Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mosaic Monday #33 - Roses, Rainbows and Reflections

Wild Rose
Our first back-country camping adventure is in the rearview mirror, and as with many events in the past, it already looks better from this perspective!  

Don't mistake me, we enjoyed many aspects of it, but the swarms of mosquitoes and the encounter with the black bear are not among them.  But as often happens, I am ahead of myself!

We left the house at 8.30 am and enjoyed a leisurely drive along the North Fork Road to the Polebridge Ranger Station to pay our remaining reservation fees and to watch the 30-minute backcountry video.  (We could afford to take our time since the hike is only 5 miles.)  And what do you know?  The Station was not staffed Monday morning - and a quick look around the grounds scared up nothing more than a pair of chipmunks hopeful for a handout.  We drove on, secure in the knowledge that we would have another chance to settle our debt on the way out of the Park.

On our way to the trailhead, we realized that another ranger station is located near it, and hoped to find a ranger there.  No such luck.  But we did discover a roomy restroom that had been freshly cleaned - always a bonus in the woods!  After parking, we began our final preparations.  Another car arrived and two couples emerged; they shared our destination, but only as a day hike.

The sun was shining and a light breeze stirred the trees as we shouldered our packs and took our first steps down the trail.

Quickly, I was struck by the wild roses in bloom.  To the left, to the right - all along the trail.  Mariposa lilies dotted the spaces in between, and sweet pea clusters peeked out from the rampant foliage.
Left: Mariposa Lily and Baldhip Rose   Right: Sweet Pea

Bunchberry is a low-growing perennial with a woody base - if it reminds you of a dogwood, it should - it's part of the dogwood family!  Stands of yellow penstemon waved to us from the prairie-like openings that were a feature of the first mile of the trail.  We walked high above Logging Creek and could hear its rushing waters through the canyon to our right.  In the distance, mountains with lingering snow reminded us that winter just left us and will be soon to return.
Upper left: Yellow Penstemon  Upper right: Bunchberry

Hind foot of a Black Bear
After a couple of miles, the trail enters a thick, brushy section that retains moisture even during the warmest days of spring.  You betcha - the perfect breeding ground for Culicidae (mosquitoes).  And the mud of the trail reveals every creature that has passed that way - human, wolf, bear ...

But it wasn't the bear paw prints or even the bear scat that made us hoof it the remaining three miles without a stop - it was Culicidae.  Even a pause for a photo brought a cloud of them onto every exposed piece of skin.  Just not worth it!

Fortunately, lakefront must be expensive land for mosquitoes, 'cause they were scarce at the campground.  We had our pick of three sites, and within 30 minutes had our camp set up.  Tent assembled, sleeping pads and pillows inflated, down sleeping bags in place.  Backpacks hung from the provided bear pole.  Good thing, because the sky was ominous and thunder rolled across the lake with increasing frequency.  It was all the excuse we needed to doze in the tent while a light rain pattered on the fly sheet.

We emerged to clearing skies as the weather moved off to the east.  A cup of coffee revived us while a gourmet dinner of chili mac reconstituted itself.  After our meal, Man with Hat tried his hand at fly fishing while I managed the campfire and wandered the campground, snapping rainbows and reflections.  Responding to a shout of joy, I rushed to capture a fish picture, but it slipped the hook.  Fortunately, another was snagged in no time, and both were attracted by flies that he had tied himself!


Dessert was Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, and I also roasted some marshmallows over the glowing embers of the fire.  An altogether satisfactory end to the day!

As the sun began to set, the mosquitoes picked up, and it was time to turn in.  I don't think I've had 8.30 pm as a bedtime since I was a teen!  Sleeping was quite comfortable, even if turning over was noisy from the inflatable pad and pillow.  Early to bed, early to rise - my phone read 6.30 am when I awoke to the birds singing, and decided it was useless to try and get back to sleep.

Man with Hat had left the tent shortly before me and already had the fire lit, and coffee underway.  I am so blessed!  The sun was working hard to break through the clouds while he fished, and I watered transplanted trees near the cooking site.
Sign says "Please help Glacier National Park restore this degraded area by watering the native plants we have
planted here."

More coffee accompanied our breakfast oatmeal, and then it was time to pack up camp.  By 9.20 we were on the trail, and this time I was well-prepared with my waterproof jacket and mosquito head cover.  I could still hear the whining buzz of the winged ones, but they couldn't find an available capillary anywhere!
So happy I could pause and take these photos.  Upper left: Canada Violet  Middle: Sticky Geranium
Upper right: Bog Orchid         Bottom:  Bear Grass

Halfway back, I thought I heard a bear grunting, and said as much to Man with Hat.  Sure enough, shortly thereafter we saw an adult black bear on the trail 30 yards ahead of us, heading in our direction.  We went back the way we came until we could no longer see it, and then went off the trail on the downhill side since it appeared it wanted to use the trail.  We shouted all the while and had our bear spray at the ready.  After 5 minutes or so, we worked our way back to the trail and it was nowhere to be seen … So glad our first real bear encounter ended well ...
Left: Groundsel    Right: Gooseberry

The pumping adrenaline took some time to wear off, and by then we were into the dry section of the trail and could stop for a drink and a snack. Before we knew it, we reached the trailhead and it felt so good to sponge off and change into dry clothes in the coolness and mosquito-free environment of the ranger station bathroom.  

We tried to pay our camping fee on the way out of the Park, but the young ranger staffing the station said "This is my first day and I am not set up yet to accept cash or credit cards."  Oh well.  So we contributed to the local economy another way by spending the money on baked goodies at the Polebridge Mercantile.

As is our custom, we stopped at a watering hole on the way home.  What is it about hiking and camping that makes everything taste so good?

Now that we're home, a friend told us that no-one camps at Logging Lake before July 1 due to mosquitoes.  Maybe now I understand why that backcountry application was so quickly approved!



Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.
 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Mosaic Monday #32 - Rain Drop Dancing

A visit to Spokane is not complete without a walk along the Spokane River, so that is how we began Day Two of our mini-vacation (see Day One).  Throughout our visit, I was very impressed with the trail system and its landscaping.  These are pleasant, green spaces that belie the fact you are in the middle of a bustling city.
Our meandering had an objective - the Davenport Hotel for his and her massages.  And didn't I direct us to the wrong hotel?  Spokane boasts 4 hotels that bear the name Davenport, and I mistakenly thought the Davenport Grand housed the spa.  We should have been at the Historic Davenport Hotel.  Good thing we had plenty of time - even with a speed walk covering 7 blocks, we still had an opportunity to enjoy a glass of champagne before the spa service.

When we emerged from the hotel, we found rain had begun to fall, scuppering our plans for a thorough walk around downtown.  Based on my past work-related visits to town, I knew it was only a few blocks to the indoor Mall, so we set that as our new destination.  It was serendipity that we snagged a table on the "bridge" of the Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, with a three-story high view of the street outside and the atrium of the mall.  And the dishes we chose were an unexpected delight for the taste buds.

Upper right: Buffalo Chicken with Gorgonzola Grits
Lower right: Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Left: The Festival lured us to town for this particular weekend
By the end of our meal, the rain had eased and we decided to explore river-side Huntington Park.  Again, the layout of the Park next to the Falls struck me - simple lines with gorgeous plants, sculptures and seating spaces.  It was outdone only by the Falls - if you watch the video below, you will see the Park and the Falls, deafening throughout.



For thousands of years, tribal families gathered at "Fast Water" to
fish for salmon.

My blogging buddy Kit at A Montana Life raves about several of her favorite spots in Spokane, and we took her advice and visited Boo Radleys, Atticus for cake and coffee, and then Auntie's Bookstore.  It was all I could do to resist buying a dozen cute items in Atticus, from home d├ęcor to nifty coffee mugs to cards and books.  We held ourselves to a bag of coffee - you can never have too much black gold!

At the book store, we inquired about outside seating, with an adult beverage in mind.  One recommendation was Zola, and I was sold as soon as it came into view since it had a patio and umbrellas - I like to absorb the sun, but Spousal Unit prefers the shade.  I couldn't resist jumping up to take pictures of this VW bus parked across the street.  It was then that I noticed the dark clouds gathering to the east.  We strolled the remaining blocks to our hotel, and just in time - the heavens opened!  On the news that night they reported streets flooded in close proximity to Zola.



The next morning, the rain continued, and we seized the opportunity to have a relaxing morning in the hotel.  The desk in the room looked out over the river, and the space had ample light to engage in some drawing and stitching.  Then it was off to the Flour Mill across town, which beckoned with its promise of specialty shops, and the Ethiopian restaurant we found there was a pleasant surprise.  (Not to mention some truffles from Chocolate Apothecary.)  We had time to squeeze in an afternoon movie before meeting one of my former work colleagues for a drink at the Elk.  A couple of hours later, we shared a bear hug before our Uber pulled up to the curb.  Dropped at Bridge Press Cellars, we sampled wines while listening to the Jesse Quandt band.  The gig was over before we were ready to call it a night, so we dodged the rain drops for a couple of blocks - Zola again!  The reggae beat was thumping, with an enthusiastic audience working it out on the dance floor.  But our dancing wasn't over when we left the place - the wet stuff still fell from the sky, and we found ourselves hurdling curbs, jumping puddles and giggling like little kids all the way back to the hotel.  No-one would have mistaken us for the cast of "Singin' In the Rain"!

NOTE TO ALL MOSAIC MONDAY PARTICIPANTS: My visits to some of your blogs will be delayed since I will be on a camping trip Monday and Tuesday!

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.
 
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Mosaic Monday #31 - How Does Your Garden Grow?

Blue Columbine
My April 14 post, Anticipation, had me dreaming about the wild grass and wildflowers that we sowed in the fall.  I also speculated about our formal landscaping - would it return?  Would there be self-seeding?  Would the apple trees bloom and cross-pollinate?  And then we have the pines and the aspens we transplanted at the end of the summer.  Did they survive?  Since I know you have all been on the edge of your seats waiting for the answers, this post will put your inquiring minds to rest.


I began keeping a garden journal on April 21; on a weekly basis, I note observations about each of the plants, and take pictures.  I am also tracking key events such as rainfall.  I am confident that in years to come, my notes will become my own mini-Farmer's Almanac for planning purposes.  Call me crazy, but this approach and its future application gets me jazzed!


If I went all-out with this post, it would contain over 25 mosaics to document plant progress since April.  This is good news because it means that most of the landscaping survived the winter, but even I think that's too much.  Perhaps I will focus on the most dramatic transformation, or my favorite plants.  Let's start and see where this goes.

BEE BALM: I am excited to have several of these plants in our garden since they are a magnet for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  Last year, they did not bloom; I am hoping the second year in the ground will make a difference.
Left to right: April 21 through June 2; all other collages will follow
a similar format
COLUMBINE: My love affair with this flower began when I saw a plethora of yellow columbine along the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park.  Our garden contains red and blue columbine, although some of the flowers seem to vary from what was on the official tag.  Never mind, they are delicate and unique and I never tire of looking at them.
Red Columbine

WILD STRAWBERRY: You might be surprised to know that wild strawberry flourish in this mountain climate; the plant is among the first to sprout and bloom.  Of course, this also means they are very attractive to hungry critters in the spring.  This plant was chowed down to the ground at the end of April, and has been nibbled at least once since then while making a comeback.

PAINTBRUSH: If you've never seen one of these, the pictures will soon reveal the source of its name.  Paintbrush is a sought-after prairie beauty that prefers bright sites with medium dry soils.  Its vivid bracts nearly hide small greenish flowers.  These plants are seldom grown in gardens because they are partly parasitic and require the roots of a host plant to survive.

GOLDEN CURRANT: an ornamental shrub with fragrant, yellow trumpet flowers, this drought tolerant plant should produce sweet, golden seedy fruit within three years of planting.  Given the maturity of these shrubs when they were planted last summer, fruit this year is a distinct possibility.
The currants were the first of our shrubs to leaf out

WESTERN SAND CHERRY: This small shrub has grayish-green leaves that turn purple in the fall.  The mass of white flowers along the branches in the spring are followed by large quantities of purple-black fruits in summer.  Unfortunately, as you can see in the upper middle photo of the collage below, a couple of the sand cherries show significant withering.  I discussed it with our landscaper, and he asked if aphids were present.  By the time the damage was visible, if it was aphids, they had moved on.  I suspect it was aphids since I have now discovered the little sap suckers on our burning bushes!

WILD GRASS/WILDFLOWER SEED: Last fall, we scattered 30 pounds worth of wild grass seed, mixed with wildflower seed.  We were equal parts hopeful and skeptical, given 1) the seed is sown in soil that has been scored to loosen it - so, essentially, the seed is lying on top of the soil, 2) the target areas were disturbed and in some cases compacted during construction, and 3) birds and other critters would have an opportunity before snow fall and after snow melt to gobble up the seed.  I am pleased to report that hopeful won out in this case - we have a healthy crop of grass (that we don't have to mow) - the wildflowers will take a little longer to see.

TRANSPLANTS: In my November 7, 2018 post, I wrote that we had transplanted no less than 2 juniper, 18 aspen, 5 Engelmann spruce, 2 Douglas fir and 9 larches.  As spring approached, I recalled my days as a pregnant woman - anxiety mixed with joy as I anticipated our success rate.  AND?  The spruce and the fir are not showing new growth, but the needles feel soft, which means they are still alive.  (A dead tree would drop its needles at the merest touch, much like a dried-out Christmas tree.) The juniper have green tips, and 17 out of 18 of the aspen have leaves, with most of them fully leafed out.  I cannot say we have enjoyed such a ratio with the larch - only 4 out of the 9 greened up, and one more is questionable.  Sigh.  Good thing we have plenty of young larch to draw from elsewhere on our property when we try again in the fall!
Upper left: aspen; lower left: juniper
Top and bottom right: larch

ROYAL RED NORWAY MAPLE: If you've been following my blog for a while, you will recall that this maple was subject to some severe "pruning" by elk last fall.  It's still a little lopsided, but the overall condition is better than I expected when the elk left it with little more than a "poodle tail"!

FALL FIESTA SUGAR MAPLE: Now, this is a tree!  You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can't take the Midwest out of the girl!  Something about the leaf shape, the contour of the tree, its fullness - ah, that's a tree!

APPLE TREES: I saved the best for last!  The Honeycrisp was planted to honor my Father, a life-long gardener who taught me most of what I know about nurturing a landscape (he passed away in April 1998).  When I was a young girl, we had Winesap and Golden Delicious trees - so many sweet memories are tied to that small orchard.

As it turns out, a Honeycrisp needs another apple tree for pollination, so it seemed only fitting to dedicate the second tree, a Goodland, to my Mother.  It was a blessing that my Mom was here last September to harvest the first apples from her tree.  As I watch the bees and other pollinators buzz about the blossoms, I think of my parents, and I wish my Dad could have been here for one of his famous "garden tours", only this time I would be giving the tour.  This post is for you, Dad!
Elk also "pruned" the Goodland but it has made a full recovery

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.
 




You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Mosaic Monday #30 - Movin' and Shakin' in May

Sandhill Crane by our lake
May has lingered.  Oh, not in a bad way.  Last week, I sat down at the keyboard to compose this May summary, and then a glance at the calendar brought me up short - whoa, there's another week left!  It occurred to me that, by week 3 of the month, I was full, satiated, deeply satisfied.  It led my mind to conclude that the month must be over!

First Glacier Lily in our yard 
Even my attempt to distill the month's activities yields seven major categories, in addition to our road trip, recent hikes, and my garden journal.  So much has happened in May that it's no wonder my brain would put me a week ahead of myself!  But, it's just too much for one post.  On the other hand, this is a helpful problem - I won't be running short of topics for weeks, months, maybe even years!  Does anybody need to "borrow" some of my material?

So, as unlikely as it might seem, I pared down my content to four subjects that brought me immeasurable joy this month.


REFINING OUR EXTERIOR LOOK

It was always our intent that our landscaping should evolve over time; I have grand visions for the ultimate look of our property.  This month, we stepped forward in this area, in both permanent and seasonal ways.  First, we added a jackleg fence to both sides of our driveway entrance.  It provided some needed definition, while maintaining the rustic feel we prefer.
Upper left: first section underway
Right: first section completed
Lower left: second section completed
Driveway with fences
All of the logs used for this project are lodgepole pines harvested from
our property during last year's thinning process

Second, we enhanced the driveway itself with dress gravel.  The original driveway was constructed with a crushed material that compacts to establish a firm foundation capable of withstanding the rigors of all four seasons in Montana.  Having passed through summer, fall and winter, the driveway was ready for dress gravel to provide a finished, clean look and better define parking/driveway areas from landscape/natural areas.
Left = before   Right = after
Driveway outside garage
Before and After; Looking down driveway toward road
Before and after: additional parking area, especially designed for the
RV owned by my younger brother and his wife!
Before and after - looking up the driveway from the road - WELCOME!

Third, we adjusted the location of several large rocks at the driveway entrance while our gravel contractor was on site with his Skid Steer (you can see them in the collage directly above this paragraph).  I am ecstatic that we have completed a few more stepping stones leading to the landscape we envision for the roadsides along the entrance.
My landscape design for the right side of the driveway is already a
year old, and our thinking has evolved.  But, you get the idea!

Fourth, we selected annuals for our deck planters.  Already, the little splash of color adds warmth and layering to the deck that is so absent in the winter.
Black-eyed Susan Vine; Ambella White Bellflower; Coleus;
Evening Star Trailing Petunia; Red and Orange Ivy Geraniums

BIRDWATCHING THROUGH THE SPOTTING SCOPE

In past posts (March 14, April 7, May 5), I have written about combining my spotting scope, PhoneSkope adapter and my phone to take bird pictures.  This month, with some assistance from Spousal Unit, I feel I have improved my technique.  It doesn't hurt that it's been a banner month for birds!
Left: Male Evening Grosbeak; Middle: Red-winged Blackbird; Right: Female Evening Grosbeak
One day, I saw a yellow-headed blackbird come to the feeder, which is quite unusual.  I set up the spotting scope with my phone and waited for it to return.  And the most wonderful thing happened.  I was passing the dining room window, and my brain, on alert for "birds", saw a "bird" and caused me to stop and look again.  This is what I saw.
Great Horned Owl
This stunning creature roosted in the same spot for over three hours.  We couldn't take our eyes off of him.  (We kept hoping he would swoop down and capture one of the Columbian ground squirrels scampering around below him, but it was not to be.  That may sound cruel, but they are eating some of my landscaping!)  I love the clarity of this photo, and wondered aloud why this came out so much better than my other shots.  Spousal Unit reminded me that Mr. Owl sat very still, whereas most of the other birds are constantly moving, not to mention the feeder on which they are sitting is often swaying in the breeze.  Right.

This discussion made me wonder if video might provide better clarity.  Maybe you can give me your opinion.  Here is a picture of a Blackheaded Grosbeak (it seems to have been the month for grosbeaks), followed by a video.  Make sure you watch the video through to the end - my sought-after Yellow-Headed Blackbird shows up after the grosbeak.

And here are a few other birds from the month.
Left: Rufous Hummingbird; Center: Song Sparrow; Right: Yellow-Headed Blackbird
In case you would like more, below is a video of the owl, and separately, the female blackheaded grosbeak.





ENJOYING A VARIETY OF WILDLIFE

Of course, we have more than just birds here!  The trail cams have continued to deliver a delightful menagerie.
Upper left: Red Squirrel; Upper right: Canada goose
Lower left: Mountain Cottontail (well-camouflaged, right?)  Lower right: Columbian Ground Squirrel
One morning, Spousal Unit suddenly grabbed the binoculars and said "Is that a moose?"  Well, that was better than a shot of espresso to get me going!  By the time we looked through the binoculars and the spotting scope, "it" was nowhere to be seen.  The good news?  The trail cam was in the perfect spot to capture "it".  So, I trotted down there and retrieved the disk, and this is "it".
A cow elk.  Elk are usually in herds; the fact she is on her own suggests she is ready to calve (give birth).
One of our neighbors told us today that he saw a cow and two calves in the last few days.  Might be her!
Another sign of spring - the young bucks with nubbins for antlers.

My heart always takes a little leap when I see the coyote on the trail cam.

And then there are the spring wildflowers.  
Upper left - I love to bring the outside in - larch, kinnikinnick, star-flowered Solomon's seal
Upper right: Oregon grape;  Bottom: Blue violet
Some of the flora we find is edible, as in the case of morel mushrooms.  I wrote in the past about a gift of morels from a neighbor - upon first taste of the sauce prepared by Spousal Unit, we were hooked.  Fully intending to go mushroom hunting on public lands this spring, we were pleasantly surprised to find enough around our own acreage to make a meal.  Melt in your mouth good!

REVELING IN THE SURPRISES

But the month wasn't complete without a couple surprises.  One day, Spousal Unit was tidying the woodpile and came back with this beauty - a long-toed salamander, which just happens to be the state salamander of Montana.  Yep, you know I love nature when I get excited about one of these!

And last but not least,  Spousal Unit was fishing the North Fork of the Flathead River, and popped into the Polebridge Mercantile.  Despite its middle-of-nowhere location, it is deservedly famous for its baked goods.  Imagine my delight when he returned to the house with two huckleberry bear claws.  Savoring this confection made up for the fact that he didn't hook a single fish!

What's not a surprise?  That Spousal Unit was the man behind both of these moments - I can always count on him to bring me joy! 


Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.
 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
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