think I'd spontaneously combust.
  • A little while back we saw a Stephen Wright routine where he said something like "In high school I had a girlfriend who was like the girl next door, if you lived next door to a whorehouse."
  • In just about any bird book you'll find a bird called the oystercatcher.  How fast do you have to be to catch an oyster?  Shouldn't it be called the oysterfinder?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Writers' Workshop

For the next six weeks I'll be driving to Missoula on Tuesday nights to attend the 406 Writers' Workshop (406 is the area code for Montana—and yes there's just one area code for the whole state).  The workshop is not directly affiliated with the MFA program at the University of Montana, but it seems all the workshop's instructors have MFAs from there and have taught writing courses there as well as at other universities. 

The course I'm taking is Outdoor/Travel Writing with Jeff Hull, who has published two books and a multitude of articles in magazines such as Audubon, Outside, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Adventure, and Outdoor Life.  There will only be nine people in the class, and, in traditional workshop form, we'll each circulate our work to the other members of the group for critique and feedback during the weekly meetings.  Over the course of the workshop, we'll each also get a private consultation with the instructor. 

It's nice to have this workshop so close, so I figure I'd better take advantage of it.  I've written several stories over the past few months, so here's my chance to get a professional opinion about how I can make them better or whether I'm barking up the wrong forest.  I'm bound to give writing my best shot, and if I fail, I'm gonna fail big.  I like that saying, "Shoot for the moon—even if you miss, you'll be among the stars."  Of course that doesn't apply in my case.  For me, it's "Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you'll have to move back to the city and get a real job."

[Edit] This is that most excellent song BMac quoted in the first comment. (Again, Blogger truncated the video.  Double click to see the whole thing on You-Tube.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

The promise of another sunny day

The first three minutes are the best.

"Because they don't know the words"

A rufous hummingbird and a calliope hummingbird getting along for a change.

A better look at rufous.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

John Wayne Might be a Little Late

I don't recollect which movie it was where John Wayne told another character he'd be somewhere "the Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise."   With all the rain we've gotten recently, to put it in the western vernacular, the creek done rose (or riz, depending on which part of the country your particular creek is in).  It's still not very high, coming off a winter with exceptionally low snowpack, but this is the most energetic it has been all spring.  Maybe all this wet weather will delay the summer fire season by a few days.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Short Trip to Yellowstone

The Memorial Day weekend kicks off the busy tourist season in Yellowstone, so Mari and I like to go during the week prior.  For some unfathomable reason (presumably not due to the health of the economy), the same room in the same hotel cost $40 more per night this year than it did at the same time last year.

It was a much shorter drive to the park this year, and we didn't even have to go through Kansas (apologies to LDB).  The highway south of Livingston follows the Yellowstone River upstream through the aptly-named Paradise Valley to the north entrance to the park.

Our first wildlife sighting inside the park was, of all things, a flea-bitten marmot.

The Lamar Valley

Some people, in a weak attempt to describe the openness and abundance of wildlife here, refer to the Lamar Valley as North America's Serengeti.  I find this very annoying.  It is North America's Lamar Valley, and that's enough.  It doesn't need to be described in reference to anywhere else in the world.

Bison, left and center, and a few pronghorns at lower right.

The upper falls of the Yellowstone River (109 feet), seen through the trees near the brink of the lower falls.

The view from the brink of the lower falls (308 feet).

Upstream from the falls, a group of harlequin ducks was cavorting in the Yellowstone River near LeHardy Rapids. 

We saw three separate black bears, but didn't have much luck getting photos.  I thought I got a good pic of one through the trees, but the photo just shows a formless black mass through thick pine needles.  It may as well have been a bigfoot sighting.

Visiting Yellowstone was a completely different experience this year.  In recent years, living in the middle of a huge metropolitan area and working long hours at a stressful job, my trips to Yellowstone were vacations to get away from all that.  This year, it was a trip to Yellowstone, instead of a trip away from something else.  It's less hectic this way, with no running around trying to see everything and cram days full of activity against the uncertainty of when you might be able to come back.

Also, I took far fewer pictures this year, not wanting to be like that misguided man in Wendell Berry's famous poem The Vacation:

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.