Kootenai Nature Ramble
I can't think of anywhere I'd rather have been today than strolling with my sweetheart through Kootenai Canyon. A mellow trek through the heart of the Bitterroot Valley, sidling past shear cliffs to the roaring tumble of Kootenai Creek, around every bend a new sign of spring's rise and shine...it was a lucky day to be alive, indeed.
I saw my first Woodland Stars (Lithophragma parviflorum) of the season.
and the Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) blanketed the forest floor.
We caught a charming little Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis), which brought my snake-spotting count for the season up to five!
When the snake slithered off into a nearby hole, it led us to our best find of the day: this big ol' Western Toad (Bufo boreas).
He sat guarding the snake's hole like a sentry. He was almost as big as Derf's face.
What a delight. Farther on down the trail, we saw Ribes just about ready to flower...
...Clematis occidentalis leaves unfurling...
...and Hooker's Fairy Bells (Prosartes hookeri) in full bloom.
As we approached the burn area from summer 2009, one hillside in particular was blazing with wildflowers:
The pollinators were relishing in the new nectar sources. Here's a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa, MT's state butterfly) visiting a blooming willow (Salix)
Back near the trailhead, a peculiar bird caught my eye with it's darting acrobatics. What at first seemed to be a huge swallow turned out to be a bat, cruising around in broad daylight.
An enchanting end to a perfect day. What I can't show you in these photos is the call of the Osprey swooping overhead, the acrid earthy smell of the conifer needles underfoot, or the feeling of a warm and welcome breeze at your back. Get out there. Let me know what you discover.