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It has been a cool and wet few days in Calgary, even to the point where we received a skiff of snow in September!  I was cautioned that I had no room remaining on my cell phone, so yesterday I downloaded from my album onto my desktop hard drive.  The thing about downloaded photographs is that I was, once again, reminded that life has sped by, filled to the brim, even in the most simple or dark circumstances.  There is so much that I haven’t written about or recorded.

I’ve read several books since spring and would really like to update my reviews, even if they are sparse.  So, that will likely still happen.  But, for today, I feel my thoughts are incredibly influenced by the book I am presently reading, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  It is my new favourite book.  I am profoundly moved by it and I’m hanging on every word.

As a result of this reading, I want to post a few photographs from recent walks at the Bow River.  Yesterday, Max and I headed out in the rain.

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When the earth is wet, there is such a rich and beautiful aroma that surrounds me while passing through the woods and beside the river.  I am at a loss for words to describe this because any description would not do the experience justice.  Also, there is a hush, apart from the drops of rain coming down from the tree canopy…it is a mystical silence…peaceful, even though I know that the entire landscape is vibrating with life in hiding.

Yesterday, stepping about in tall overgrowth, Max and I took pause…listened.  I heard a hollow clomping sound on round river stone, just to our right.  Uncertain, we remained still.  I held my breath and listened.  Max was alert.  I was alert.  A few more steps.  Stop.  A few more. Stop.  When once we began again, with a great explosion, a young deer sprung out and wildly flew deep into the trees.  Max erupted into a fit of barking and it felt like everything around us woke up!

I watched the juvenile Bald Eagle, an Osprey, a Hawk, Cormorants and Pelicans all struggle to find sustenance.  It was so amazing to watch the dynamic and to appreciate the effort involved.  At a point, the Bald Eagle, displaying his remarkable wingspan, swooped down upon an American Pelican.  He is not yet adept at his hunting and is frequently cutting corners by having others do his work for him.  Similarly, he dove into a gathering of Cormorants, investigating the possibility that there might be food among the opportunists.

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The Osprey, tucked secretly in the dark shadows of trees, swooped out aggressively, in order to give chase to the Hawk…crying out desperately as he flew so fast that I couldn’t identify him.  He had shared the east side of the river with me for a while, tearing into the hedges and thick shrubs and sage, likely in pursuit of rabbits and other small animals.  There was never a chance to get a good photograph.

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The Bald Eagle juvenile was looking intently from his low perch,  at these Killdeer…there were scores of them across the river from me.  If you’ve heard a single Killdeer, you may understand why the Bald Eagle is drawn to a location where twenty…maybe thirty…are calling out.

Can you spot two in the photograph below?

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Can you spot the Osprey here?

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I have watched the eagles for a little over a year now…given Michael’s prompting to leave the pond during the rip and tear of the Southwest Ring Road development.  I am so grateful for the life I have been able to observe at this location and for the healing experience this daily walk has begun in me.  As I write this post, I am feeling very blessed for a whole lot of reasons.  I hope that if my readers feel sometimes that life, like a sweater, is unraveling, one source of divine life and love can be found in an intimate relationship with nature.  I know that it’s helped me.  Here are a few other moments with the raptors this year.

 

 

I have been blessed by my walks at the river this weekend…I keep saying to myself, through winter, I don’t want to forget the purple.  I don’t want to forget the gold and red.  I will carry it with me.

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Three Days at the Bow

For days now,  smoke has hung on the air, seeming to press in on me.  It is a difficult thing to take pause and contemplate the horrendous impact so many wildfires are having on people and their homes as well as wildlife and its various ecosystems.  The yellow cast of grey over every landscape is a constant reminder.  An absence of the mountains on my horizon to the west is disorienting. The burning sensation behind my nose and throat brings on headaches and a heavy feeling.  It is a difficult time for so many people north and south of the border, east and west.  This is a strange and other-worldly experience.

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At the river, the mornings are quiet, with far less activity and chatter from the birds.  I don’t know if other birder friends have found this, but the Red Winged Blackbirds, usually first to arrive in early spring, seem to have taken their offspring and skipped town.  I miss their calls, especially at the pond.

The Bald Eagle couple have been diligently observing the Juvenile as he/she figures out what it means to be strong and determined.  Mr. and Mrs. did an amazing job providing for two kids at the nest.  I will never know what came of the first fledge.

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When I walk the river’s edge early in the morning, the earth is spongy and feels as though it has breathed in moisture somehow, magically, through the night.  I no longer look down as I walk because every day for days I observed a snake silently slip into the brush as my foot fell onto the path.  I’d rather not see that anymore.  Of all of the amazing creatures there are to enjoy, I have not yet learned an appreciation for snakes.

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Birds, in training, are practicing skills of flight.  For days, the Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings and Wrens had taken to the higher canopy.  But, since the smoke, they’ve been found in the lower branches, especially in the evenings.

Juvenile and Adult Cedar Waxwings.

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American White Pelicans.

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Eastern Kingbird.

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Osprey against smoke.

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Juvenile House Wrens actively chittering for food.

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Sometimes, when I get home and download my photographs…I see things I hadn’t noticed while snapping.  The following two unfocused photographs speak to those surprises.

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Yellow Warbler and Cedar Waxwing.

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Berries and berry pickers have been in evidence at the river’s edge.

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It has been a most amazing experience to watch the progression of life and death and life and death on the river, even through the brutal winter.  The wildfires remind us how tenuous life is for all.  The leaves, now turning gradually and the plants-gone-to-seed remind us of how quickly everything changes.

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Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage

My friend, Pat, has an astonishing way of discovering new and wonderful places to visit around Calgary.  My tendency is to always say “YES” when an invitation comes my way from Pat because, in the end, I learn something new and see something fascinating.  So, when I received an e mail to travel south to Nanton and to see the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage, I was keen.  Included in the experience would be a lovely and reasonably-priced brunch served up by Brown’s Catering and live music under a tent (although we all agreed the musician of the day might have turned down the mic…just a little).  As well, we then strolled about and admired the gardens and the buildings.  Delightful!

We could not have had a nicer day…a huge open sky and golden canola fields in full bloom created a backdrop of magic. The drive was filled with our usual enthusiastic banter and that always makes the miles fly by.  Gail, Mary, Pat and I embraced the visit and the views.  It was an exceptional time.  I’ve been digging myself out of a period of sadness, despondency and disconnect.  I am grateful for dear friends who have stuck with me through the malady, and anticipate, as I do, better days.  What can be more healing than amazing sky, flowers and forever-friendship. Thank you, Pat.

Click on individual photographs, in order to have a better look.

 

Thanks to Gail who hosted a further debrief at her home in High River.  I appreciate the hospitality and it was so wonderful to see you again.

Don’t Give Up…

…without a fight.

Have you ever been put in a situation…or put yourself in a situation…where you lose control, completely.  You find yourself cornered/humiliated/vulnerable/speechless?  You lose your voice?  Loud voices are coming at you.  You see mouths moving and eyes wide open.  But, you really don’t hear a word that the voices are projecting.  You want to catch up on the conversation and what is happening, but you are so shocked that you’re NOT SAFE, that you are deemed useless, defenseless and feel only things in your body?  Oh. I’m sweating.  Oh, my heart is pounding.  Oh. Am I going to throw up?  Am I going to cry?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is going on in a world where this is allowed to happen.  We become enraged when we remember these collective experiences happening historically, in the unbelievable and horrific impacts of colonization and slavery, of racist and immoral conduct in war.  (Presently watching the Netflix series on Vietnam, with my son.  Watch the entire series, beginning with French colonization…see what atrocities happened there.) We are shocked and freaked out when it happens on the world stage in the forum of politics, religion and foreign policy. (I can’t even name all such horrors.)

The strong prey on others.

The privilege of power; whether that is white or big or strong or conservative or educated or rich…the privilege of power is a demon in the face of building relationship or building community or building trust.

The second clutch of sparrows was attacked on the hottest day of summer.  It might have been a Magpie or a Crow.  I wasn’t home to see the events.  The Crow and the Magpie have youngsters to feed…their aggression is without thought for kindness, but for survival.  That’s the difference between human beings and Crows.  We can choose to communicate kindly, even in the face of conflict.  It is our moral imperative to do so.

Mr.  did not give up without a fight.  How do I know this?  Because his feathers show the scars of the attempt to protect his youngsters.  Mr. and Mrs. have grieved at the empty vent these past two days.

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I ask myself if I had stayed home from book club, would things have turned out differently.  Maybe not.

 

Lost Creek

I haven’t been writing my daily post, because the story of Lost Creek just wouldn’t be the same without Ramona’s contribution and this morning, I received it in the form of an electronic mail.

Read this, will you?  Delightful!  Ramona is just one of those women who has created an amazing life.  I love her so much! (your stick is in the mail, Ramona!)

In 1975 a fellow named Tom G. came to The University of Montana, looking for candidates to apply for summer jobs with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. I was interested in working on a maintenance crew north of Missoula, near Kalispell. It looked promising…until he called me in to chat. He told me the 5-man crew had threatened to quit if a woman was hired to be part of the team. He said they wanted to be able to spit, fart and tell crude jokes and I wouldn’t fit in. Well…I said to Tom ” if that’s what is required I can do all those things too, and probably could share stories that would make them blush.”

He offered me another position, working mostly by myself. I would take care of Lost Creek State Park, near Anaconda and several fishing access sites on The Big Hole River-east of Wisdom.

I was issued a State pickup and found an old 1-room miner’s shack to rent near Lost Creek. A retired fellow named Sid C., from Anaconda, came with me to clean Fish Trap and Sportsman’s Bridge on the river twice a week. The summer went by quickly. Sid showed me where he picked puffball mushrooms near The Big Hole and I ate some-without getting ill.

One day, when I drove to Fish Trap alone, I saw a weird-looking 4-legged beastie in the road near a creek. It had a large head, some spots and long, long legs. Just then Mama came out of the Alder bushes. It was a new-born moose, probably with afterbirth sac pieces still on its back.

Another time I’d gone for a walk behind my shack-sweet-shack, checking out the old kilns and a mine opening. I continued up the crest of a rocky hill and about pooped my pants. A sentry male Mountain sheep and I locked eyes as he jumped up and quickly sprung away, alerting the other 3 with a huffing vocalization. I’d been downwind and coming around a rocky outcrop. After I caught my breath and slowed my racing heart I laughed.

There were both Mountain goats and sheep back then. The ewes stayed on the south canyon and bucks on the north; meeting of course during mating season. The Mountain goats were easier to find after a rain; when the rocks were shiny with water and they weren’t. I’m sorry to share that neither is found in Lost Creek Canyon now, as they all died of a lung disease. There are hopes some may be reintroduced from The Bitterroot Mountain herds.

I remember climbing all over the canyon rocks and up the talus slopes, somewhat fearlessly. I even crossed the creek near the falls by scooting my heinie along a log. On the other side I found a trapper’s or miner’s little shack- about 8 x 6 feet, made of log and hand-hewn split window and door openings. There was an old table and bed-both mounted to the wall. The roof was disintegrating and the whole shebang is no-doubt melted back into the earth by now.

This summer, when I visited with Kath, I could see evidence of a wildfire. My favorite campsite was more open. But the large car-sized boulders still held their ground, birds still sang and wildflowers flourished-maybe more so with fewer tall trees.

An afterlog…I worked with Fish Wildlife and Parks for 2 school years with the work-study program for 15 hours a week and for one more summer-doing visitor surveys along The Blackfoot River and for Salmon and Placid Lakes proposed campground improvements. In 1978 I took a job with The USDA Forest Service on The Clearwater National Forest in Orofino, Idaho; and that began a 33 year career. In May of 1979 I joined The Peace Corps and went to Chile; another story all-together. Mona 7-2018.

Isn’t that remarkable?  And, to think I was able to revisit this amazing and beautiful place and picnic with my buddy at the Lost Creek site.  Again, photos hardly do it justice.  I am profoundly grateful for the chance to do this journey with my dear friend.

We saw these two lovelies as we pulled out of the area…time to head for Butte!  Another awesome adventure!

 

 

Evening on the Big Hole

I signed the guest book at the entrance and turned my face toward the front desk.  Our eyes met and in unison, we squealed and ran toward one another.  Such a blessing to meet my friend in this amazing historical place.  I was overcome.  I was weary and elated, all at the same time.  Within an hour, Ramona had filled me in on the power of the site.  It was so nice to be with her.  I met Preston, Anna and Maria.  I was blasted by good will and hospitality.  The volunteers and employees of the Big Hole National Battlefield come from all over the United States.  It is a rich melting pot of individuals who care that truth and history be revealed to all who visit.  I was really impressed by the professionalism, as well as the variety of accents!

We went home from the visitor center to a slow cooked meal of pork tenderloin, apple, sweet potato and onion served on a big dollop of mashed potatoes.  Before the light set, Ramona and I did a very reflective walk on the battlefields.  It was as though the earth beneath my feet was vibrating…such a history.

Anna gave up her lovely room to me for the evening and took the couch for the night.  Such North Carolina hospitality!  Such loveliness. It just happened to be Anna’s last day and the completion of her Master’s degree.

I felt very blessed as I ‘didn’t’ drift off to sleep.  As the light of day began to make its way up and over the ridge and the birds began to sing, I passed out and woke some time later to the smell of coffee and swedish pancakes.  Yummers.

Click on photographs to enlarge.

 

 

I hope that some of my readers can take the opportunity to visit this location.  There were no International borders at the time of these battles…these came with colonization.  Instead, the peoples who lived on the land journeyed land by seasons and by availability of food.  For those who wish to, follow the link to the following article posted in the Great Falls Tribune.

WISDOM — In the 140 years since the Battle of the Big Hole, the site of the battle has remained a spiritual place to many who visit.

Teepee poles on the 655-acre Big Hole National Battlefield give silent testimony to the Nez Perce who gathered in along a fork of the Big Hole River. 

A marble monument honors the American soldiers and Bitterroot Valley volunteers who fought the Nez Perce. About 2,000 American soldiers fought the Indians at different points along their flight.

HISTORY: Night of the Grizzlies: Lessons learned in 50 years since attacks

“These places hold power,” Park Superintendent Mandi Wick said. “There’s something to say about being on the place where these tragedies happened.” 

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The Big Hole National Battlefield near Wisdom is one of 38 sites in the Nez Perce National Historical Park. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/KRISTEN INBODY)

On Aug. 9, 1877, Col. John Gibbon arrived from Fort Shaw with 161 men and a howitzer, which fired 12-pound shells. They attacked at dawn.

Gibbon’s men caught the Nez Perce by surprise. The Indians, on their way to sanctuary in Canada, were lulled by a largely peaceful passage through the Bitterroot Valley into believing they would be able to travel safely through the Montana Territory.

“These places hold power… There’s something to say about being on the place where these tragedies happened.”

Park Superintendent Mandi Wick

The soldiers stormed from the forested hillside into the village, firing indiscriminately into and then burning teepees.

The surviving Nez Perce rallied and fought back, collecting retreating soldier’s weapons. The soldiers dug in, while Nez Perce women packed up camp and retreated, covered by warrior sharpshooters.

The Nez Perce lost perhaps as many as 90 people, about 10-12 percent of the group, with women and children taking heavy casualties. Of the 700 who remained, fewer than 200 were warriors. Many of the best fighters died at the Big Hole.

More: 4-Hers get ‘as real as the American West gets’

The force from Fort Shaw saw 23 soldiers perish in the fight, with six volunteers from the Bitterroot dying, too. Another 40 were wounded. Gibbon, injured in the battle, and his men left the Nez Perce to Gen. O.O. Howard and his men, who picked up the pursuit after the Big Hole.

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Blue camas blooms at Big Hole National Battlefield. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/JULIA MOSS)

“It’s hard to believe events like this can happen in places that seem so serene,” Wick said. 

More: Cemetery restoration brings to life 150 years of history at Fort Shaw

Located between the Anaconda and Pioneer mountains, the battlefield is known for its camas blooms, adding a sea of blue flowers to the landscape in the early summer. It was the Nez Perce who introduced the Lewis and Clark Expedition, by then desperately hungry, to the plant, a staple of their diet. (Though the explorers liked the sweet root, they ended up sick.)

Wick recommended visitors watch the 26-minute film at the visitor center to understand the battle. Summer weekends feature cultural demonstrations and guided tours.

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The Big Hole National Battlefield visitor center is framed by tipi poles. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/JULIA MOSS)

After the battle, the Nez Perce had to discard the idea they could fight the U.S. to agreeable terms and the war took a more ferocious turn, though the Nez Perce had been significantly weakened, wrote Alvin Josephy in “The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest.”

The journey to the Big Hole began in the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon.

The Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu/Children of the Coyote, territory covered about 17 million acres, land in what would become Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.

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Big Hole National Battlefield is the site of unimaginable tragedy as well as a sacred site to the Nez Perce people. The battle, near present-day Wisdom, took place 140 years ago. (Photo: Tribune photo/Amie Thompson)

Tribal leaders signed treaties in 1855 and 1863 setting the Nez Perce land at 7.5 million and then 750,000 acres. Then came the discovery of gold and pressure from westward-marching trappers and settlers.

More: Dick Thoroughman remembered as a ‘Giant’ among Montana historians

Chief Joseph described white men stealing horses and cattle, seemingly “on purpose to get up a war. They knew we were not strong enough to fight them.” He described young men whom he struggled to keep from “doing rash things.”

He and his band of Nez Perce stayed in the Wallowa Valley as others moved to the much-reduced reservation. 

In May 1877, General O.O. Howard ordered Chief Joseph and all Nez Perce living off the reservation to move there within 30 days and jailed elder Toohoolhoolzote.

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Big Hole River (Photo: Tribune photo/Amie Thompson)

Young Nez Perce men gathered at a camp on June 14 on their way to Fort Lapwai in Idaho Territory and reservation life decided to take revenge on some white men, killing four and raiding settlements. The chance for peace had passed, and Howard sent 130 men to meet them, punish them and deliver them to the reservation.

Instead, at the Battle of White Bird Canyon, the Nez Perce won, but they were on the run. It was the first of 18 engagements, among them four major battles.

More: Moccasin School crumbling, but you can own a piece of the history

After the Big Hole Battle, the Nez Perce continued their flight to Canada via Idaho and into Yellowstone National Park. In Crow country, they found their former allies were unwilling to aid them and continued north through the middle of Montana.

Gen. Nelson Miles (Photo: NPS PHOTO)

Just 40 miles south of the Canadian border, Brigadier Gen. Nelson A. Miles from what would be Miles City caught up with the Nez Perce. His troops came from the Second and Seventh Cavalry and the Fifth Infantry, along with Lakota and Cheyenne scouts.

On Sept. 30, they attacked the Nez Perce and fought to a stalemate, broken when Howard arrived at the Bear Paw Battlefield. On Oct. 5, Chief Joseph surrendered and vowed to “fight no more forever.” 

More: Museum volunteer records history from Montana boom town

Some Nez Perce escaped to Canada. Those who surrendered were promised they could return to their reservation, but Gen. William Sherman ordered them to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a 1,200-mile trek on foot, boat, horse and rail.

They lived in swampy, malarial land in Kansas, and Chief Joseph, by then a national celebrity, pleaded they be allowed to return to the reservation or be granted land in Oklahoma.

Josiah Red Wolf (Photo: NPS PHOTO)

Eight years after their surrender near the Bear Paws Mountains of Montana, the 268 Nez Perce who survived returned to the Pacific Northwest, though Chief Joseph was not allowed to return and died in exile in 1904 on the Colville Indian Reservation northwest of Spokane, Wash. It’s home to a confederation of 12 tribes.

Chief Joseph spoke for justice to his last days, arguing:

“Treat all men alike. Give them the same laws. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect all rivers to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases.”

11 people to know

Chief Joseph
The most famous Nez Prece, Chief Joseph was in charge of guarding camps along the retreat. He gave the formal surrender and is immortalized for the speech that ended, “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

Chief Joseph in 1877 (Photo: NPS PHOTO)

Chief Ollikut
Younger brother of Chief Joseph, Ollikot was “he who led the young men” and died at the Battle of Bear Paw.

Peopeo Tholekt
At the Battle of the Big Hole, this warrior helped capture a howitizer, which fired on the Nez Perce camp. He escaped to Canada but later returned to Idaho, living there until his 1935 death and preserving stories of the war.

Chief Looking Glass
Killed at the Battle of Bear Paw, Chief Looking Glass was a military strategist during the war. He led a band settled in a village on the Nez Perce reservation but was arrested on suspicion he would join Chief Joseph and his village was burned. He and followers escaped to join Chief Joseph and he was Nez Perce leader during the Battle of the Big Hole, losing his position as head of the band after the surprise attack.

Josiah Red Wolf
The last living link to the Nez Perce War, Josiah Red Wolf, five in 1877, witnessed the attack that launched the Big Hole Battle. He died in 1971.

Gen. O. O. Howard
A Union general who lost an arm during the Civil War, Howard was known for his piety and work bettering the lives of freed slaves during Reconstruction. He helped found Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was superintendent at West Point. He pushed the Nez Perce onto a smaller reservation with no notice or time to prepare, perhaps precipitating the flight to Canada. .

Gen. O. O. Howard (Photo: NPS PHOTO/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

Gen. Nelson A. Miles
A Civil War Medal of Honor winner and future military governor of Puerto Rico, Miles revenged Gen. Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, forcing the Lakota onto a reservation. He led his troops on the flight across Montana to intercept the Nez Perce. 

C.E.S. Wood
A West Point graduate, Wood was an infantry officer and later author who transcribed, and rumor says embellished, Chief Joseph’s surrender speech.

Col. Samuel Sturgis
The father of a soldier killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn the year before, Sturgis and his troops were supposed to be part of a trap to catch the Nez Perce when they emerged from Yellowstone but they escaped. They met up at the Battle of Canyon Creek west of Billings.

Col. John Gibbon
A Civil War veteran, Gibbons was stationed in Fort Shaw when he got word from Howard to cut off the Nez Perce retreat. He met them near the Big Hole River and was wounded in the battle, ending his pursuit.

Emma Cowan
Among a few dozen tourists in Yellowstone National Park during the Nez Perce flight and celebrating her second anniversary, Cowan of Radersburg was captured with her siblings and her husband was shot in the head (he survived and they returned to the park three decades later).

Visit the Big Hole National Battlefield

The Big Hole National Battlefield is open sunrise to sunset daily. The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter, except on federal holidays during the off-season. Entry is free. Find the battlefield 10 miles west of Wisdom in the Big Hole Valley.

It is my intention to pick up a book or two about Chief Joseph over the coming months.

Stern Border Service Officers

All I could think about was getting over that border and getting to my treasured friend, Ramona.  The morning light was heavenly.  I left the little town of Raymond, drove east and then at the intersection, turned south for the Sweetgrass Hills.

To the right, I passed wetlands and identified American Advocets and a large group of Black-necked Stilts.  On road trips, one can not possibly stop often enough to capture all of the wonder as it slips past.  I was happy to see many winged friends and to see the vast beauty that is southern Alberta.  The past ten years or so I’ve made my life all about the fleeting moments and the tremendous beauty that reveals itself in familiar places.  I’m not big into world travel…but, I’m big into deepening my relationship with what is close up, if that makes any sense at all.  We all do life in our own particular way.

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At the border, I was met by a very stern border service officer.  Oh my goodness…a 63 year old lady approaches and ‘you have the need to be miserable’.  Mayhaps I was bringing some sort of bias to the experience. “Pull around and park in the back.  An officer will meet you there.”  Sure…okay.

The officer who joined me a short while later was much more pleasant.  She covered an agricultural survey with me and shuffled through my belongings in the vehicle…most concerned with plant matter, foods…yes, I get it.  And then I was on my way after sharing with her some pleasantries about high school years in Great Falls.

Continuing on to Shelby, I thought about the lack of gun controls…the shift in thinking.  I remembered how grateful I was to be a Canadian.  I looked forward to making Great Falls.  Once there, I contemplated taking time to visit special places and special people that remain.  I sat in the parking lot of the Flying J and felt so close to the memories of home that my family built in this place…thought of my friends and the house on Fox Farm Road.  I decided that this wouldn’t be the trip for packing in too much.  I needed to sip on my lemonade and enjoy the landscape.  I would have to make another opportunity to do all of the rest of it.

I love the landscape just south of Great Falls…Holter…and Prickly Pear.  There is only one place to stop and so it’s a chore to be overcome with the extreme beauty and at the same time, in a photo-crazy world like ours, not to be able to archive it.  I pulled over at the only stop on my side of the I-15.

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I thought about my Dad and wondered why the heck he wasn’t on this road trip with me.  I love to drive with my father.  These are places he knows and loves far better than I!

Onward!

In Helena, I had my first learning about roaming data charges.  Sigh.  Enough said.  Bob and Dan, I tried to track you down.  I thought I had an hour to play with in Helena.  Sorry.  I left your deets at home in my address book. (roaming, YOU SUCK!)

I had no recollection of the places I saw south of Helena, although I’ve traveled that road…a couple of times with a long-haul trucker, a few times traveling to see my parents in Colorado Springs, Colorado and likely before that, travels to various speech team competitions.  What I haven’t done is turned off into la la land at the Divide exit, west…Wise River…Wisdom…and all of that.  There were zero opportunities to take photographs of the wondrous landscape that unfolded after that turn off from the I-15 and my mind set to wondering as I saw such beauty reveal itself.  I thought about my new-found cousin, Charlene, who lives in Idaho Falls and a bit of a remote feeling took over me, that likely I wouldn’t be able to meet her on this trip.  All of a sudden, I heard the words escape my mouth…

“This is all for you, Kath.”  And yes…there were some tears.  The crystal blue waters weaving through verdant miles were beyond description.  The rugged rock reached vertical to either side of me.  I was overcome with beauty.

As I pulled to the right into the Big Hole National Battlefield, I felt exhausted, but so grateful.  Swallows seemed to beckon me.  I knew that Ramona would be working her shift in the visitor’s center, but decided to spend a few quiet moments looking over the valley.  Again, time just for me.  I knew that this place held huge spiritual energy and that the history for the Nez Perce peoples on this land held such provision and at the same time, horror, that I wanted to be present to the moment.  And then…Ramona.

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It’s All a State of Mind

I haven’t had an easy time of it the past while.  I am grateful to those who haven’t minimized my feelings during this particularly rough patch.  I am grateful for those who have shown genuine concern and unconditional love and support.  I’m grateful for those who asked.  I am grateful for those who haven’t questioned what I needed to do.  I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed painting.  But, I’ve really enjoyed sitting still in the woods and watching the birds.  I’ve enjoyed watching the river and the pond.  The river has always taught me how dramatically everything can change.  The little critters that eek out survival on the river teach me that, in fact, life is just as brutal as it is beautiful.  Treasure the moments.  Don’t cave in the least little bit to the challenges…it only takes a moment of hesitation on the fight and you can be a goner.

The state of things in the U.S.A. and the exposure to the media via the news and social media have, in part, impacted my mind set.  While it’s not the whole picture, it certainly did not assist in a feeling of hopefulness or optimism.  Through this impact, I’ve become very mindful of supporting the Canadian economy in my purchases and spending.  And, I will continue to do so.

However, I wavered in one regard.  The only way that I would have the opportunity to see my high school bestie before she left her volunteer position at Big Hole National Battlefield in Montana for her home in Michigan, was to travel across THAT border.  My heart ached to be with Ramona, so, setting all of my concerns and worries and sadness aside, I got up one day and decided to go.

There is something inherently magical about road trips and I am no stranger to doing road trips on my own, but this time, I even left my beautiful and loyal companion, Max, behind.  This was the second time in 12 years that we were separated.  I think I heard him barking, “POOP HEAD!!”, as I pulled out of my spot in front of the house and headed for Magrath.

My Auntie Ruth doesn’t mind me hanging out with her and I really like her company.  You want a Wild Cherry icecream cone?  Of course!  You haven’t got milk or bread?  Let’s go!  It’s been a while since you saw your sister?  Heh, hop in the car!!

Driving on roads that I used to share with my grandfather…evening light…canola fields…magic!

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I cut across from Claresholm to Barons on my trips…this time, got stuck going 30 kms and hour behind a line-painter. What a hoot.

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I’m not so great with selfies…but, Auntie Ruth was willing, so the effort was well-worth it.

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Ms. Independent at 92 years of age.

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I adore these two women. I’m grateful that they are in my life. I treasure every moment. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my recorder with me because we had such a great yack and many more memories of family were shared.

I didn’t sleep well that night, so was up and on the highway at around 6 the next morning.  I filled my travel mug with hot coffee and topped up the gas $1.28 and headed east for Raymond.  I love early-morning driving.  The journey continues in Road Tripping.

The Magestic Bald Eagle Takes a Bath!

I would typically do a little segment for the past week and title it ‘For the Birds’ featuring all of the birds I have observed for a week. But, after this evening’s observations at the Bow River,  I decided to make a post that does its best to capture a Bald Eagle taking a bath.  Again, I can’t promise crisp-edged images, but one thing is for certain, I have captured some pretty awesome facial expressions. Do Bald Eagles have faces? (likely heads…not faces…but, you’ll see what I mean)  Some little slide shows.  May 16, 2018

The mosquitoes were out and the electric blue wild violets were in bloom.

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The river is moving fast and the water level is moving up.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve been taking photographs at a single spot along the shore and will use those over the coming days for comparison.

Here’s our Eagle…

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A series of four…check out the fourth slide.  It makes me laugh so hard.

 

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I consider it an honour to be able to spend so much time observing unlikely magic at the river.  I don’t take any of it for granted.  I’ll find a piece of music to play while the slide show runs.

My father’s birthday, May 14, 2018

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Black-crowned Night Heron: 2018

I just wanted to make a quick post.  I’m elated that a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons has returned to Frank’s Flats (not to be mistaken for Frank Lake), this season.  I’ve watched the adults and juveniles at this pond location for about five years, a couple of years after I began my daily circling of these wetlands.  I purchased my Canon Powershot camera the third season I watched them.  I’ve captured the odd successful photograph since, but mostly out of focus bits from places well outside my zone. This photo from 2017 captured the gesture of the birds amazing feet/legs.

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They have this way of looking other-worldly…the red eyes…fantastic!

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It has also been explained to me that these beautiful and amusing males have long plumes at the crown that dominate during mating season.  I particularly enjoy this article that describes them as ‘masters of motionlessness’!  Somewhere in my archives I have my very first siting of a Night Heron at this location.  I will add it later.  I can remember how excited I was.

I particularly enjoyed watching the seeming-connection between the two juveniles of last season…they were wonderful to watch…early articulations, flying together, hiding together and practicing their fishing together.

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There has been such destructive development that has come with the South West Ring Road (Stoney Trail) that oft-times people like me who are crazy about birds feel their blood boil.  It has been difficult to watch the huge impact of human encroachment.  Such a dramatic loss of natural plants/shrubs and trees!  Loss of water sources…loss of shoreline and the addition of many fence systems, barriers and pavement.  It’s a wonder this sort of magic can surface in the fray.

Yesterday, I watched an adult Black-crowned Night Heron feeding on minnows/small fish for quite some time.  Statuesque stillness and then a flash of motion, followed by a big gulp and then repeat.  I think I laughed out loud.  These images, again, taken from a huge distance, but they capture the gesture of the experience.

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