My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, June 1, 2012

Steen Mountain, All Mine

Lilly and Fish Lakes, the rivulets, and even two entire campgrounds - mine! The partially snow covered hills and the greening valleys, mine too. The wildflowers, big and little, they are mine. Red winged blackbirds, Wilson's snipe, mountain bluebirds, yellow warblers, robins, tree swallows, sage thrashers, mallards, Wilson's phalarope, and warbling vireos displayed and sang just for me. Belding's ground squirrel, chipmunks, and deer.  Yep,  they were mine, too.

I spent two and a half days based out of Fish Lake Campground on Steen Mountain. The stretch of road between gates one and two had just opened and I was dying to visit. I found a very different habitat of meadows and quaking aspens interspersed in sagebrush. Finding a campsite that was made private by coyote willows and which had the perfect quaking aspens to hang a hammock, I soon set up my hammock, covered it with a tarp since these quaking aspens had leaves too new and small to provide shade, and soon was reading and dozing.

Campsite on Fish Lake
My most important camping items
A view of my campsite - my hammock is under the bat house
When the light got pretty for pictures, I went exploring. There was much to see. But NO people, except for a fishing couple that came for a few hours in the early evening. But my camp site was NOT quiet. From about 6:00 P.M. until 1:30 A.M., the snipe whinnied.. (That's the second sound although they used the first sound during the day.) And there were several snipe calling from all around my site right on the lake and next to a little swamp. (They actually make this sound with feathers on their wings). The second night, I managed to sleep through their calls.

Fishing pier near my campsite
Trumpet lungwort, Mertensia longiflora
Quaking aspen along Lily Lake

Deer not sharing the road
The next day, I planned to hike up to the Wild Horse Overlook. But, although the road was opened, there was a patch of snow that was too high for me to ride through in the tracks. So I parked and then hiked about two and a half miles and visited the next campground which is just at the road closure. When I got back to camp, I figured I deserved a good pasta lunch and a nap.  I spent the mid-afternoon in my hammock dozing and reading.

A view along my hike
Another hiking view
Road going up still closed due to snow
Looking down into Jackman Campground
 Then it was time to go take some pictures of the wildflowers I'd seen blooming on the way to camp.  I drove down and then wandered across a couple of fields taking pictures of wildflowers, some almost as small as a pinhead and others up to two inches across. I'll figure out what they are, and then share them with you in another post. The birds woke me Friday morning at 4:30.  By the time my alarm had gone off, I had the inside of my tent packed and was carrying stuff to the car. I had a big breakfast of refried beans, a hot dog, and a hard boiled egg before finishing my packing.

Before 6:00 A.M., I was driving off to go check out the other end of the loop road. I stopped to take a picture of the view and discovered so many wildflowers that I  spent another hour and a half photographing them and their pollinators. A truly wonderful weekend. AND I think I captured at least one new species of bee that I caught in my traps.  I also saw what appeared to be a bright yellow bumblebee but it zoomed off into the woods before I could get out my net.