Monday, April 25, 2016

Poking Homeward

We plan to be home on Whidbey Island in about three weeks, so we're slowly heading west.

After leaving Canyon Ferry Lake, near Townsend, Montana, where we spent four nights, we've stuck to the crooked scenic roads through the Helena National Forest, Lolo National Forest and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Last night and tonight we're at Larch Campground on Seeley Lake...

The floor of the forest in the campground is thick with newly sprouting Fawn Lilies, and their first few blooms. In another week the ground will be carpeted with these sweet flowers ...

Fat ground squirrels and white-tail deer are almost driving Benton crazy with visions of the chase...

We biked into town this morning for coffee and a few groceries. According to shopkeepers their peace is about to end. This area of many lakes is a popular summer vacation retreat and when all the cabins and campgrounds fill, the population doubles or triples. I'm so glad we're here now, in this off season of beautiful emerging spring.

The backroads of Montana are foreign to us. Always before, when driving through the state it was just that -- driving through. Deadlines needed to be met as we traveled to North Dakota to see Ed's mom when she was still alive, and the same when returning home. Poking along is now our travel speed and it's perfect. The views have been vast, beautiful and dramatic. Longer camp stays have helped us feel a deeper connection to our surroundings and increased our wildlife sightings. Just "taking our time" suits us well.

Of all the states we've visited Montana almost has a cult-like feel in the passion and devotion the people living here exude.


"Montana should come with a surgeon general warning that it's addictive. The sky is big and blue, and the air is always fresh and crisp and scented with pine. There's a frontier spirit, but also a calmness, beauty in the landscape that slows your pulse."

~ Robin Bielman

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Montana Serenity

We are camped in a national forest campground, beside Canyon Ferry Lake. It is starkly beautiful. We cut Benton lose, turning into leash-law scofflaws. He grins as he runs with our bikes. After being a Thistle couch potato, he's in exercise heaven. Swimming, chasing sticks, pleading for more as Ed and I return to camp.

This is our isolated campground. Winter rates prevail. It's free. We have a picnic table, fire ring and a clean toilet. No hookups. No neighbors...

We are not far from the town of Townsend. Helena is about an hour away.

Big sky country...

With the weekend, total peace ended, as well as Benton's freedom, as there are now four other camps occupied. Still, quiet prevails and serenity holds. Meadowlark song fills the air. In the still we watch pelicans, red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds. Geese, ducks and seagulls fly overhead. And antelope, lots of antelope. We enjoy fleeting views of a gray partridge, sage grouse, long-billed dowitcher and several osprey. Plus hawks, one particularly huge high up in a tree, watching, watching.

It begins to rain. The campground empties out.


"In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence"

~ Robert Lynd

Yellowstone - Between Every Two Pines

Those of you signed up to receive notification of thistleadventure postings probably wondered about the blank page you received a couple of days ago. I had done quite a long posting on Yellowstone, apparently too long for Blogsy, so it was chewed up and spit out. I ranted about that for a spell, but no matter how much I ranted, the posting was gone.  

There is no reworking the lost posting, but I hope you'll enjoy this photo trip with us...

Thanks for joining us...


"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."

~ John Muir

Friday, April 22, 2016

Yellowstone: Man & Nature!

Beauty is a criteria in life that Ed and I seek out, as if our lives depended on it, and I believe they do. With each unspoiled river, snow capped mountain, or rocky outcrop we feel a deep peace and pleasure and connection to our earth...

Fine architecture can do the same or the hand-woven scarf I throw around my neck when it is cold out or the hand-turned mug from which I drink my morning coffee. Stunning natural scenes as well as masterful human craftsmanship please our beauty-seeking natures.


For 32 years the army managed Yellowstone Park prior to the formation of the National Park Service. The building below housed the bachelor officers at Fort Yellowstone. It is a majestic and beautiful building now serving as the Mammoth Hot Springs Visitors' Center.

And Officers' Row in it's military discipline and rigid design, is equally pleasing...

When humans build in natural surroundings, nestling the buildings into their site, they can be both modest yet enticing. The mysteries of human history as well as functional charm enhance their being and honor their setting.

Yellowstone Park Bookstore...

Yellowstone Park Museum...

At other times buildings on a grand scale, matching the grandeur of the setting, can excite and elevate one's experience. Often the success of these buildings includes the use of materials from the site so they both stand out and become one with their setting...

Humans can do magnificant things. Roads can be works of art or just a dull hunk of blacktop to move traffic. In Yellowstone Park there is a five mile stretch of road at Gibbon Falls, built in1928 by 110 men and 30 horse teams. The work they did is inspiring! The stone used in the rock walls was quarried on site.

Natural beauty is inspiring but so is human built beauty. I will rant against "development" but never human-built art.


"Oriental thinking, and indeed all pre-industrial thinking, knows that nature may seem hard-hearted and her laws inexorable and often cruel, yet she herself is the very raw material you are working with, and of which you yourself are necessarily a part. You therefore always have to treat her as your friend, as someone with whom you must somehow keep on good terms, or else you and your works will be no good. She is after all your mother, not an enemy to be subdued, or a slave to be violated.

~Michael Cardew, A Pioneer Potter

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


~ again ~

"When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us."
~ Arapaho Proverb


Yesterday we saw a bison calf in our campground. How lovely to have bison entertainment with my coffee. This photo was taken from Thistle's window...

As Ed and I were exploring early this morning, a bison mom and her calf crossed the road in front of Thistle. The tiny baby was wobbly, but keeping up with mom. Mom has just given birth as the placenta was still dangling from her body. One of the wildlife-viewers told us the calf was probably about an hour old, as they need to join their herd quickly. Mom will protect her calf, with the entire herd helping out. It's clearly birthing season. Just today we saw about a dozen new calves. Prior to today, we'd only seen two.

Here's mom and her new calf...

At this same location there was a buffalo carcass near one of the ponds, well dined on by bear, cougars and wolves. Now it's raptor time. As a herd of buffalo moved single-file along side the pond, they left the trail, one-by-one, moving near the carcass where they each paused and sniffed it, as if paying homage.

And, back in camp, two women were trapped in the restroom by a dozen bison slowly grazing their way through camp.


We observed a coyote slowly walking on the snow when suddenly he jumped straight up in the air, with all four paws leaving the ground. He came down with a prey pounce, but missed the mark. Off he went.


A very sleepy bear attracted a number of cars and much excitement, especially with the kid-tour that happened by. While we were watching, the bear got up for a drink of water, and then promptly went right back to sleep...

A Couple of hours later, on our return trip, he was still sleeping. I guess he left hibernation before he was ready.


After seeing no elk, they are now returning from the lower winter elevations to the park...


And then there are the wolves. Both Ed and I saw wolves today, courtesy of a wolf-watcher sharing his high-powered scope. We almost rented a scope for tomorrow, but couldn't track down the rental folks. Guess we're saved from ourselves -- for now! The wolf world is getting into our blood.


"Wildlife is and should be useless in the same way art, music, poetry and even sports are useless. They are useless in the sense that they do nothing more than raise our spirits, make us laugh or cry, frighten, disturb and delight us. They connect us not just to what's weird, different, other, but to a world where we humans do not matter nearly as much as we like to think. And that should be enough."

~ Richard Conniff