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

    Cackling Goose at Lee Metcalf

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    During an afternoon visit, I observed a single Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) in with the Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) on the ice at the north end of the pond nearest to the Visitor’s Center. The goose in question was apparently half the size of the surrounding Moffitt’s Canada Geese (B.c. moffitti). The bird possessed a… Read more »

  • Birding

    Above the surface of the heavier music of the water

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    The Ouzel never sings in chorus with other birds, nor with his kind, but only with the streams. And like flowers that bloom beneath the surface of the ground, some of our favorite’s best song-blossoms never rise above the surface of the heavier music of the water. – John Muir from The Mountains of California… Read more »

  • Birding, ID tips

    Waxwing ID Workshop

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    Fruits were ripped from their stems as the ravenous flock worked to clean this tree. Sharp, hooked bills spear the red flesh as more waxwings pile into the tangle of branches. The composite flock of ~300 birds was predominately (95%) Bohemian Waxwings and the reminder were Cedar Waxwings. The game was to pick out the occasional Cedar… Read more »

  • Review

    Review: Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America

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    Here in Montana, petrels and albatrosses are not usually on the birding radar. Their foreignness and distance have only served to intrigue me. I imagine a giant albatross dynamically soaring amongst of crowns and troughs of mid-ocean swells. I can almost feel the salt-laden mist needling at my face. Heck, I might even be a… Read more »

  • Review

    Review: The Atlas of Birds

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    I rushed into the Lolo post office to receive a parcel from Princeton University Press. It was my review copy of The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation. I raced home and tore open the box, and fished the text from a sea of packing peanuts. The first thing that leapt out at me… Read more »

  • Birding

    2012: The Year of the Invasion

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    2012 has been the year of the invasion. An invasion of normally arctic-dwelling bird species has descended upon the northern tier of the United States. There have been upwards of 50-60 separate Snowy Owl observations in the state of Montana. The causes for the invasion are, most likely, due to a couple of synergistic factors: the… Read more »

  • Birding

    Mission for Snowy Owls

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    Before I could bear to watch the Green Bay Packers lose to the Giants, Tom and I went up into the Mission Valley on a Snowy Owl mission. We initially checked around the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding agricultural lands, and we turned up nada. No Snowy Owls or much else, other than… Read more »

  • Dharma, Thoughts

    What is the Noble Eightfold Path

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    Most simply put the Noble Eightfold Path is the course of actions as prescribed by the Buddha that leads to cessation of suffering and the achievement of liberation. Divisions and Factors of the Noble Eightfold Path Before we tackled the particulars of the Noble Eightfold Path, we need to have a basic understanding of the… Read more »

  • Birding

    The warm weather continues

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    45 degrees in january…January! That’s how warm it has been in northwestern Montana lately. The birds were appropriately enjoying the sun. All 3 species of nuthatch were actively calling and feeding in the ponderosa pines and cottonwoods as Northern Flickers both called and drummed. Common Goldeneye and Hooded Merganser were all displaying as well. Everything must have… Read more »

  • Birding

    Chasing Ghosts

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    I heard the Pileated Woodpecker vocalizing with its fast series of “wuk” notes. Went to that location, and he (I’m assuming a male here) was nowhere to be found. Then, I would hear the bird farther down, some 200 meters or so. This pattern repeat several times, and I decided that Pileateds are nothing more than malevolent ghosts…they do… Read more »

  • Birding, Photography

    Can you believe it, another afternoon at Lee Metcalf

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    Spent yesterday afternoon at Lee Metcalf NWR, and as always it was a spectacular time to be there. I was able to spot the female Greater Scaup again, and again without an image. Along the Kenai trail, Northern Shrike and American Tree Sparrow were among the visitors from the north. The surprise of the day… Read more »

  • Photography, Thoughts

    Thoughts about our existence at Lee Metcalf.

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    Today, I read in an otherwise mundane news article that an old acquaintance of mine was killed in an avalanche near Cooke City. I have read many articles like this, but most of the time the names are not familiar, and I end up reading the news with very little care. The horrific details are all too soon… Read more »

  • Birding, Christmas Bird Count

    CBC on the last day of 2011

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    I was incredibly fortunate to spend the last morning of 2011 birding on the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge for the Christmas Bird Count. This section of the count was led by Bob Danley, who was incredibly generous with his time and laughter. We had a great time. Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) 500 Trumpeter Swan… Read more »