Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spring Mountain Views & A Virtual Hike

The journeys of an artist, Spring mountain views & a virtual hike: Montana's natural beauty in photographs Christy Sheeler ArtistTwo weeks ago, we made our first camping outing of the season.  The weather was beautiful, though a bit chilly and that's pretty typical of late May in Montana.  I can bundle up, that's no big deal.  I am so ready to escape to the mountains; a little rain and cold is nothing!  In my head, I know that the trees are leafing out, the snow is melting off, and the wildflowers are blooming.  It's happening now, as I share this with you.  More varieties of wildflowers are waiting their turn, for the conditions that coax them come to life.  I've got a huge collection of photos to share today!

Let's start by getting warm, because I shared the weather tends to be quite chilly...extra layers, knit hat, neck warmer kind of chilly.  When we commit, we stick it out and a bowl of hot & creamy potato soup hits the spot!  There was plenty of wood ready except it needed to be cut into smaller logs for the fire pit.  That's where our teenage son really helps out!  He stayed busy supplying enough wood to keep that fire going for our family.  Did you bring a warm jacket?  Would you like some hot cocoa?  We'll be listening to the fire cracking and popping soon!  There's just something so mesmerizing about watching the flames dance in the fire pit.  Marshmallows are at the ready...and of course, the graham crackers and chocolate bars, too!

Fire wood stacked, waiting to be cut into shorter lengths, alongside a saw and hatchet.

Viewing the inner core of the campfire, logs all coated in white ash, orange flames licking the wood.

Another view of the campfire, black and white textures of wood logs turning to coals, with flames dancing around the edges of the wood.

Hey!  Why not really immerse yourself?  This would be the perfect time to get a Pandora or Spotify playlist going with nature sounds.  You'll hear the birds singing and get into the mindset of a visit to the mountains!  I would recommend George Winston's album, Forest or Dan Gibson's album, Wildflowers.  Oh, another great album: Going to the Sun: Glacier & Waterton National Parks.  Ready?  Okay, let's get away for just a little while and enjoy a mountain retreat!

Okay, so we have a water bottle, a hat, a jacket, comfortable shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent, bear spray.  (I must say, the bear spray is for spraying AT the bear, not on yourself...insert a good chuckle here.) A snack would be a great idea, too.  I guess you could throw the snack AT the bear.  Sorry.  I get a bit goofy now and then.  Let's head out and see what beauty nature holds for us!

I am always eager to scope out the wildflowers and noticed a trend of primarily purple, white and yellow!  I won't go into detail identifying them for you.  A few of them have me stumped, even the wildflower reference books have left me wondering.  The first, a type of clematis, was abundant as its vines wove throughout the tree branches.  Imagine nature's confetti decorating the tree limbs.  While those were easy to point out and others required a bit more work to see because of their size.

Delicate soft lavender blossoms with down turned heads, wild clematis surrounded by pale green leaves.
Columbia Virgin's Bower, Clematis

The white blossoms of the service berry bush, the berries to come are a favorite treat for bears.
Western Serviceberry

A single white violet wildflower with tinges of deep purple viewed up close.
Wild Violet

We took our faithful dog, Rex.  He loves seeing the birds and squirrels, wishing he could run loose to chase them!  While walking him down the road a bit, I had camera along and took photos of wildflowers and mountain views.  Did I mention I have a patient family?  Well, Rex is included here...because I take photos constantly!  I think his expression says, "Are you done yet?"

Rex, the family's faithful dog, at over 100 lbs. loves to chase the squirrels.
Rex is always watching and wanting to be taken along when I leave the campsite.

A mountain creek, flowing from higher places where the snow still remains, is surrounded by varied greens of trees.
A mountain creek, flowing from higher places where the snow still remains.

A wider view of the mountains, the large slopes and peaks are more bare, fewer trees at the higher places.

Viewing the larger peaks in the distance, there is still snow remaining in some areas.

This wild violet has more purple in its petals, and it's rooted near a larger boulder for protection.
Another wild violet

Locoweed, this one lavender, is a wildflower not desired near cattle and horses.

This little red-violet wildflower, is what I would describe as hooded, likes the shady, cool places.  I could not accurately identify it.

The white blossoms of the wild strawberry plant have bright yellow centers.
Wild Strawberry

I am guessing in identifying this as a buttercup wildflower.  It has pale yellow petals, a brighter yellow center and fern like leaves..
Buttercup or Alpine Poppy ? Unsure.

This wildflower with white petals, simple with 4 visible petals, was one I cannot identify yet.

On day three, we left Rex in the camp trailer and followed a hiking path for a few hours.  We usually take our hikes without much planning.  We do great to pack the very basics and leave behind a few more basics, only realizing later what else we should have with us!  I was amazed at the number of glacier lilies in bloom!  My patient family waits for me as I stop often for another photograph.

A view of the river below as we hike for the afternoon.

Several bold yet delicate yellow Glacier Lilies clustered at the edge of the hiking path.
Glacier Lily

Balsamroot, with yellow orange petals, remind me of a sunflower, with dark brown center.

The thick-stem daisy has pale lavender petals and a yellow center, with short stems, they grow closer to the ground in the rocky places.
Thick-stem Daisy

Penstemon is a wildflower with clusters of vibrant blue and purple flowers.

Another view of the bold purples and blues of the penstemon wildflower, growing in full sun.

We thought it best to cut our hike short when we noticed rain clouds moving over the mountains.  While the teenage boy was not happy to turn back, it was a wise choice.  When the rains caught up with us, we were keeping a quick pace as we walked back to camp.  We were just mildly damp in the end.

Viewing the trail ahead, my son leads our group, and the rain clouds are approaching in the background.

Viewing the mountains beyond us, we see rain clouds with the sun trying to break through and we know the rain will reach us soon.

We talk about whether to continue on or turn back, seeing the rain clouds will reach this point of the path quickly.

A fine misting rain begins to move in like a fog, the view of trees is fading and softening as we hike back to camp.

The lighting for these shots was not ideal but a bit of editing made them pop!  These views have such calming and refreshing effect on me.  The bold and vibrant greens contrast so nicely against the trunks of the trees.  It would be great to just take a rest here and soak in the sounds of the birds and the river along with the scent of moss and pine.

Along our hike back to camp, we see this view of aspen trees, their many white tree trunks fill the center of the landscape.  Lush greens on the forest floor and the tree tops feels so alive!

A close up of the aspen trees, their trunks all white with varied patterns of black.

Another view of the aspen trees, more space between them, and green foliage brightens the sight.

Continuing our hike returning to camp, the slender trunks of the aspen wait alongside the path.

My daughter is making her way along the path ahead of me, her deep plum hoodie keeps her head dry.

A view of the large rock along the trail with surface cracks and rusty orange lichen.

The trail turns to shale like rock as we work our way uphill again.  This is a more open area with less tree cover so we may get a bit wet.

Nearing the end of the trail, I spied this lady slipper in the shadow of the trees.  My daughter shares that it is her favorite wildflower.  It has sprouted up near a fallen tree.  This wildflower loves the cool, damp places in the shadows.

A delicate wildflower, the fairy slipper shows off pale pink and magenta.  The bottom petals look like a fairy could wear one on each foot!
Fairy Slipper

Not long after arriving back at camp, we started the camp fire, planning our evening meal.  The rains came down hard and steady so we retreated to our camp trailer.  We had our meal inside that evening.

The weekend was a welcome respite!  I was so ready for a chance to be away from technology.  Not everything went smoothly but we adjusted as necessary.  We found that the water tank plug needs a bit of plumber's tape to stop the mild leak.  We also found that the hot water tank needs a reset for the new season.  Heating water on the stove was not that difficult.  It's all great as long as we're safe from the bears and cozy warm at night.

I have so many photographs and a lot more to share!  The days have grown longer now.  The sun rises just before 5:30 am and sets around 9:30 pm.  With those long days, I still seem to be struggling to schedule and manage my hours in my art studio.  Balance.  That's my word for the summer.  I'm trying to tune in and find my way toward balance between art goals and family time.  Keeping it all in perspective, knowing the days are slipping before my eyes, I am still making time for art.  My fingers are eager to pick up the brushes and try out new pigments!  I know the day is coming soon for being immersed in watercolor paintings.  I have projects that I'd like to finish first before pushing in one more direction.  The art room needs to be tidied and set right again so my mind can focus at its best.

I hope you've enjoyed this virtual visit in the mountains in Montana!  Do you feel refreshed and calm?  Can you feel your energy renewed again?  I hope you've enjoyed the sights of this little side trip on the trail.

Those wildflowers I did not label or added a ? to the description, I'll edit later.  I've found an online reference, the US Wildflowers Database and I'll add a link.  I have three reference books because I do enjoy knowing the wildflower names.

-She must make art.

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