Friday, August 23, 2013

There Be Dragons!

Or rather salamanders.  Walking the mall on Last Chance Gulch yesterday with Texter and Lady K, I happened to look up rather than into the storefronts and discovered this.

Looked like cavorting dragons to me.  But as it turns out, these are actually fire salamanders and were an advertisement for the insurance company which was originally housed in the building at the turn of the century.

We were there to actually let me take some videos of the mall for a class project (which will be posted later, once finished).  I decided to do it on the pedestrian mall I am loving so much.  It also just happens to end at the library, which means I can make a quick trip to any store while on break.  That could be good or bad for my paycheck.

Anyway, I have to say that Helena has done a great job of keeping the old with the new.  The "Atlas" building still houses businesses, but also has apartments in it.  Who wouldn't want to live where they are protected by these wonderful guys?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hiking Grizzly Gulch

I am coming to the conclusion that Montana was designed by Escher, because everything is UP.  I think sometimes downhill is actually up.  However, I am still determined to hike the trails around here.  Eventually, my body will catch up with my desire.

So this morning, I and one of the other Helena Hikers, took on Grizzly Gulch.  The trailhead is just outside of downtown Helena and very easy to get to.  

The names of the trails alone are reason to hike them.  Don had mapped out our route as there were several different ways you can hike this area.  How can you not want to hike on "Show Me The Horse" trail?

We started the hike at about 8 a.m. so lighting was great.  The day was just right for the hike, not too cold, not to hot.  And after the rain yesterday evening, the trails were not dusty to walk on. Starting out fairly steep at the beginning, we were hiking along the side of the hill, through trees.  Unfortunately, this early part of the hike also seems to be a favorite for late night partying as there was a lot of broken glass along the trail.

My problem with hiking is this (besides the whole uphill thing) I want to look at stuff around me.  I want to try and identify the flora.  And after the weekend at BOW, I want to bird watch too.  Neither of those are conducive to hiking with any speed.

For about the first third of the hike the trail wanders in and out of the trees, giving you glimpses of the views yet to come. 

Besides several pines that were downed along the trail, but cleared out of the way so we didn't have to climb over them, there are outcroppings of stone.  The stone is great, covered with lichen of all shades of green and orange.

For about the first hour of the hike we didn't see anyone else on the trail.  However, when we got to one of our first splits in the trail, we met a gentleman making a branch in the trail.  It seems on Sunday there will be a race along the trails.  More UMP than I've got.

And there was a part or two of 'downhill' before more UP.

Once we got up on the Mt. Helena Ridge it was fantastic views all around.  

After the ridge, the trail lead into a wooded area again.  It was at that point I discovered the battery I packed for my camera was the dead one, not the charged one, so I didn't get pictures of the last part of the trail, from "Show Me The Horse" back to the parking lot.

Also, it was along this point that we started encountering the mountain bikers and trail runners.  Trail runners have my admiration.  I'm having trouble just walking the trail, much less running on it.

Three hours later we arrived back at the cars and about 10 minutes later I was back in my driveway.  Can't beat that.  Of course, Lady K and Texter laughed as I shuffled my aching body into the shower.  They have no compassion.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Backyard Flora and Fauna

Sitting on the patio or sitting in the living room and observing through the big glass doors has become one of the favorite things to do here.  Filling the feeders has meant a steady supply of activity.  The flowers in the yard are a constant delight and the ones I have added are growing well.  I was worried a bit about growing things in Montana, but my fears have been groundless.

The flowers are a delight this year, especially the sweet peas.  I just wish they were a more fragrant variety.  

Mandavilla blooms 

Spruce cones at the top of the tree

Sweet Peas

"Yellow" flowers and seed heads (not sure what it is)

We have had a few butterflies coming through.  I haven't been able to find out what the name of this little fellow is yet.

But our favorites are the birds.

Sometimes we have a crowd at the feeders.  I have missed the hummingbirds at the feeder.  Maybe better luck next year now that they know we have a feeder. 

Of course, some still have their own feeders, even if they are big enough to be feeding themselves. 

House finches are plentiful, as are magpies. 

It seems we are down a couple of squirrels.  They weren't quite as fast as the dogs it seems.

Black-capped chickadees are starting to appear at the feeder. 

Not a Mourning Dove (as I first thought), but the Eurasian Collared Dove.  Yesterday, as I took out the trash, I startled a flock of about 20 in the alley behind the house.

Another favorite of mine are the crows.  They are so stately and I do love the fact that a flock is called a 'murder'. 

Then the blackbird is plentiful at the feeder too.

This is what I think is a Brewer's Blackbird female with a Grackle scarfing up bread crumbs.

But the most unique feeder we have in the backyard is the Lady K bird.  She is seated on her favorite outdoor perch.

A messy feeder, she has a distinctive call and is very social.