“January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow.”–Sara ColeridgeIs there a teacher or student out there in Northwest Montana today who doesn’t feel like today is a special gift? I’ve learned to never wish for a snow day, because it has to be REALLY snowy in my neck of the woods for school to be closed, and in twenty years of teaching, I can remember about three such days. That said, there’s nothing as decadent and magical as a free day to sit inside and watch the snow fall.
“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.”
Last weekend we took a nice long hike up to an old fire-lookout. The structure is no longer there, but you can still see the remnants of the old foundation. It’s amazing to think that not long ago, men (and possibly women?) were hired to live in these places keeping watch for blazes. How lonely it must have been. Perhaps it was also very quiet and peaceful, made more tolerable by the abundance of sweet huckleberries ripe for the picking in late August. I know that huckleberries are a luxury to us native Montanans, but it breaks my heart to think of all the folks out there who have never tasted one. We love them on our pancakes, in our muffins, and definitely straight out of the bowl. Yet, the finest way to sample a huckleberry is to wake up before the sun, drive to a remote location in the mountains of northwest Montana, and start walking. If you’re lucky, you will be greeted by endless bushes on a south-facing slope. Find the ones that are dark purple and pluck easily from the bush. When you bite into it, you will swear you are tasting pure sunshine.
“The beauty of the heart
is the lasting beauty.” –Rumi
I spend a lot of time hiking the trails, wandering the creeks, and simply exploring the beauty of northwest Montana. Last summer we took a special hike to one of the favorite mountaintops of our beloved Hondo – a dog that we loved for seventeen years and to whom we had recently said good-bye. On that hike (an especially long one, I might add) I decided that I wanted to find a heart-shaped rock to bring home as a memento. Well, I found a few, and this year, when we returned to that special place, I found a few more. Once I started looking, they seemed to find me. So, here’s to Montana, and here’s to the love of a good dog. They steal our hearts, and they’re never the same, are they?
“The Earth Laughs in Flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m so blessed to be able to spend my weekends in the mountains of northwest Montana. Nature, in all its glory, is right outside our back door, and June is when it is at its most splendid. These are just a few of the amazing displays from last weekend. As you can see, it’s important to have my camera with me at all times! The wild roses are in bloom, the Beargrass is beginning to appear, and the Lupine is in full-force! The Arrowood is so fragrant, that the air is full of it’s sweet smell. It’s times like this when I am especially grateful that I get to live here.
“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” ― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
I’m taking a diversion from my usual reading-related and crafty posts. I wanted to do a little show-and-tell of my backpacking trip last weekend. It was the trip of a lifetime and I was lucky enough to enjoy the majestic Montana wilderness at its best.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to escape from reality and take a backpacking trip into the Jewel Basin wilderness area of northwest Montana. With 30 pounds of provisions on my back, I joined my husband, dad, and three good friends to enjoy a perfect weekend of nature in Montana. This was “off-the-beaten-path” hiking. We didn’t see another human being the entire time we were out. However, we did have some very friendly, and unexpected visitors in our camp.
These mountain goats rarely see people in this remote area, but they were quite friendly and walked right into our camp and didn’t seem bothered by any of us. After awhile, however, we were happy to see them move along.
If your idea of heaven includes a body of water, this pristine mountain lake is exactly what you would conjure in your mind. No large lake homes….no jet-skis…no floating contraptions….just the sound of nature and jumping fish. If fact, the fishing was excellent, and I have to say that fresh fish, caught from a high-mountain lake, cooked over a camp-fire is as good as it gets.
Okay, I might be bragging a little, but I did make it to the top of this mountain. It was hard, but worth it. Can you see the little dots of white below the peal? Those are the mountain goats that came to visit us the next day. They had absolutely no trouble making it down the face of this mountian. (By the way, we didn’t climb up the front of this side of the mountain. We found an easier route.)
From this vantage point, it felt like the sky went on forever. If you wonder why we call our great state “Big Sky Country,” well, this is it! With mountain lakes surrounding us, and the beauty of Montana in each direction, it felt like I was on top of the world. It was a weekend to appreciate my Montana home, my health, and my family and friends. I realize that few people are lucky enough to see ever the kind of natural beauty that I did on this trip. I feel truly lucky to say, “I get to live here!”
I’ve had a lot of fun lately, enjoying some fruitful thrifting, some bountiful fall blooms in the garden, and some happy crafting for Halloween. First of all, let me say that two years ago, when I toted home a small Chinese Lantern plant from my farmer’s market, I had no idea that it would spread so eagerly. I has literally taken over my front flower garden. So, what’s a crafty girl to do? Find a way to use them for fun fall decorating, and to make cute decorations to give away! I found this cute idea in the Martha Stewart magazine for turning Chinese Lantern pods into small pumpkin favors. I’ve also had some exceptional luck at the thrift store lately. The orange pot in the background is McCoy (I’m kind of a pottery snob!) and the pumpkin is a vintage Haeger planter. I found these things just hiding among all of the other Halloween “crappity-crap.” (thanks for the term, Dottie Angel, it’s perfect!) Fall decorating is my favorite, and I only wish the season wasn’t so short. Right now I’m pressing some leaves for another crafty idea I saw on Martha’s website… I’ll be sure to share the results.
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~George Eliot
Fall…… It’s my favorite season, and if I could push the pause button today, I absolutely would. I love everything about crisp, sunny fall days. Warm sweaters, apple cider, Halloween and fall decorations, bright yellow Aspen trees, and geese flying in V’s. School is in full swing, leaves need raking, gardens need prepared for winter, and there hasn’t been much time for creating. However, it seems as if every time I look around, there’s a photo opportunity. Enjoy!
“We’ll take the cake with the red cherry on top.” Navjot Singh Sighu
One of the (many) things I love about living in Northwest Montana are the cherries. Around Flathead Lake, there are oodles of cherry orchards, and the locals are always waiting for the cherries to be ready for pickin’! This year’s crop was sweet, juicy and delicious. I think cherries are such a happy fruit, and these sweet ones are perfect right out of the bowl. It’s a quick season, and now I’m resigned to the reality that it will be one more year until I see the roadside stands with cherries spilling from the bins. (The story of the Flathead Cherry would be a good one….. maybe I should do some research and write an article?)