My First Grizzly

We were on our way home two days ago after doing errands in Bozeman. There is a section of US 191 that runs through the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park. We came upon one of the Yellowstone Traffic Jams that always means there’s something to see. Out in the meadow was a large Grizzly just enjoying the grass for dinner. He was a good football field away so pictures are good enough for a snapshot but no winners. This is the way we like it. Seeing wildlife from a safe distance. The bear was totally uninterested in the crowd that gathered.

Grizzly bear, Yellowstone NP, Montana

Oh, How Big You Are!

photography, wildlife

Scenic Drive: Gravelly Range Road

Montana, Gravelly Mountains, wildflowers

The Gravelly Mountains

The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge’s northern border meets the Gravelly Mountains. The Gravelly Range Road is a dirt road running through the mountains from approximately 7,000 feet near Ennis, Montana to 9,300 feet at the highest elevation. The area is known for deep snows and is closed to vehicles until July 2 and occasionally later. During the second week of July the Rangers from the Madison District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest lead an all day wildflower tour of the Gravelly Range Road. We were lucky enough to attend this year. Much of the time we felt we were back in school taking Botany 101. There were 26 cars and about 60 people and several dogs on the tour. It is free and no registration is required. just show up at their office in Ennis before 9AM on the day of the tour. With all the folks milling about and not wanting to miss the Rangers information we decided to return a few days later for photographs. A high clearance vehicle is required for this road.

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Gravelly Range Road, scenic drive

On The Gravelly Range Road Wildflower Tour

Surrounded By Wildflowers

Surrounded By Wildflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opal Likes Wildflowers Too

Opal Likes Wildflowers Too

 

 

 

 

 

Sorrel, Bistort, Flax and Little Sunflowers

Sorrel, Bistort, Flax and Little Sunflowers

The tour made four stops and we were given a map of the area which proved very helpful when we returned on our own. The variety and extent of the wildflower fields was fantastic. At one point we saw the tiniest wildflower called a Pygmy Bitterroot, no larger than a Buttercup and only a half inch in height. While at the last stop we found out we had a flat tire. Fortunately the Forest Service had anticipated the problem as most years this happens. Extra personnel was available to help change the tire. We didn’t want to drive back to the refuge on our spare as flat tires seem to happen regularly coming in/out of the refuge. So we headed to Dillon hoping we could get to the tire store before they closed at 6pm. We took a road off the Gravelly Range Road called Warm Springs Road and this led to Sweetwater Road. We knew we didn’t have time to stop so put those spots on the GPS for “when we come back”. We did make it to the tire store where they were able to patch two punctures. When I asked what did I owe, the man shrugged and said nothing.  I repeated nothingTo say the least if we ever need tires and are in the area we would certainly give them our business.

Sticky Geranium

A Sea Of Wild Geraniums

Flower Jazz

Flower Jazz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common "Cow" Parsley Near Warm Springs

Common “Cow” Parsley Near Warm Springs

Cactus On A Sod Roof

Cactus On A Sod Roof

On our next day off that week we returned via our route to Dillon then retraced our steps to the tour stops. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Warm Springs while Opal went swimming. We found an old homestead and what looked like a root cellar built into the hillside with cactus growing on the roof. The views and groups of wildflowers are hard to describe so we’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I’m going to apologize for the last picture. It got into the blog in the wrong place and I’ve tried to delete it. It doesn’t show up on my last saved copy but keeps showing up in the preview so I’m guessing it will publish. I give up! The computer wins. If any of my computer guru friends can tell me how to get rid of it, let me know.

Scarlet Falsemallow

Scarlet Falsemallow

Sunset Over The Gravelly Mountains

Sunset Over The Gravelly Mountains

 

Linaria "Butter and Eggs" With Prairie Smoke

Linaria “Butter and Eggs” With Prairie Smoke

EARTHQUAKE!!!

earthquake, Quake Lake, Montana, Google Earth

Location Of Quake Lake By Google Earth

We thought that would get your attention. Yes, there was an earthquake in this area of Montana but it happened 55 years ago next month.  The quake was so strong that it was felt in towns 200-300 miles away. We had a couple come to Red Rock Lakes who remembered feeling the tremors in the Livingston and Flathead areas of Montana.  Today Quake Lake is the only reminder of this incident. The lake was formed when a hillside along the Madison River collapsed and choked off the river’s exit from the valley near Rt. 287 in the Gallatin National Forest.  A new Visitors Center has a movie and multiple exhibits detailing the story from personal recollection and geological displays.

A week ago we had two geologists come into the Visitors center at Red Rock Lakes. They were looking for data about earthquakes. They said “this area is due for a big quake.” With my usual sense of humor I asked “Can you tell me if it will happen before 8/14/14 as that’s when we leave the refuge?” Of course we are only going about 50 miles away! If you want to look at the map more closely, click twice over the picture to bring it up full screen. Other photos of the incident used here are from the Quake Lake Visitor Center. Wonderful sketches at the Center are by the same artist who created Smokey The Bear.

Imagine it is 8/17/59 and you are spending a glorious summer weekend camping along Hebgen Lake. You go to bed and just before midnight you are awakened by your trailer bouncing like a ball. The earth is moving and before you know it trees, dirt, tents and buildings are hurled down the hill. The quake caused the Hebgen and Red Canyon blocks to subside and tilt, a process called block faulting. There were places where the height difference between the blocks was 12 feet. In response huge waves in Hebgen Lake crested the dam while destabilized shorelines demolished buildings and caused Rt. 287 to collapse. As Quake Lake rose rapidly, campers rushed to tend the injured, rescue stranded campers and head for high ground convinced Hebgen Dam would collapse soon.

Collapsed Roadway Over Fault

Collapsed Roadway Over Fault

damaged building following quake

No Match For Mother Nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With roads out of the campground cut off the Forest Service sent in smokejumpers to assist the trapped campers. Over the next 18 hours search and rescue operations continued, seriously injured people were evacuated and an emergency road was built so survivors could leave. In all 28 people perished in the quake. Personal stories from survivors displayed at the Visitor Center made you feel as if you’d watched it happen all over again. For instance, Grace Miller who ran a lodge had to jump across a widening fissure with her dog just before her house fell into Hebgen Lake. Another story was the recollection of a young child who watched her mother being carried away by the Madison River.

In The Nick Of Time

In The Nick Of Time

 

Remains Of A Trailer

Remains Of A Trailer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fearing that the Madison River  backup would cause Hebgen Dam to collapse the US Army Corp of Engineers began construction of an emergency spillway around the slide. The spillway was completed two months to the day after the quake. It still carries the river around the slide today. Time is causing the river to eat into the slide debs. An estimate by the USCAE is that in one hundred years the river will cut a new channel and Quake Lake will be no more.

Madison River Canyon Before The Quake

Madison River Canyon Before The Quake

Madison River, earthquake

Madison River Canyon After The Quake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While at the Visitor Center we spoke with a Ranger about their use of volunteers. We’ll keep this in mind for future reference as a work camp possibility. It certainly would be an interesting place to work.

View Of Slide Area From Quake Lake Visitor Center

View Of Slide Area From Quake Lake Visitor Center

Quake Lake Today

Quake Lake Today

Opal Enjoying Quake Lake

Opal Enjoying Quake Lake

Map Showing Original And Drifted Locations Of Cabins

Map Showing Original And Drifted Locations Of Cabins

 

View Of Cabins From Overlook

View Of Cabins From Overlook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following time at the Visitors Center we took the Auto Route around Quake Lake. There are planned stops with kiosk displays detailing that awful scene. Walking to the overlook we went through a wonderful wildflower field. Many of the flowers have been noted in other posts but here are three new ones.

wildflower

Western Valerian

Mountain Sorrel

Mountain Sorrel

 

Gromwell

Gromwell

OK, now for some earthquake trivia….

1) Where was the strongest earthquake located?

A) Chile  B) California  C) Japan  D) Ireland

2) How many times stronger is an earthquake measured at 6 on the Richter Scale than one at 5?

A) 10   B) 20  C) 30  D) 50

3) How many seismograph stations are required to locate the epicenter of an earthquake?

A) 1  B) 3  C) 4  D) 6

4) What reading on the Richter Scale is required in order to feel an earthquake?

A) 1.5  B) 3.0  C) 4.0  D) 5.5

5) Which two states have the fewest earthquakes?

A) Montana and Idaho  B) Alaska and California  C) Nevada and New York  D) Florida and North Dakota

6) How fast do tectonic plates move?

A) As fast as a turtle walks?  B) As fast as an ant walks?  C) As fast as your fingernails grow?  D) As fast as the world turns?

So how did you do?

ANSWERS:

 1) A

2) C

3) B

4) B

5) D

6) C

Nuts And Bolts Of RV Living #5 – Volunteering And Work Camping

work camping, volunteer, RV living

Volunteering Can Be The Pot Of Gold At The End Of The Rainbow

We haven’t posted a Nuts and Bolts post for a while so this seemed to be a good time for one. The subject of volunteering and work camping is a big one. We’ll just skim the surface here. There are several books, a Facebook group and WorkamperNews,com for those interested in pursuing the subject further. This post is an overview of how we have approached this topic.

The desire or in some cases the need to work camp covers a huge area. The two terms are often used interchangeably but are not the same. Work camping means exactly that, working where all or part of your compensation is housing. If you have an RV there will be more opportunities available but some places offer cabins, bunkhouse or their own RV arrangements. Most offer full hookups but some do not. Some offer salary, a stipend, commission or bonus. Others (federal, state, county or non-profit groups) will be on a volunteer basis. The number of hours runs from 16 to 40+. Some are directly through government agencies and charities while others are for profit businesses and concessionaires. Some may last 2-3 months while others will be seasonal or require a 6-12 month committment of time. Basically you look at it as you would any job and ask “Do I want to work here?” You will need to write a resume. The format on WorkamperNews.com is a good one or you can do your own. Depending on what type of job you want the web offers many avenues to locate a position. We have used volunteer.gov and state park websites the most.

As for us, we went into work camping knowing we wanted to volunteer our time at the federal, state or county level or for non-profit organizations. We put a limit on the time we were willing to work at 32/hrs each and limit our search to places providing full hookup service. After some soul searching of what we wanted to do, we also decided camp host positions, at least for now, are not what we want. So our resume clearly states our desires. We also let employers know up front that we have a dog who travels with us as this may or may not play into consideration. Then you need to analyze the location and what is important to you. Research the average weather for the location. Do you want to be near major cities, museums, shopping, have need for medical services regularly or do you like remote locations? What are your hobbies? Do you want to continue in a field similar to your past occupation or do something completely different? Write down the answers to these questions and use them to narrow the field. Think about days and shifts you are willing to work. Will you be the only work campers or part of a larger group? What type of orientation will you have? Do you want a very busy job or a more relaxed environment? Ask about uniforms and whether you need to purchase all or part of the required clothing. Also check to see if there are any length or height restrictions on RVs getting into the area, type of access and site conditions. Ask for a picture. Location of your site related to where you will be working (i.e. commuting distance) should be determined. Since you will be there for an extended period, knowing about cell coverage, land line availability, use of facility internet and satellite TV coverage may influence your decision. Make sure to talk about all of these areas during a telephone interview.

Have 3-4 references available to send when requested. Past managers or volunteer coordinators are best but in the beginning you might need to use past employers, co-workers, other work camp volunteers you know or friends. Don’t be afraid to initiate a contact. If you see a job posted that sounds interesting but you are not available until a later date, an e-mail or phone call indicating interest at a later date is worthwhile. If you visit a site using volunteers take time to chat with them about their job. You may want to fill out an application then or take contact information for later consideration. Plan 6-12 months ahead when you can. However, there are always positions coming vacant due to emergencies so even if you are on a waiting list don’t give up. The more open you are to location, the easier your chances for short notice placement.

We can only hope you enjoy work camping as much as we have so far.

Scenic Drive: Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway

scenic drive, Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway, BLM, Montana

A Panorama Of The Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway

Montana

Changing Plans On A Frontage Road Just Off I-15

What happens when you put three adventurous, self confessed photography buffs in a truck and send them off to Bannack State Park? They stop for gas near Lima, Montana and take a look at the map. Their eyes wander over to a car symbol indicating a scenic drive. They look at each other and take about ten seconds to change plans for the day. After all the Big Sheep Creek National Backcountry Byway is only two miles up the road.

 

BLM, scenic drive, Montana

Entering The Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway

This 55 mile scenic drive begins a mile and a half south of Dell, Montana. It swings west/southwest then heads north ending at Clark Canyon Reservoir with easy access to I-15. This is BLM land mixed with private ranches. There are several BLM campsites and hiking trails throughout the route. We checked two of the campgrounds and our trailer would fit some sites so we saved the location on the GPS. These are free campgrounds without facilities and are on a first-come-first serve basis.

As you will see in the photos the weather was sunny when we first started the drive. By the time we reached the end in the late afternoon it was overcast with threatening storms. That’s not unusual for Montana. The weather can change several times in a single day.

We drove along a valley with sage and tree covered hills on one side and a fast running Big Sheep Creek on the other. In one I used Steve to give you an idea of scale for the height of the hills (back East we’d call them mountains). The texture and colors were beautiful. We didn’t need the sign to tell us to go slow since we were stopping for photos every few minutes.

A Long And Winding Road

A Long And Winding Road

 

 

 

Our Truck On The BSCNBB

Our Truck On The BSCNBB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Sheep Creek Rushing Down The Canyon

Big Sheep Creek Rushing Down The Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Gives Scale To The Rocky Landscape

Steve Gives Scale To The Rocky Landscape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the way we found wildflowers, what appeared to be an abandoned eagle nest and an unidentified structure built into the hills: An old mine shaft? A root cellar? A sod house? Then there was a talus field from what we think was an avalanche area.

cactus, wildflowers

Pear Cactus Were Blooming Profusely

penstemon, wildflowers

Penstemon Growing Among The Rocks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Type Of Structure Is This?

What Type Of Structure Is This?

 

 

 

photography, Montana, scenic drive

A Talus Field

 

 

 

 

 

 

mountains, landscape photography

Nature Is An Artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winding Our Way Along The Byway

Winding Our Way Along The Byway

 

 

 

 

A Slower, Meandering Section Of Big Sheep Creek

A Slower, Meandering Section Of Big Sheep Creek

 

 

 

 

 

As we drove further the canyon flattened out to a fertile valley full of cattle ranches with mountains in the distance. Before leaving the scenic drive we passed an elk ranch with some large bulls showing off new antlers.  The last leg of our trip brought us around Clark Canyon Reservoir where Lewis and Clark camped. This was where Sacajawea realized she was back in Shoshone country and was reunited with her brother. The park offers some historical information, a life-size model of a Corps of Discovery dugout canoe, fishing, boating and camping. If you ever are heading through Montana on I-15, take time to get off the interstate and enjoy this scenic drive.

Entering The Valley

Entering The Valley

A Handsome Bull Elk

A Handsome Bull Elk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clark Canyon Reservoir

Clark canyon Reservoir

Out And About Red Rock Lakes NWR

Centennial Valley Panorama

Centennial Valley Panorama

What would it be like after two years of being on the move to “settle down” for two months? That’s what we wondered. Would we get itchy feet and want to move on or fall in love with the area and wish we could stay? We’d been in the general area before and knew we liked it. The verdict is in and we love it here! Yes, we are a long way from stores and other activities. What keeps us active and interested? Here’s a sampling of being out and about at Red Rock Lakes NWR.

Centennial Valley At Sunset

Centennial Valley At Sunset

On A Refuge Road

On A Refuge Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Centennial Valley

North Valley Scene

 

Hiking In The Sandhills Of The North Valley

Hiking In The Sandhills Of The North Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We work four days a week but the evenings are long here and sunset isn’t until after 9pm. This gives us time to have dinner and then go fishing, go for a drive or take a bike ride. We’ve had good luck at being out when wildlife is on the move. Even when we don’t spot anything the scenery is amazing. Then there are new wildflowers replacing the early bloomers. Having visited several refuges for a few hours or even a day we now see how different it is when you can observe over a longer period. The Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes are scenic but Widgeon Pond is one of our favorite spots. Sometimes we drive beyond the refuge borders which offer great scenery too of ranches or the Continental Divide.

Lower Red Rock Lake Is A Birder's Dream

Lower Red Rock Lake Is A Birder’s Dream

Upper Red Rock Lake and Campground Is Very Popular

Upper Red Rock Lake and Campground Is Very Popular

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View From Widgeon Pond

View From Widgeon Pond

A Nearby Montana Barn

A Nearby Montana Barn

The Continental Divide Runs Along The Centennial Mountains

The Continental Divide Runs Along The Centennial Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Scottish Highland Bull At A Local Ranch

A Scottish Highland Bull At A Local Ranch

We have both had a chance to observe and assist with refuge projects such as tracking Arctic Grayling fry or monitoring mountain bluebird boxes. This has given us some fantastic photographic opportunities.

Naked As A Mountain Bluebird (5 days old)

Naked As A Mountain Bluebird (5 days old)

A Tree Swallow Sets Up Housekeeping In A Bluebird Box

A Tree Swallow Sets Up Housekeeping In A Bluebird Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arctic Grayling

Assisting With The Arctic Grayling Project On Elk Springs Creek

A Female Wilson's Phalarope On Elk Springs Creek

A Female Wilson’s Phalarope On Elk Springs Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An American Avocet

An American Avocet

Here are some of our recent wildlife encounters. Unfortunately the trumpeter swans are keeping the young cygnets well out of range for our lenses.

A Photogenic Beaver At Widgeon Pond

A Photogenic Beaver At Widgeon Pond

Sandhill Cranes In The Tall Grass

Sandhill Cranes In The Tall Grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pair Of Curlews At Lower  Red Rock Lake

A Pair Of Curlews At Lower Red Rock Lake

A Mother Coot And Her Red Headed Offspring

A Mother Coot And Her Red Headed Offspring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mule Deer

A Mule Deer

Pronghorn Are Plentiful In The Valley

Pronghorn Are Plentiful In The Valley

Meeting A Moose Family

Meeting A Moose Family

Oh yes, there are new wildflowers popping out every week.

Pincushion Buckwheat In The North Valley

Pincushion Buckwheat In The North Valley

Stonecrop Is A Type Of Sedum

Stonecrop Is A Type Of Sedum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elk Thistle

Elk Thistle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Gentian aka Monument Plant

Green Gentian aka Monument Plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thought we’d have time to include some history and other stories in this post but it is getting too long so we’ll end now with this beautiful sunset. Don’t miss this hidden gem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunset, Red Rock Lakes NWR, Montana

Sunset On Elk Lake Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddling Elk Lake

Elk Lake, Montana

Panorama Overlooking Elk Lake

The first weeks here in Montana were cold, windy and definitely not kayaking weather. The first day we had off when the weather held a promise of summer we headed to Elk Lake. This lake is in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest just beyond the Red Rock Lakes NWR border. It isn’t a large lake but as you will see, a lake for a leisurely paddle, scenery and viewing wildlife. Fellow volunteer Marilyn came along and used our single person canoe. Elk Lake is most frequented by fishermen. There is a small boondock campground there as well.

kayaking

Marilyn and Steve At Elk Lake

Upper Red Rock Lake on the refuge will open July 1 when the trumpeter swans have finished nesting. T At the far end of Elk Lake we saw a trumpeter swan nesting so we kept well back from it. Swans can be forced to abandon their nests if they feel threatened. A distance of at least 400 yards is recommended.

After paddling we drove further up Elk Lake Road (the word “road” is used loosely – 4 wheel drive only) to Hidden Lake. Hopefully we’ll have time to paddle there as well. Our time here is going very quickly. If you enjoy nature related activities there is a lot to do in the area.

goldeneye

Female Goldeneye With 5 Ducklings

 

 

 

white pelican

White Pelican On Elk Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wildflowers

Wildflowers Above Elk Lake

 

 

 

We thought that Red Rock Creek and the refuge might have been named for the rusty colored lichen that covers many of the rocks in the area. The shore along Elk Lake is very colorful. I used a post processing filter from Topaz to convert the original photo to a supersaturated cartoon version. Later we learned the name came from a huge red rock formation seen off I-15 near Dell, Montana.

Shoreline Of Elk Lake

Shoreline Of Elk Lake

Cartoon Version Of Shoreline

Cartoon Version Of Shoreline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bitteroot

Montana State Flower

We have driven up to the Elk Lake area several evenings since our paddling visit. On one recent visit we found the hillside overlooking the lake full of bitterroot, Montana’s state flower. These low growing plants prefer gravelly soil and cling to rocky hillsides. Opal loves coming here too since she can run free and chase the ground squirrels.

Opal At Elk Lake

Opal At Elk Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Why We Don’t Need Prozac