During the course of my daily walks along the Bitterroot River, I have become accustomed, or better said comfortable, with the placement of every tree and stone. There is a sense of permanence from them, and now a beaver has gnawed away at this view. Every night for the past several weeks, it comes to the banks and topples 3-4 trees and drags away the limbs…he is really as busy as a beaver. The landscape to quickly transforming to a more open canopy.
Woods Gulch, home to the Flammulated Owl, is one of my favorite short hikes in the Rattlesnake area. The hike itself is awesome as it blasts straight up the gulch, along a small creek, until you reach a ridge that is the haunt of hte small, dark-eyed owls. Today, we were not looking for owls, but we were enjoying the fantastic nature and a good leg stretcher.
Vida, Olivia, and myself went for a quick evening hike along the South Fork of Lolo Creek. The waters were raging as the intense spring run-off continues to build. The star of the hike was a small female rubber boa that was just lying on the trail (made me jump a few feet when I almost step on it, full disclosure). I picked it up (of course, I picked it up), and the serpent was very cold to the touch, but within several minutes it was getting more active as the heat from my hands warmed it. I handed to vida, you immediately started stating that she “was not a snake person”. She did this repeatedly and quite loudly. Eventually, the rubber boa was set down to the side of the trail, and it slowly crept away.
The intense sun is warming the landscape and the snow is receding up the mountainsides. It is that odd time of year when you can’t really hike up too far, but you really want outside in that sunshine. The solution take a relaxing drive over to the Lochsa and hike to Weir Hot Springs. The easy hike is really short (about 1/2 mile), and the water at Weir is perfect – the Goldilocks of hot springs. When we arrived, there was another couple in the pool, and a second pair followed us. But, soon we had the place to ourselves – perfection!
After soaking, we made our way to the Lochsa Lodge for a beer and the Lochsa Monster Burger, a massive hunk of beef topped with ham, fried pickles, and gobs of cheese.
The best part of the day, bbq’ing up a couple of grass-fed ribeyes and watching a little Austin Powers – Yeah, Baby!
A beautiful day demanded a hike, but most of the area hikes are gumbo-like mixture of slush, mud, and ice. So what to do? Take the short hike into Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in Idaho near the Lochsa River. The hike is a little less than a mile and half, and it is incredibly easy.
- Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, Idaho, US-ID
- Mar 22, 2014 2:45 PM – 4:15 PM
- Protocol: Traveling
- 2.4 mile(s)
- 10 species
- Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) 1
- Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1
- Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 2
- Common Raven (Corvus corax) 1
- Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) 2
- Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 5
- Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus) 4
- American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) 6
- American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 3
- Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) 1
Found this lone winter-plumaged Horned Grebe at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge this afternoon. A sure sign of spring is the arrival of migrants, and this birds coupled with a pair of Tundra Swans heralds the turning of the seasons.
This past weekend, my pal Jorge and I took a winter’s walk along the Bitterroot River at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. The light snow continued to fall and accumulate. The powder was already knee deep and the air had frigid edges to it, but there were cracks in winter’s facade. Red-winged Blackbirds sang from the banks of the river as an American Dipper dove into the icy waters. I have always loved transitions, or maybe it is better to say, I enjoy the edges of transitions. Those points were things almost tip over…the most exciting points of experience.
Late summer sun filtered through the thick and lofty boughs of the western red cedars that hung over this small stream. Pools occasionally formed in the downstream sides of the buttress roots. Searching for the Idaho Giant Salamander, many of the pools were without the amphibian, but many contained small, dark ancient-looking fish. I assumed they were horthead sculpins based on the habitat and locations, and today I learned that I may have been mistaken. An error of identification that I am happy to make.
Scientists at the University of Montana and the US Forest Service announced the discovery of the Cedar Sculpin, a new species of fish native to mountain streams of Idaho and Montana. A new species being described in my own neck of the woods is such a rare occurrence that I was slightly agape with astonishment. Recent species discoveries tend to be in far-flung remote places that are difficult for science to explore. Michael Young, one of the lead researchers, has this to say about his discovery, “It’s really exciting to find a new species of fish. It’s something you might expect in more remote parts of the world, but not in the U.S.”
The Cedar Sculpin looks very superficially like the shorthead sculpin. However, when the research begin to pay close attention to presumed shorthead sculpins from the area, they found significant morphological differences. The genetic study sealed the fact that tributaries of the Spokane River basin in Idaho and the middle Clark Fork River basin in Montana had within their waters a new species of sculpin. It appears that the Cedar Sculpin and the parent population of the shorthead sculpin have been geographically separated for thousands of years, resulting in the isolated population drift into a new species. A new piece of biological diversity has been added to our knowledge. Now it is up to us to conserve of the habitat from this unique endemic species.