Mount Sentinel via Pengelly Ridge

Normally, I think of Mount Sentinel has the M with its constant flow of folks making their way to the whitewashed concrete letter, but Mount Sentinel is a large area with an extensive network of trails. On a sunny day, Vida and I decided to tackle the slope from Pengelly Ridge to the top, and we… Read more »

Friday Pass – Hike into the Elk Summit Country

Friday Pass is a low pass between the KoosKoosia Meadows area and the Wind Lakes in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area in Idaho. The hike to Friday Pass is a relatively manageable uphill until Swamp Lake (guess why it is called that?) when the trail goes steeply to the pass. Once reaching Friday Pass, you can… Read more »

Schley Mountain Hike – Great Views of the Great Burn Roadless Area

At the peak of Schley Mountain, you have awesome 360-degree views of the Great Burn Roadless Area. This hike is 3 miles point-to-point, with mild 500’ in elevation gain. Good views from the site of the former Schley Mountain lookout.

Trapper Peak – Highest Summit in the Bitterroot Mountains

Trapper Peak, sitting at 10,157 feet, is the highest of the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. This summit is probably the most well-known mountain in the Bitterroot Mountains, if for no other reason, simply because it has the highest summit. Dominating Darby, Montana, Trapper Peak is accessed via the West Fork of Bitterroot River, and, in… Read more »

Hiking to Canyon Lake – Revisiting a Challenge

Canyon Lake, a trail that seemed to almost kill us the last time we hike it. The last mile to the lake had my knees sounding like rusty hinges and my legs shaking. I still remember the sore legs for several days after that hike. So, why do it again and see what happens. To… Read more »

West Fork Fish Creek to the Cathedral of Cedars

Looking for a cool hike on a hot summer day? The West Fork Fish Creek starts out hot as we hiked through the blackened spires from the 2015 burn. But eventually, we reach the Cathedral of Cedars where towering western red cedars shade the cool waters of Fish Creek. This is a relatively flat trail that follows along… Read more »

Fish Lake – Another hike in the Lost Horse Country

From the Bear Creek Pass Trailhead, several great hikes spread into the Lost Horse Country, and the trail to Fish Lake is exceptional. Starting out, we hiked through a mixture of forest and boulder fields until we reached a junction in the path. By this time we were solidly within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. Continuing… Read more »

Hiking to Little Rock Creek Lake

The best hikes, like this one to Little Rock Creek Lake, are always those spur of the moment, look at the map, and go. “Let’s go for a hike.” “Never done Little Rock Creek Lake.” “Let’s do it!” And with that, we were off to the Little Rock Creek trailhead, located above Lake Como to the… Read more »

Bear Creek Falls (low-flow version)

It has been awhile since we have been to Bear Creek Falls, so why not a quick hike to the cascade and see how it looks without any rain in a month and a half. Arriving at the falls in less than an hour, the chasm contained only a trickle of water compared to the raging… Read more »

Day Hike to Coquina Lake in the Lost Horse Country

Nestled in a tight basin, Coquina Lake is a true gem of a day hike in the Lost Horse country of the Bitterroot Mountains. I have fallen in love with the Lost Horse country, which I have not hiked until this summer (next hike will be the Spruce Lake). From the Bear Creek Pass trailhead,… Read more »

  • Birding

    Bitterroot River Merganser, an uncommon experience

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    One of the benefits of living next to the Bitterroot River is the near constant presence of Common Mergansers has they float on past. Dressed in stately garb, the male is strikingly black and white with a bright red bill, whereas the hen possesses a russet head adorned with a ragged crest of feathers. These outfits make the moniker… Read more »

  • Birding

    The Greater of the two Yellowlegs

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    Today, I traveled down to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in search of a Sage Sparrow that I thought I heard yesterday, but I irrationally passed it off (bad birder, bad). I missed the one day wonder, but my consolation prize was a pair of Greater Yellowlegs. Even though the light wasn’t terribly cooperative,… Read more »

  • Photography, Wildlife

    A furry kind of day with Columbian Ground Squirrels

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    Yesterday afternoon, I went out to the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge for some birding and, fingers crossed, a little bird photography. Upon arriving at the Refuge, the season’s first Cinnamon Teals were feeding along the margins of the cattails. I waited for them to come within range of the 500mm lens, and they never… Read more »

  • Birding

    Return of the Ospreys – Past and Present

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    Each spring, I await the return of one particular raptor with particular anticipation, the Osprey. Always around the first of April when the ice has disappeared, they re-appear to their platform nests that sit atop numerous snags along the rivers and lakes of western Montana. All at once, there seems to be a pair occupying every available… Read more »

  • Birding

    Sometimes they are not as cooperative

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    Green-winged Teals always seem to be eating, and their heads always are buried in the muck or underwater. At least these guys lined up in a pleasing manner.

  • Birding

    April Fool’s in Avian Form

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    American Coots are just plain goofy. They swim and feed like ducks, and yet, they are a rail (that’s right I said it). Coots, actually, look a lot like a chicken,a frickin’ swimming chicken with a large white bill. They have lobate feet, which means that each toe has lobes of skin surrounding the digit,… Read more »

  • Birding

    Colors come to the Spring

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    Each spring, we fade from the muted tones of late winter into the extravagant colors of life in abundance. Those colors come in no more greater illustration than the drake Wood Duck. These creatures of fantastic dreams have started to populated the sloughs and backwaters of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers.

  • Herping

    First herp of the 2012: Western Painted Turtle

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    During a quick drive through visit of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, I spied a couple of new brown bumps on a log that I have looked at dozens of times. The brown bumps turned out to be a couple of Western Painted Turtles, my fist herps of 2012. This is the first time that… Read more »

  • Birding

    Despite the gloom, it is Freezeout

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    The fog froze in layers to the antenna and windshield as Freezeout Lake came into view, and a a flock of 200 Snow Geese cross overhead. These were the last Snow Geese that we would see for the next couple of hours. The weather man completely lied. His prediction of mid-50s with sunny skies had… Read more »

  • Wildlife

    Cattail Raccoons

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    Spent some time with a family of 5 Northern Raccoons at Lee Metcalf NWR. They were foraging on newly emergent cattail shoots, and they fed no more than 10 yards from me for the better part of 1/2 an hour. Quite an experience. After they were done feeding, they swam across the pond, and slipped… Read more »

  • Birding

    Garbage Dump Gulls at the Flathead Gullery

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    As I cleaned my over-flowing edited images folder from the past few months, I came across a series of photos from an afternoon spent with the gulls from the lovely Flathead County Sanitary Landfill or as we call it, the Flathead Gullery. Ok, it’s a dump, it stinks, it looks apocalyptic, and the gulls love… Read more »

  • Birding

    The Buteo that hovers – the Rough-legged Hawk

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    As sightings of Rough-legged Hawks become fewer and further between, I have been reviewing this past winter’s images, and I notice a series of images of hawk hovering. Rough-legged Hawks are our only buteo that regularly hovers. In fact, the only other North American raptors that regularly hover are the Osprey and the collective kites. Hovering is… Read more »

  • Birding

    Pygmy Nuthatch Addendum

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    Just when I thought that I had the most photogenic Pygmy Nuthatch, this happens.

  • Birding

    Pig Nuts – when you are just too lazy to say the whole name

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    I have always been fascinated by Pygmy Nuthatches. When I was living in the Bozeman area, I rarely got to see the,, and as soon as I moved to Missoula, I have been seeing unreal numbers. They seems to be in each and every ponderosa pine, picking at the branch-tip cones. Like a circus act,… Read more »

  • Birding

    Americans Dippers gathering nest material

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    Short film and images of American Dippers gathering moss for their nest, which is located underneath a bridge that spans rattlesnake Creek in Greenough Park. Notice that the birds are consistently dunking the nesting material, namely moss. The wetting is thought to keep the moss alive and, therefore, more pliable. The American Dipper nest is… Read more »