Road Trip! Montana, United States

Flathead Lake, Northwest shore, Lakeside MT

Last week we celebrated Father’s Day with my Dad, Stepdad and Spouse in my hometown of Spokane, WA. From there we continued on to Flathead Lake, Montana. I had seen pictures of how this big lake was so deep and clear that you could see right now to the bottom. I thought that would be really fun and beautiful to see in person. Alas, while booking our trip so early to avoid wildfire season this year decided to be all ironic and give the upper Western regions a flooding season instead. Because of the flooding there was a lot of silt and debris flowing into the lake and the bottom could not be seen. It also ruined the fishing opportunities for my eldest nephew.

We would like to take our son to Yellowstone someday, but the post-pandemic lodging prices have skyrocketed to a price point I’m not willing to pay. I’m also well aware of the crowds and delays that happen in the park when it isn’t being washed out by flooding. So, my frugality and determination to avoid crowds like the plague that they are, really worked out in our favor.

Our trip was shared for two days with my Stepsister and her two boys who are close to my son’s age. I love them and it’s so rare that we all get to spend time together that this was a special trip for that reason alone. While I’m almost twenty years older than my (step)sister, we naturally sync well together. I sync well with strangers sometimes too. When I meet people out in the big wide world, I’ll just automatically become best friends with a random stranger, and we’ll share a mini adventure together. Maybe we both got lost and we work to path find our way back together or we have to endure the same stressful or boring event.

Edgewater RV Resort & Motel in Lakeside MT
Rental cabin interior. Behind the wall on the left there are two bunkbeds across from a full-size bathroom.

We stayed at the Edgewater RV Resort & Motel in one of their dog-friendly cabins. They had just planted some new trees which I was happy to see because the amount of gravel everywhere is barely better than pavement. There were a lot of birds and I tried to get pictures for you, but they were practicing “stranger danger” and wouldn’t hold still, unlike my wild birds at home who think I should referee bird arguments (see previous post; Fernmire: Farming with Squirrels.)

Flathead River Flooding 2022

I was only aware of the Flathead River creating one road closure. Nothing like what the Yellowstone River was doing much farther southeast of us.

Cougar & Coyote Taxidermy

We went to the Northwest Montana Heritage Museum in Kalispel, and I would recommend it. I always judge a places taxidermy quality on whether they have a cougar or other big cat (if native to the region) and how well that particular taxidermy was done. The shape and size of big cat heads make them notoriously hard to taxidermy without looking derpy (funny-looking.) This cougar gets an A+. I think Ermines are cute. I know that anything in the weasel family can be a problem for poultry farmers, but these little guys have a lot of personality if you ever get the opportunity to watch them.

Ermine Museum Display

We also drove to Big Fork to check out Kehoe’s Agate Shop. I met the owner whose father opened the shop in 1932. It’s always important to me to support local family business wherever I go.

Cave Bear Skeleton at Kehoe’s Agate shop – kinda small without it’s meaty bits.

Trilobite fossil at Kehoe’s Agate shop – I didn’t know fossils could be cute and this one can’t eat my veg.
Our Kehoe Agate shop purchases

We took a slightly different route on our way back home so we could see the south end of Flathead Lake in Polson.

Flathead Lake is Montana’s biggest lake.

Flathead Lake South End in Polson, MT

Although I tend to drive at the speed of a low-flying aircraft, it took us 10.5 hours to drive straight through to home with a one-hour lunch break and a fifteen-minute coffee break. We were really surprised at how few cars we saw through Montana, Idaho, and all of Washington state. We were starting to think we had somehow avoided a zombie apocalypse or something until we rounded a corner just before our exit and found everyone parked for their favorite highway interchange to Auburn Hwy 18 from I-90 South.

That was on Thursday.

Friday morning, I was crushed to learn the Supreme Court really did overturn Roe v. Wade. I guess one person’s dystopian nightmare is another person’s wet dream. A white, male conservative friend got mad at me when I post my personal feelings about it on my personal Facebook page. He said, “How dare you make a public policy decision ultra-personal!” Well, when a public policy decision is all up in my woman parts, it feels ultra-personal.

Fernmire: Farming with Squirrels

I’m afraid June will be postponed indefinitely this year as we continue our third month of April weather.  I’m not one to complain about it though, especially when so many people are currently tormented by drought, heat, and wildfires. Some people stubbornly try to grow tomatoes outdoors around here, but I would say their success rate is less than fifty percent. I’m grateful this is berry climate! Huckleberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries all have varieties native to this region. Yum! In Eastern Washington, where I grew up, it normally gets hotter and drier. You can find commercial orchards of apples and cherries in abundance. Tomato growers have a much higher chance of success.

Last year around this time was an anomaly. We were roasting in record-breaking 115°F degree (46°C) heat for a particularly bad stretch of three days. Several people died here and in British Columbia. It was hard on crops and native plants alike. I feel like many people have already forgotten that when they complain about the overcast skies. The plants seem content to focus on their recovery by delaying their blooms and fruit by a couple of weeks this year.

Douglas Squirrel litter pile

One thing I have in abundance is Douglas Fir trees and their pinecones. The one beside the driveway is a robust producer of pinecones. It’s always had a Douglas Squirrel living in or near it since we move in about eight years ago.

Doug the First was a jerk. He’d throw pinecones at us and chitter anytime we were around. Doug the Second kept to himself and we had no interactions to speak of for two years. Doug the third was bold. He’d test me to see if I ate squirrel or not. Concluding that I/we were not squirrel eaters, he once decided to explore our garage while I was in it. Then he’d start leaving me piles of pinecone remnants. Doug the 4th did not live very long. I don’t know what got it. We’re now with Doug the fifth and Sixth. Doug the 5th is male and Doug the 6th is female. At this point the name “Doug” is now gender neutral as far as I’m concerned. I’m hoping for a batch of “Douglets” this year. That would be fun. I might have to set up one of my wildlife cameras just for squirrel pictures!

Pinecone litter closeup
Gathering duff aka forest litter

These two leave me nice big piles of “duff” (defined as leaf litter, small sticks, and pinecone remnants) off to the side of the driveway. I consider this our mother tree of the Fernmire ecosystem. It is one of the oldest judging from the circumference of the trunk. The Douglas squirrels eat all day at the base of the tree or at the separate “pinecone buffet” I made them so that I can clear weeds without disturbing their feeding. In exchange, they leave me generous piles of duff that I can re-distribute to other areas in need of the material for plant restorations. Hence, “farming with squirrels.”

American Robin – Bath time

The other day while carrying the duff two Robins got into a dispute. The one being chased flew all up around my head and so did the pursuing robin. I’m not sure why they thought to involve me. It’s not like I’m going to bite the pursuer! So that was my Tippi Hendron moment, a brief unexpected performance of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” as I shooed them away.

Young bunny

I’m practically tripping over wild rabbits that have no sense to get out of the way. I know that the Bobcat mother is busy working to wean her kits and soon the rabbits will become the feast! Do the rabbits know their fate? This is how the rabbit population stabilizes into a semblance of balance. Normally, our neighbor coyote would be in on this feast, but this one is near death as it loses the battle with mange. So skinny and haggard looking. He walks slowly as if constantly walking into a room and forgetting why he’s there. It’s a terrible thing to watch him waste away. I wish I could administer some kind of hands-free treatment via bait traps or blow darts. I accept that death is part of life, but I don’t accept that undue suffering is necessary. None of the Wildlife Rehabilitators work with coyotes or larger animals in my area. More research is needed to see if there is anything I can do. So far, my deer friends have been spared from chronic wasting disease and for that I am grateful.

Additional Information:

Some nice pictures, info and recipes of native edible berry plants: Natives bearing Edible Fruits | Portland Nursery -missing Mountain or Trailing blackberries (Rubus ursinus), Blackcap Raspberries (Rubus leucodermis) and Gooseberries: Coastal Black Gooseberry (Ribes divaricatum), Sticky Gooseberry (Ribes lobbii), White-stemmed Gooseberry (Ribes inerme) and Northern Gooseberry (Ribes oxyacanthoides). Gooseberries should be fully ripe and eaten in small to moderate amounts to avoid upset stomach. My Great Uncle loved Gooseberry pie.

Douglas Squirrels and other Squirrels of Washington State –

Rabbits in Washington State –

A brief overview of Mange –

Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer –

A Trip to Florida 2022

Greeting Nature-Led Friends!

Suprise! Last week I was in Florida! I have now returned to my boggy delight that is the Pacific Northwest, but not without bringing you all some sunny pictures of interest, education and ominous warnings about where not to swim.

Footprint in sand

As one of my favorite Tom Waits songs goes, “We made feet for children’s shoes.” This one is now a youth size 5.

Swamplilly Spp unknown

This plant is dressed for a party.

Palm roots

I scared this Tolkienesque palm tree Ent from walking away.

Bleeding Glory-bower

Another party plant having a ball!

Eeek, a spider!

Golden Silk Spider

The biggest spider I have ever seen in my life in the wild! It’s as big as my hand, and my hands are not small! Consequently, I just read this article from National Geographic about another similar spider that is making its home on the Eastern shores of the United States, the Joro spider (similar to this one, but more cold-tolerant.)

Swim with Gators? No Thank you.

Nope, definitely not going in that water.

Maybe when you go on vacation you like to relax, but to me, relaxing is a foreign concept I just can’t seem to gasp. It is my curious nature to always be on the prowl for new learning experiences. As part of my enjoyment in traveling to new places is to support the local work of fellow nature lovers. Here are two places I like to support every time I go to Florida:

Loggerhead Marinelife Center

This turtle rescue organization is currently going through an expansion and remodel. There was only one sick turtle there at the time of our visit. I would assume current sick and injured turtles are being cared for elsewhere.

Turtle Hatchling diorama

Cast of Turtle skeleton

Busch Wildlife Sanctuary

Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata

Sleepy young fox, everyone quietly say, “aaaaah”, so cute!

Cypress Knees

I love the phrase “cypress knees.” I don’t know why this one in the foreground looks like it’s giving me the finger though. Rude!

That’s it folks! I hope you enjoyed the pictures! Have a great rest of your week!

Do you have a favorite picture?