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Another Day

Young, dumb and crazy.  Not me anymore.  I pulled the plug on a fishing venture the other day.  I set out to hike to a mountain lake.  I figured that it should have had a few nice ones just ripe for the catching.  
Most of the hike was uneventful, as most trail hikes are.  But the trail ran out.  It was time to bushwhack.  I made my approach and took the direct route, right up the outlet stream that ran through a defile in the mountain.  It was plugged with a large snowfield. No problem I thought. I'll just cross the creek between patches of snow, go as high as possible.  Surely there will be an opening and I'll  be able to rock hop and squirt on through to the lake.
No go.  It just got steeper.  The rocks got wetter.  Crossing the creek got a little more dicy.  I eyed up the rocks.  If its wet I won't jump.  A couple of feet maybe.  Six feet, no way, even with my long gangly legs.  
I got across again.  There appeared to be a gap between the rock wall and the snowfield. …

Of Peaks and Pachyderms.....

Today I sat atop a pachyderm of epic proportions.  That being one Elephanthead Mountain, elevation 9,430 feet.
Given the spate of hot weather and hoot owl restrictions, hiking would be the order of the day, sans fishing tackle. I wanted to hit the trail early.  But alas, I dallied and made it to the trailhead by 8:30.  Much later than preferred.  I was still recovering from Saturdays extravaganza, wherein I was up at 2:30 and out the door by three, trying to make it to a trailhead in the Beartooths for a morning hike and to catch a fish or two.
So, todays hike would be hiking for the sake of hiking.  Just a little exercise.  Take in a little scenery along the way.

It's a nice hike, maybe nine miles round trip, with a few thousand feet of vertical thrown in.  The road to the trailhead is a little bumpy.  En route, it passes the historic 63 Ranch.
In spite of the late start, I got lucky, much of the trail was still shaded.  It was still comfortably cool, even walking through the op…

Cutts

Summer, hiking season.  Time to head to the high country and a visual drink of mountain scenery.  Recently, a couple of hours of steady uphill hiking brought me to the shore of a lovely alpine lake.  I'd been here before.  It was a check up of sorts, to see how the fish were doing.  Like going to a doctor, but hopefully more fun.
There would be a reprieve from the summer biting bugs.  The wind blew all day.  Just enough to keep the little blood sucking bastards at bay.  I never saw a mosquito.  The flies didn't have it in them to harass me either.  So, the DEET stayed in the pack.
There were a few fish rising when I arrived at the lake.   I promptly took a couple on a bead head prince that I twitched back slowly.  What the fish think it represents is beyond me.  A free swimming caddis with a shiny head perhaps.  Regardless, they eat it readily.
Most of the fish appeared to be two year olds.  Quite healthy.  Fat.  Colorful. Scrappy.  West slope cutthroats with a bright red ba…

Exquisite

It's hard to beat the perfect day.  Is it late summer?  Early autumn?  Maybe the day is somewhere in between.  A September day that by afternoon noses into the eighties.   I spend it by hiking into the high country.
The miles go by, I hike quickly in the comfort of the cool morning.  Aspens are yellowing, so is the thimbleberry that carpets the stream bottom trail.  Huckleberry bushes that failed to produce fruit this year put on a show of crimson.  Its as if to say "sorry for the lack of berries, here's some crimson leaves instead."




I reach the lake.  Its calm, mostly.  I drop my pack, pull out a ground tarp to set on the soggy ground, and settle in the watch for a while.  Such splendor.  A clear blue sky.  An alpine lake. Mountains.  Bear poop. 




A fish rises, then another.  I watch.  No need to hurry.  My dates not going anywhere.  She'll continue to leave little rings on the lake surface.  She can't afford to miss a meal you know.  
And so I fish.  It'…

Worth the Walk

I took a little hike last week.  Twice.  The first, a shakedown walk of sorts to test the legs.  My expectations were to only get a mile or two up the trail.  But, the snowline had retreated hastily, the trail was clear.  I arrived to find a thawed lake, sans fly rod.  Two days later I returned packing fishing gear.  

The fishing?  Well, slow.  I got a few, but had to work for them.   They were surprisingly spooky already.  A bead head prince got a couple, the rest liked a soft hackle.  Pretty fish all.  Well worth the hike.


Cold Feet and the Blanket Beaver

January has slipped away, rather quickly.  There were no major cold snaps, but it has been tough trying to fish around the wind.  There were a few excursions over the hill to the spring creek, but I didn't want to write about the same old thing. And, not wanting to stare at an indicator, I really wanted to hold out and cast to rising fish.  Too much to ask?  Well no, not really.  It never hurts to ask.  What were the odds?  Pretty good supposedly, except on the days that I went out.

Friday looked to be reasonably calm and comfy with forty degree temperatures forecast.  So I drove out to the Madison and took a walk up into Beartrap Canyon to look for heads.  A few adult midges buzzed lazily in areas where the warmth of the sun radiated from the canyon walls.  The shaded areas never gave up the frost.  No midges there.





There were lots of folks out walking.  Quite a few fishing too.  I stopped by some soft water.  It was shaded.  I was hopeful, but not too optimistic. It was notably…

Sun Gods and Tobacco Roots

This photo brings color and cheer on a cold and snowy Montana morning.  It is my favorite photo from 2014.  No fish.  No grip and grin.  Just a pretty little flower and gorgeous mountain scenery.
The yellow bloom is an alpine sunflower (Hymenoxys grandiflora).  Also known as "Sun God", the large blooms were said to absorb sunshine from the rarified air and while taking on the color of the sun. In A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Flowers (Craighead, Craighead and Davis)  it was pointed out that:
 "Compass flower might be a more appropriate name for they do not follow the sun around but continue facing east.  The direction that any large number face is a far better indication of east than moss on a tree as an indication of north."
Now that I think back on it, these little guys were indeed facing east.  Granted, it was a small sample size.
Most importantly, the fact that I was able to hike to the high country pleased me to no end. Hopefully more good days to come for …

Beehive Basin

Labor day.  What to do?  A hike?  Something short and sweet.  One that didn't involve hours of driving to boot.  I settled on Beehive Basin up near Big Sky.  I've been all over the Spanish Peaks in the last forty years.  But, I've avoided the Big Sky side of the "peaks."  Why?  Hell, there's gobs of people.  But, today I made an exception.



It's an easy hike.  A couple of miles each way.  You won't want for company.
It was deliciously cool when I arrived at the trailhead.  Forty-two degrees. The clouds were just starting to lift.  I started hiking at nine.  Late for me, but with such nice conditions, and for a shortie hike, it was early enough.  Most of the many hiking folk would arrive later.
The trail, nice and wide, winds through open timber and meadow.  This late in the season, most of the flowers had withered. But, I can see this as a nice wildflower hike earlier in the summer. 
It is a pretty basin.  Open.  Easy to get around.
I hiked past the l…

Pine Creek Dayhike

Story lines. How to present the days happenings?   I sorted through images from the other day to see where they might lead.
The underlying theme for the day was one of sheer beauty.  What a day.  It was another day for a high country hike.  I stretched the distance.  Now up to five miles.  This one, about 3400 feet elevation gain too.  Its not the longest hike, but with the vertical involved, its not a casual stroll.
First up, Pine Creek Falls.  It was quiet this early.  Later, it gets busy with day hikers wanting for a photo.  Not surprisingly, I was the first one on the trail.  Then again, not too many folks are up at three.




The Pine Creek area burned in 2012.  The fire took out a goodly amount of timber in the drainage, leaving charred tree skeletons.   A dense undergrowth of vegetation carpeted the formerly vacant  forest floor. Remove the tree canopy, let the light in, and stuff grows.  Bedstraw, arnica and spirea flowered profusely.  Their white or yellow flowers contrasted sha…