Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Hosta Heaven

It dawned on me fairly quickly. That is that I wouldn't be able to successfully grow roses anymore. The new house in the woods was surrounded by oak trees and, of course, lots of shade. The next spring we made our annual trip to Dubuque Iowa. There at their beautiful arboreteum, I was surrounded by thousands of hostas. Mrs T informed me that she loved them all. History was made....
Let's follow Baron as he wanders thru the various garden plots around our home on the hill. Maybe I should have called it Happy Hosta Heaven!

Being of the rather organized and meticulous German heritage that I am, it sort of surprises that I didn't keep any records of these beautiful plants. Seeing a new or an empty spot, I would fill it with a hosta. No plan. No strategy. No name. Just like the garden and landscaping books DON'T recommend. Oh well..... I must admit it, I like the limestone walls which showcase the hostas.
"What kind is it?" some visitors ask. "Pretty isn't it," I usually respond. Maybe they think that's the name?
There are more right around the bend.

I think Baron has spotted someone.St. Francis! He helps keep an eye on things in the garden.

The bleeding hearts surround Mr. Hosta. They are both so care free.
This small hosta will be a giant someday, four ft. high and across. It was given me by neighbor Angie. Trading garden plants is such fun!

In the evening, sometimes we get the haunted hosta look.

Well, I see I have some spent bloom stalks to cut off. A hosta gardeners work is never done. :) Just kidding. You can see though, troutbirder does love his hostas.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cool Biker (The Shadow)

It's been hot and humid here lately. So sticky, in fact, that I've decided to move my biking time up to 7 a.m. Come on along. The Shadow knows the way. Always on the lookout for criminal activity, The Shadow might spot some illicit motor vehicles. More likely to see some cows and birds though.

What's that? A herd of cowbirds The trail seems pretty deserted this morning. Oh Oh. There's a suspicious looking character.

Definitely not a motorized suspect. Nor are the geese flying overhead.
Well, the coast is definitely clear. No troubled water under this bridge

Let's just enjoy the ride and the scenery. I promise I won't go to fast on the downhills! The corn crop looks good for the middle of August.
And there are wildflowers all along the trail.

And the birds are hard to identify as I go zipping by. The Shadow knows, but maybe not everthing. Any idea on this bird?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sam Billings

It's been more than a decade since I've been there and its may have changed. Still, I have many fond memories of this particular campground. It's definitely one of the Top Ten on my list of favorites. The Sam Billings Memorial Campground, up the West Fork Rd., from Darby, Montana. The campground can be found about a quarter of a mile off the blacktop next to Boulder Creek. That creek feeds the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. The campground is surrounded by huge Ponderosa Pines. The only thing comparable, in my experience, would be the Norway Pines at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park.

The small town of Darby sits in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula and Hamilton, Montana. Its main attraction to Mrs. T is a world class ice-cream shop!

What's so special about this place that I like so much? Let me count the ways.
1. The short road into the campground is narrow and winding. This tends to discourage the riff-raff with their huge rigs. Pop-ups and small campers do just fine.
2. Potable water is not available, so you have to bring your own. Of course, a bracing dip in the creek will wash the sweat off, if you dont mind its 32&1/2 degree temperature (just kidding... sort of)
3. Three-foot diameter Ponderosa pines are scattered in the campground. It's also worth a hike 4.5 miles up Boulder Creek trail to the falls.
The trail gently ascends through big pines, fir and spruce with streamside understory of western yew, Oregon grape and kinnikinnick. Moose are common. Watch for pikas and marmots in talus slopes.

My first trip to the falls, was with my brother, fly rod in hand. It wasn't the 4 plus miles that did me in. It was the several thousand feet gain in elevation. Also, being totally out of shape didn't help either, as the above picture reveals...ugh.
"It just around the bend," my brother kept looking back and yelling. Finally convinced, as Redd Fox used to say on Sandford and Son, "it's the Big One," I sat down on the trail, composed myself for the inevitable, and decided to enjoy the mountain view. Five minutes later, having taken some deep breaths, I determined instead the problem was oxygen deprivation. And more imporantly, I could hear the roar of the falls just around the next bend.
4. The trail head to the falls accomodates horse campers and backpackers for access to the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness. It was on this trail, that I saw my first and only Great Gray Owl, sitting right above me.
5. Solitude. On most occasions, when I've been there, the campground was sparsely populated.

6. Wildlife. Yes, the wilderness area has the highest concentration of mountain lions in the lower forty-eight. And grizzly bears have been re-introduced. Drumming of pileated woodpeckers and scents of vanilla waft from big pines, where brown creepers nest under peeling ponderosa pine bark. Moose tracks etch the mud by the spruce-lined creek. Butterflies - blues, swallowtails, and admirals - crowd sunny openings near Boulder Creek. At night, a saw-whet owl hoots from a high limb above the campground. It doesn't get any better than all this.
7. Trout. Cuthroats and cutbows abound in the creek. Not big ones. Pan sized. Mmmm Mmmmm Good!

For bigger challenges, and catch and release, the West Fork and the Bitteroot itself , do just fine.

In the summer of 2000, there were a series of really bad forest fires throughout the West. One of the worst was in the Bitteroot National Forest, adjacent to and on both sides of the Bitterroot Valley. Darby, Montana became the control center for the firefighters taking on this terrible blaze.
This awesome picture was taken in the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana on August 6, 2000 by a fire behavior analyst from Fairbanks, Alaska by the name of John McColgan with a Digital camera. Since he was working while he took the picture, he cannot sell or profit from it so he should at least be recognized as the photographer of this once in a lifetime shot. .

Sam Billings Memorial Campground - one of my favorite places in The Great American West.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Black River State Forest

Some days the wanderlust just overcomes me. Yesterday was such a day. I got out my maps and looked for parks, rivers, forests, anyplace I've never been before, within a days drive. Persuaded Mrs T to "go for a ride." Let's go!

Two hours northeast, on the Wisconsin road map, was a large area labeled Black River State Forest. Just north of east west Interstate 90 near, naturally enough, Black River Falls, Wisconsin. We stopped for Sunday dinner at the smallest small town cafe I could find in the area. Hot roast beef sandwiches, with mashed potatoes and gravy, along lemon pie. All of this for eleven dollars. There were about twenty people eating after church dinner there, smiling at us and wondering, "who in the heck are those strangers and where did they come from?"

The forest was immense with many campgrounds and trails for different uses. As a matter of fact, the Wisconsin DNR says the forest is managed for "multi-use." This means selective timber cutting, conservation of soil and water as well as recreational usage. We spent 5 hours getting acquainted with the forest, its roads and trails.

Some highlights:
A 350 foot deep former iron mine pit which today is Wisconsins most popular scuba diving venue.
Some very nice campgrounds.
Many hiking trails, which I am sure will be great for birding during the spring and fall migration.
Many ATV trails. I am not a big fan of these ugly and noisy machines, ripping up the countryside. Still, the ATV's were restricted to their own trails
The uglyMr. In The Velvet. One of the biggest bucks I've seen in some time, along with several does and fawns.

Mr. Velvet
Cranberry bogs throughout. These would be quite a site to revisit in the fall, when the fields are flooded and the red berries float to the surface to be harvested. We stopped by the water filled ditches surrounding the bogs and watched dozens, perhaps more than a hundred, cedar waxwings catching insects.

Some great sights here. They even have a tower to view from.

Black River Forest. We enjoyed getting acquainted.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Into The Wild Blue Yonder

Yes, Troutbirder recently went soaring with the eagles! All of this was courtesy of neighbor Dick. The last time Dick had called to see if I wanted to go for a plane ride, I passed on the opportunity. That week I had experienced two emergency room visits due to a bike crash and an embedded fishing hook in my finger.

In addition, I had banged my knee into the trailer hitch on the pickup truck. "No thanks,' I had said. It just didn't seem to be my lucky week. This time, though, I jumped at the opportunity feeling a whole lot better about my prospects in general.

We soon headed off to the county airport where the flying club keeps it plane.

The pre-flight check list looked pretty detailed and intense. I kept a low profile thinking that something forgotten or faulty would be a lot more serious than when riding in a car. Another plane was practicing "touch and goes" as I waited.

Dick notified for take off, the runway was soon clear and we were heading into the setting sun. I felt the surge of power... then lift off.

"How fast are we going?" I asked. "A little over a hundred," is the reply. Hey... I knew I wasn’t riding with "Top Gun" Tom Cruise in the movie. We were high enough and going fast enough to suit my taste.

"Where would you like to like go? Maybe the river?" Dick asked. Looking at my watch and the angle of the sun, I changed the subject. "Er, well, ah.... flown much at night have you?" I queried. "Once or twice. It’s no problem," he replied quickly . He is a big kidder. "I’m working on expanding my boundaries," he added. I suggested some nearby sights.
We headed off to take a look at the newly completed bike trail.

Later we turned south and headed toward Cherry Grove. Passing over the Goethite Wildlife Management area, I recognized some of my favorite birding trails and Barons swimming holes.

Then it was over the "Big Woods" north of Mabel-Canton. I had recently gotten lost driving in that area. It didn't look so imposing from a thousand feet. Finally, we headed home into a beautiful sunset.

"Can you spot the airport yet?" I was asked. Hoping we weren't lost, I had to admit for most of the flight I didn't have a clue. I didn't even recognize the towns. From a birds eye view it all looks so different. "Oh there it is" he said, as he turned on the runway lights. Smooth as silk, we landed without hardly a bump. What fun. Tom Cruise. Who needs him???