Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River
Morning Over the Yellowstone River

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Second Chance for a Barn Owl

September 30, 2015

On September 10, Bill West, the manager of Red Rock Lakes Refuge, forwarded us a picture of a barn owl hanging from a fence.  It was taken September 9 by Mia McPherson, a bird photographer who spends a lot of time on our refuge.

The owl on the fence - used by permission

Bill White, the refuge manage, happened to come by and took the owl  to the Animal Shelter in Dillon, and then  it was relayed to Whitehall, where people from the Raptor Conservation Center, in Bozeman, picked it up. Read Mia's moving story of how she and Ron cut it out of the fence here.

 On September 30, while I was rushing around, trying to fit the last little bit into my car to leave and get the trailer clean, I heard the owl was coming back to the refuge to be released. I spent about an hour in the office waiting for the Raptor Rehab people.

The owl had hardly been hurt.  It only had a couple of holes in its wings that needed to be sutured, but no broken bones.  It flew off strongly during the release.  It set down in the field and then flew further away.  I only got the first few seconds of its flight.

So, because of the rescue, this owl gets a new chance at life.

Owl being brought out by one of the Raptor Rehab people

They put the crate on the back of a refuge pickup to give the owl a little height
to make its first lift-off easier

Karen wasn't taking pictures, so got to do the actual release

She gingerly opened the crate

Stepped back and waited.... and waited.... and waited

At just after noon, this was not the owl's time to fly

Karen was told to raise the create but still nothing happened

I moved forward to take a closeup

Then the Raptor Rehab guy came up to check on the owl and touched it. It bombed out of the box and few strongly off.

Free again

This was my last adventure in Montana.  I'll be in Texas when this blog comes out, hopefully finding lots of fall birds and visiting friends.

See Wild Bird Wednesday for more blogs on wild birds. Click on the picture.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

That Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. It is also subject to early closures, since it often starts snowing there in September. Laurel wanted to come through it on the way into Yellowstone, but a snowstorm had closed it.  A few days later, when we rendezvoused in Yellowstone, we decided to drive it the first day while the weather still allowed the trip.

To reach it, we had to drive through Lamar Valley and  then take time out to look for elk, bison, wolves and bears. We mostly only saw lots of bison and spent several minutes watching a coyote hunt.  We also saw pronghorn antelope. Then we strained to see wolves at the site of a dead bison, that was only barely visible with a telescope. So we didn't even get started on the Beartooth Highway until late in the morning. I had left without making coffee and found the stores closed for the season or still not yet open, until we finally were starting on the highway at Silver Gate.  That was REALLY good coffee.

The fall colors were amazing with big blocks of yellow, gold or orange quaking aspen and other yellow shrubs blazing against the dark green conifers.  (Don't worry - I threw out most of the fall color pictures and am just showing you a few favorites.)

Pretty spectacular, no?

More of the same

This creek was running along the roadside

I probably took 30 pictures of this mountain as we saw if repeatedly from many aspects as we climbed higher

This is one of my favorite pictures of it

Even short views were beautiful

It's even better to be with another photographer and see how she sees the same views
 - Laurel was also taking the view below. 

We were lucky to have still winds and beautiful light at this spot

Laurel attempting to capture all this beauty

A look at some of the switchbacks along the route

That tiny tooth-shaped mountain in the back is the Beartooth Mountain
 for which the highway is named

The views got longer as we climbed higher

A look down into one of the lakes

Lakes, mountains, and switchbacks

Another view from a campground

This was one of the views from an overlook

We had an awesome day and ended up stopping to eat supper at roadside in Lamar Valley while we enjoyed bison and pronghorns and the evening light before heading back to Norris Campground and a well-deserved sleep.

This was my second visit to the highway.  If you missed my first blog, when I was there in 2013, and want to see it, click here.

Hopefully, when this blog comes out, I'll be in Texas with only a part of a day left before I arrive at my daughter's house. Then I'll have a round of visits in Texas and Louisiana before heading east.  The good news is that I won't be able to schedule surgery so will be in paddling shape all fall.  But I'll have to schedule it for next year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

That Going-to-the-Sun-Highway

No matter what else people do in Glacier,  they all travel the Going-to-the-Sun Highway.  The first time I traveled it, I was told it would take about two hours.  Actually it took me a day and a half to finish it.  Since then I can sometimes restrain myself and make it in under three hours.  But I got to see it several times since Julie and I took it across the middle of the park to reach our northeastern camp site at Many Glaciers, and then we went back to take her to the airport and I was on it to try to hike the Highline Trail and again, very early on a cloudy morning as I left to go home.

The Thompson fire has just gone through the eastern part of it and will make for very different viewing and make views of St. Mary Lake more open in a lot of places.

I think it is one of the most spectacular areas in the country with only the Beartooth Highway even being in competition.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from this trip.

The west end of McDonald Lake at sunset

The road runs against cliffs in most places

The view of a stream coming down the mountain and crossing the road

A view along St. Mary's Lake

A view near Logan Pass after a snowstorm 

Another view after the snowstorm

Bighorn sheep on the mountain across from the Logan Visitor Center parking lot

Clouds playing with mountains

Fall colors, with mountains and clouds

Detail of the rocks on the cliffs along the road

The mandatory Wild Goose Island picture - in St. Mary Lake

If you want to see views of my first trip, click here. And I have already been back to see Beartooth Highway and will eventually have a blog on it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Second Try to Hike Highline Trail

Highline Trail is supposed to be a wonderfully scenic trail that starts along a "wall" where there it is a narrow trail along a cliff with long views to other mountains and where one can often see mountain goats, big horned sheep, and bears. I made a special trip to see it last year, and found Logan Pass covered in a dense, wet fog. So I just turned around and went back to the refuge that let me have a room for a couple of days.

I was determined to do the trail this year.  But my left foot was hurting too badly to start a long hike, and I was tired- after all I was the oldest one there and had been running madly for a couple of weeks trying to finish my work and get ready to play.  So when the rest of the group went, I sat out. The following day, they planned to hike to Grinnell Glacier.  I had already hiked that,  so I got up early and caught the last of a marvelous sunrise coming up to paint the mountains across Swiftwater Lake. Then two ends of a rainbow appeared in the sun painting, causing me to stop several times to capture the amazing beauty.


Sun painting the mountains across the lake

Clouds and sun painting

One end of the rainbow

The light continued to be beautiful as I started up Going-to-the-Sun Highway.  But as I got to Logan's Pass,  the clouds started swirling back into their beds in the valley, and again, it was almost white-out conditions in the pass area. The temperatures had fallen, and the winds were howling.  I was not willing to try to hike in those conditions, so I took myself home and had to take a nap in the tent, because it was raining off and on.

I loved how the clouds added mystery to the mountains

I think this was Jackson glacier

The clouds left the valleys all colored while the top of the mountains went to black and white

The clouds swirling down to the tunnel that is just before Logan Pass

Close up detail of the rocky cliffs along the road

Oncoming clouds

I stopped to take a picture of this little waterfall and the amazing view of the stream making it

I also stopped along St. Mary's Lake on the way back

The Thompson fire had just burned through the east side of Going-to-the-Sun highway and was still active when I left for this trip but some shrubs are already resprouting. 

There are colors in the rock and also from niches of plant life

Another beautiful view

 I was blessed by the views and hardly missed the hike. And I'll be coming back to Montana  in a few years and that hike will still be on my bucket list.