My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yellowstone is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

The Mary Poppins Song, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, started going through my head about the second day I was in Yellowstone National Park.  By the time we had to leave, that seemed to be the best word to describe it.


Rainbows in geysers.

 Wonderful wild waterfalls.

Sparkling bubbles.

And bubbles of primeval slime.

Smoking landscapes.



 Petrified Wood

 And a Natural Bridge

 I've spent several hours processing my pictures and am only about a third finished. Currently I'm in Boise, Idaho and will take Tracy to the airport at 5:00A.M. tomorrow and then will drive to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. I have to unload my car and retrieve my processions from two sites and move back into the volunteer house before returning to my volunteering job.  But I'll have lots more to tell you about our week of exploring by auto and by foot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Bad - Missed the North Dakota Badlands

I usually plan - or at least leave time for - at least one adventure a day. I think if you don't live your  journey, your destination is not as big a payback.

But I was trying to make sure I got back to Bozeman in time to run some errands like getting my hair cut and buying some new fleece outerwear to replace my twenty year old pants and jacket that are beginning to fall apart. So I didn't pay much attention to what was available to be seen in North Dakota and mostly planned to only stop at a library and try to get more pictures edited and get blogs ready for the hiatus while I'm camping in Yellowstone.

So imagine my amazement when I saw badlands and then came up to a rest stop at the edge of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and found there ARE more badlands to be seen. And many of the hills are on fire because brush fires have ignited veins of lignite within the hills and they are baking the hills until they turn red.

Another geological force at work here is slumping.  House-sized pieces of the hill fall off and then take years to slide down and be dissolved by rain. In fact a major slump has closed part of one of the scenic roads in the park while the slump is removed.

And there is a major petrified forest within the confines of the park.  But it would have taken me forty minutes to drive to it and then about three hours to hike through it without a camera.  With a camera, I might still be there. So I decided to just put this on my bucket list for next year.  Tent camping is only $7 per night with the Golden Age Pass. The Little Missouri River runs through all three units.

Here are a few pictures to give you a little teaser. For more information, explore this site. 

This park also has lots of information and artifacts from Theodore Roosevelt for you history buffs. You'll have to check to see which of the visitor centers has his material.

On the personal front, I'll be hiking with two friends in Yellowstone National Park when this publishes. Can't wait. I do need a little rest from these vacations, but I'll be ready to start them up again in November.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The (Not-So) Mighty Mississippi

I was mostly thinking about where I would stay next when I drove through Grand Falls, Minnesota. Suddenly, I noticed a sign by the bridge I was approaching.  The bridge was very short and the stream was only maybe twenty to fifty feet across.  But the sign said, "Mississippi River".

That piqued my interest because I'm very familiar with the Mississippi River, especially the portion that goes from Baton Rouge, Louisiana through New Orleans and on to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a huge muddy stream filled with shipping barges and push boats. A paddle wheeler takes the affluent up river, I think to Tennessee. I've dreamed of doing that trip but can't  afford it.

So I decided I REALLY wanted to see the Mississippi River's beginnings. While I got my oil changed in my car, I got in conversation with a guy who told me I needed to go to Itasca State Park to see the headwaters. Then, while I was at the library at Grand Rapids - which probably was the name given to some big rapids, I asked the reference librarian about the rapids. Yes they were grand - so much so that shipping (by paddlewheelers)  had to stop and the unloading area was just behind the library.  But now they are buried at the bottom of a lake a few miles upstream.

I determined that I would spend the cloudy, rainy night at Itasca State Park and drove up there. I got in a few minutes of looking over the area before dark but wasn't sure I'd actually seen the Mississippi.  Next morning I started cooking breakfast when the sun started coming out.  So I dropped everything and grabbed a breakfast bar and rushed off to explore the river.

I parked at the Mary Gibbs Mississippi River Headwaters Center, and did a couple of stops at the displays while rushing back to the trail to the headwaters. 

A sign marked a beautiful trail through the pines.

In only a few minutes, I arrived at the dividing rocks between Lake Itasca and the Mississippi.

Hardly any water was coming over or through the rocks. This was the major stream of the water and it was hardly more than what I can pour from my five gallon jug.

Lake Itasca was beautiful  in the morning light.

A couple of women showed up and took turns take each other's picture on the headwater rocks. 

Do these rocks appear natural to you?  They are actually an "improvement" done by the CCC in 1933. It was the first improvement they did to the park.  The REAL environment was a marsh which you can see a little further down the stream. This is how we should have to visit the headwaters.

The informational display about the river and it's history was also interesting. A lot of explorers hunted for the headwaters and several lakes were declared the headwaters before Henry Schoolcraft finally got an Indian to guide him to Lake Itasca. He declared it was the headwaters after his expedition in 1832.

I particularly loved this statue of the Caretaker Woman, releasing baby turtles into the river. I also added the sign so you can click on it to read the details of the Indian's belief in this woman and her role in the life of the river. There is also a ten minute video on Henry Schoolhouse and his discovery of the headwaters as well as a model of the Mississippi and lots of other information.

I wished I had had more time to explore the park. There is both a champion red pine and a white pine there as well as a wonderful wilderness area that has a hiking trail through it. There are over 100 lakes in this huge place. If you are interested, visit their site and see all the wonderful information they have on the history, the geology, and the logging industry in the area, as well as the park's plans for the future.

I'm currently (Sept. 20) in Billings, Montana  and have to leave soon and drive about another 100 miles (for a total of over 500 today. Then I have a day and a half before I'll meet my friends in Bozeman, Montana,  with whom I'll be touring Yellowstone. Again, I'll probably be off the Internet for a week, but should have time to get up another blog before I leave.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Autumn Leaves

I've been blown away by the leaf color up here in northern Minnesota. I've had to take pictures from my canoe and car, and while hiking. And each day, more trees are turning color.  At first it was small parts of one to a few trees, then full trees, and today, several hundred feet of trees along the highway were all colored. When I hiked in a mixed forest of conifers and deciduous trees, colors peaked out from the dark green background.

Here's a few of the scenes I've been privileged to see.  This goes out to all the folks in the south that mostly don't get to see fall color.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Boundary Waters

I wrote the following during my solo time in  Quetico- the Canadian side of the Lake Area.  But it applies equally to all the protected lands that have been dimpled by glaciers leaving chains of lakes. And the pictures are from this trip since I wasn't taking pictures on that long-ago trip.

Boundary waters - waters of marshy streams playing with the unending tresses of grass as they wind sensuously through the pike's grassland home and past the beaver's lodge.

Boundary waters - blackwater lakes where the walleye play and the water is deep and cold, giving rise to the mist mares of morning and the clouds of evening.

Boundary waters - whitewater eruptions within placid streams or at the juncture of lake and stream - boiling, hissing, rising, falling.

 Boundary waters - singing waters - tiny melodies against the grass, exuberant concerts of the waterfalls, smaller chorus of the rock gardens, the chant of waves on rocks - carrying the song of the white throated and song sparrow, the melody of the hermit thrush, the eerie call of the loon, the foghorn bellow of the moose; then filled with an almost perfect silence, interrupted only by the whisper of wind or splashing of water along the shore.

Boundary waters - reflecting the pewter bark of birches, dark green spruces, light green, pink, silver, and golden moss, pale green ferns, grey, black, reddish rocks, and pink and white clouds, somehow more than doubling their loveliness.  Reflecting white gulls, the black and white of loons, the red and gray of the mergansers flying only feet above its surface.

Boundary waters dimpling with fish feeding, water striders striding, dented by fishing gulls, rent by diving beaver, osprey, otter and loon.

Boundary waters - from liquid to vapor to liquid again on my tent and on the trees and mossy earth which soaks them up to hold against the drying time.

Boundary waters - the stuff of life; the stuff of dreams.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Five Fast Days in the Boundary Waters

 Dateline: September 15, Ely, MN 

Neither fires, nor rain nor wind stopped us from having fun in our six days in the Boundary Waters, but we did have to change our plans a few times. 

Rain was the least of our problems since the only two times it rained was at night.  But we did have to set up two camp sites in anticipation of rain and put up a fly. 

Fire stopped us from going through a series of small lakes which we planned to do on our way back. And when the rangers came around to tell everyone that they were closing the east end of  Knife Lake, due the the Canadian fire, they didn’t see us, so didn’t stop to tell us that they were closing our area and that the other area was now open. We learned about it at the first portage back, after paddling west on Knife Lake.
We could see the smoke from the Canadian fire from our second camp which was almost across from part of the fire. 

Ben hauling us through three lakes
Loading up at the first of seven portages
First of two hauls at every portage - second was food barrel and handheld stuff

The reason for portages
View at the fifth of the seven portages
 And the wind!  The strong west winds were helpful on our way out the first day but were even stronger the third day.  We decided that we probably should not be paddling, especially since the boat would be so light and the winds, which were producing white caps early in the morning,  had several hours to increase. So we spent our third day bound to one small island.  But I enjoyed bushwhacking over the island and finding little views and also taking a picture of the Canadian fire which seemed to be at it’s worst that day. But the winds favored us on the way back. The first day of our return, we had no to very light winds and the  last day we had mostly side winds or we could paddle in the lee of some land on flat water.

My first tent site
Open for "bidnes" -toilet paper marks the "door" to the bathroom

Room with a view
A well deserved first day sunset
Bob fishing at dawn
We enjoyed ring-billed gulls, eagles, two immature ospreys fishing, sharing our island camp with three chipmunks – who modeled just how fast they could get into our food. I’m going to make up a Power Point show to show to the Houston Area Sea Kayakers.  I was discussing with Bob, what would be good pictures and we thought a picture of our food barrel – which protects it  from bears with some of our food spread out on our “table cloth” would be interesting. On chipmunk showed up as soon as we started arranging the food and went scooting and rooting under a bag of gorp.  Then it took a quick bite out of the bag while Bob was yelling at it and I was yelling to not scare off my model before I got good pictures.  They were obviously used to campers feeding them and would come and sit on our feet even if we weren’t offering them food. One took a Cheerio from my fingers and another ate the last sun-dried tomato from our supper.  And just as we were leaving our camp this morning, a mink swam just in front of us to an arm of our campsite.