Snowscapes

I recently got some film developed and spent all of last Sunday curled up with my scanner, watching it slowly reveal what my negatives had gotten from my adventures outside. I watched A Streetcar Named Desire and swooned over Marlon Brando a bit while my negatives appeared, and remembered capturing these images.

A few months ago the lake would get the most incredible ice structures and snow patterns and I avidly tramped all over the frozen surface to capture the nuances. Depending on the light and the crystals I got to see many different kinds of frozen H20, and it was incredible.

I hope you enjoy admiring all the beauty nature gives us without a second thought. It’s beginning to be a Montana Spring, which is where Winter and Spring go into a fight to the death. For several weeks there will be intermittent lovely days and snowy days, windy and clear, cold and warm. Spring always wins, Primavera always comes with her flowery cape and brings greenery to the landscape, but she has to fight very hard indeed here.

Neature ahoy!

The Austin Nature and Science Center was awesome- and free!

We got to see some beautiful rescued raptors. There were 3 barred owls, a great horned owl, some gorgeous turkey vultures, and an awesome, sassy raven! A pair of female ducks named Mac and Cheese shared a pool. None of these animals were releasable due to injuries or the fact that people had made them into pets.

Inside the Center there were tables overflowing with naturalia! Stones, skeletons, taxidermy, and geodes were everywhere! I loved touching the smooth stones and seeing all the critters. It was definitely a neat place to spend a cool morning!

You and me and the frog makes three




Dilapidated, slanted barns and old homesteads marked our distance. We went past Norris, past Harrison, and to Pony. The beautiful brick school house sat neatly on the hill, and as we went a small ways up a little muddy hill road, a graveyard stood there. Broken and and tilted gravestones sat grey and tan, some limestone, some sandstone, some granite.

We drove on through deep puddles and past large granite hills. The trees were green and dusted with snow. The creek below was swollen and clear, looking incredibly cold. Enormous boulders sat creating deep pools. Chris wondered aloud if they held fish, although most of the pools and eddies looked too shallow to hold any sort of sizable aquatic creature.

After driving right through the stream and parking in a small clearing, we found the trail buried under a little snow. I wore Chris’s flannel-lined Carhartt’s and some winter boots guaranteed to keep my feet warm to -20 Fahrenheit- standard issue Montana gear. Although it was mid-May we knew we’d most likely need it. We hiked through the damp snow and some mud, admiring the beautiful trees and lamenting the fact that once again we forgot the bear spray (a recurring theme in our adventures.)

Potosi Hot Springs was our destination. A warm, silty spring about 15 feet in each direction, it sits on a small hill after about a mile of easy hiking. After we encountered no bears, only a weasel and multiple pesky prairie dogs, we found the pool completely empty! Enthralled by our good luck we quickly undressed and got into the pool, which was a pleasant bathtub temperature. We found a lovely little grotto-like corner and squeezed into it. There were delicate spider webs and we saw a beautiful spider test the lines. Dew drops hung from every clover and leaf that surrounded the pool.

That’s when I spotted the frog.

A frog! A frog! My mind rushed excitedly, nostalgia washing over me, remembering how I caught frogs in upstate New York and in various rivers whenever we went camping and how the last time I saw a frog like this was on a hellish Father-Daughter backpacking trip through Yellowstone and the worst mosquitoes they’d seen in 40 years.

I didn’t catch it with my hands but rather with my lens- it seemed decent, because we were sharing this small warm pool with the frog, and I didn’t want to be rude. Actually, it was because I couldn’t catch him! He was very calm and I put my hands behind and around him gently and touched him- then he leaped into the silty water where I wouldn’t be able to find him. He made several more lovely cameos during our visit! I later found out that he was a Columbia Spotted Frog, a type of frog I’d never seen before! How neat!

Immediately after the frog-neighbor made an appearance  a mother and two blond children joined us with their very nervous dog. The dog mowed down grass more efficiently than any herbivore ungulate I’d seen and barked anxiously at nothing whatsoever. A couple joined us for about 20 minutes then left. Chris and I stayed in our warm section- we knew we had the best spot in the pool.

Chad, a Coors-drinking hotspringing veteran, showed up later. By then we had prune hands and were thoroughly relaxed. Chad told funny stories and we all admired our luck at being here in this little pool of warm water on such a nice day.

After almost five hours of intense soaking in the silty, mineral-rich water, we got out and headed back. The whole way I had the luxury of thinking how lucky we were to do this, and as Chris drove us back down the muddy and hole-filled dirt road I felt extremely balanced and happy.

Also, as a side note: the mineral water did something crazy to my  hair to the point that it ended up curling in perfect spirals instead of descending into it’s normal frizzy mess. I wish I could re-do the effects.

Montana, I love you, but this is ridiculous (I want greenery)!

02480002 018515-R1-04-21 - Copy 018512-R1-19-6 - Copy 018512-R1-03-22 - Copy 02500016 02500009 06950002 06950014 02500004While ice lingers on the INSIDE of my windows, creating a chill that resonates in my bones, I think about things that make me happy: Being outside.

I may wear SPF 70 and fall a lot, but I love being outdoors. I’ve been camping since I was a week old (one of the first questions my parents asked the doctor was how young was okay) and even though I don’t camp as avidly and often as I did in my youth (my youth being like 14 and younger, I’m not ancient at 21), I still love hiking and getting outside.

Montana is a gorgeous place, even when there is a foot of snow on the ground with 5 degrees F outside, but this is how I like to remember it. Enjoy.

 

I hate gin! Or, Hanging Valley, the hike that ended up being ridiculously hard.

First, let me preface this by saying that I’m in decent shape. Not GREAT shape, but I hike and walk and run and all that healthy stuff.

Ahem. Anyway, Kristin and I had been wanting to hike Hanging Valley for awhile- since about June, in fact. We got up there at about 9:30 this morning after getting bagels, and we promptly found a trail that wasn’t really a trail. Eventually finding the RIGHT trail, we marched. Uphill. A lot.

Hanging Valley is a round trip of 12 miles through dry timber. There is not a lot of gorgeous scenery, and the trail is mostly steeply uphill for the first two miles. For us, it was also really hot- we were literally dripping sweat after about 15 minutes because of the temperature.

Basically, the combination of steep grade, temperature, and our lack of enthusiasm for the less-than-spectacular scenery led to us only making 6 of those 12 miles. The end of Hanging Valley supposedly leads to a 300 foot drop off with views that are breathtaking, but we didn’t hold our breath to find out.

So, if you are in the mood for some serious 12 miles of hiking, go for it!  If you’re like us, you might just reconsider…after all, 200 meters down the road is the Trout Creek Trail. Our code phrase for turning around was, “I HATE GIN!”, which we both exclaimed after reaching a point that was dry and depressing.