Tag Archives: outdoors

Black bear

Watchable Wildlife

by the editors

Animals of the Montana forests.

Montana is a wildlife hotbed. Unless you’re from the Serengeti, the wildlife-viewing opportunities around here probably surpass anything you’ve seen before. Any given hike can produce half a dozen megafauna sightings, and all the major species seen by Lewis and Clark are still around. Here are some of the usual suspects.

Deer
Hike, bike, run, or ride any mountain trail between Big Timber and Dillon, and you’ll likely see mule deer. Their ubiquity doesn’t make them any less impressive. These ungulates are built for mountain travel. Tell them apart from white-tailed deer by their black-tipped tails, donkey-like ears, and hopping gait. Whitetail tend to stick to the agricultural lowlands, and when spooked, their fluffy white tails flare straight up as they bound away.

Mule Deer

Mule deer raise their heads from grazing.


Elk
While it’s rare to see elk on the trail, it does happen, especially if you hike in the sage-flecked meadows of Yellowstone Park. More likely, you’ll see huge herds on your way to and from the trailhead, often grouped on private land in the valleys, safe from hunters’ bullets. Dawn and dusk, fall, winter, and spring are the best times to spot elk, and Paradise and Madison valleys are both full of them.

A bull elk in velvet

A bull elk in velvet.


Birds of Prey
Eagles, falcons, and hawks enliven Montana’s big, blue sky, and fall is an excellent time to observe them in huge numbers. Many hawk species migrate along the Bridger Range in October, so hike up to the ridge and bust out the binos. Along our many rivers and streams, look for bald eagles, a formerly endangered species that has made a huge comeback. Out in the open fields, hawks and falcons perch on power poles and fencelines, looking for rodents scurrying through the grass.

A bald eagle sitting atop its perch.

A common sight along Montana’s rivers.


Canines
Foxes and coyotes are fairly common sights around these parts. They’re similar in size, but the former’s bright-orange coat makes it unmistakable. While folks new to town might see coyotes as majestic wildlife, many locals see them as a nuisance. Still, watching one lope across an open field as the sun sets on the mountains is a sight to behold. Wolves are far less common, especially outside Yellowstone Park. Inside the Park, if your goal is to see Canis lupus, head in early and follow the naturalist tour-guide vans. The Lamar Valley is a good bet.

A fox looks back after trodding through the snow.

A red fox sizing up the risk.


Small Mammals
Small critters get much less fanfare, but they’re worth mentioning. A few standouts are marmots, pikas, and gophers (aka, Richardson’s ground squirrels). Marmots are fairly common in the alpine, and you can find them by following their high-pitched chirps. Their call is a warning cry, and they’ll start screaming as soon as you’re on their radar. Pikas are far less common, and indeed, they’re in trouble, due to warming temps. They occupy large rock clusters and if you spot large splotches of white droppings, odds are a pika is inside. Gophers are the pigeons of southwest Montana. From spring through mid-summer, they’re everywhere and no local would fault you for picking off one or two with a pellet gun.

Small animal tracks through the snow.

Small animal tracks through the snow.


Ursines & Felines
The “coolest” animals are usually the toothiest. Around here, that means bears, cougars, bobcats, and lynx. Our area has good populations of grizzly and black bears, but odds of seeing a grizzly are pretty low outside of Yellowstone. Black bears are far more common. Tell them apart by the shape of their faces and the telltale hump above the griz’s shoulder. Bobcats are also fairly common, but far stealthier than bears. For one, they’re much smaller—about the size of a medium-sized dog—and they tend to stalk their prey silently, whereas bears are primarily scavengers, wandering around from smell to smell in search of their next meal. Cougars and lynx are extremely hard to see in the wild. Their stealth is unrivaled in the animal kingdom, and if you see one, count yourself among the lucky few.

Up close and personal with a mountain lion.

Up close and personal with a cougar.

Ten Minutes, Landscape, Night Sky, Stars, Colors

Ten Minutes a Day

The importance of taking time.

by Corey Hockett

As we move further into the 21st century, distractions historically deemed outrageous, are now becoming the norm. It is custom to check Facebook every 15 minutes, watch Netflix on the daily, and not leave without a phone charger. Rapid interruptions are now routine. News outlets are altering the way they publish information due to shortened human attention spans.  Sensory bombardment is higher than it’s ever been and it’s changing the way we live.

StudentLife05 (600x384)

Time management isn’t easy, especially in college. Juggling schedules, meeting deadlines, figuring out when and where to eat — where does it all fit? Assignments pile up and dates arrive faster than expected. And with the increase in tempo, stress levels elevate as well.

Thus, I propose a challenge: ten minutes a day. This year and here forward, devote ten minutes a day, everyday, entirely to yourself. And I don’t mean brush aside homework so you can burn one and play Pokémon Go. Forget the vibrating rectangle in your pocket. Free yourself of screen, social circles, and work. You’ll be surprised what it offers. You may become inspired or remember something you forgot. Modern day has taught us to switch our brains every few seconds, so ten minutes without disruption may seem like an eternity. But it’s not long at all.

Landscape, Perspective, Mountains, Backcountry, Adventure

The other day I was run down. My workload from three different jobs was overwhelming and I had family issues to deal with. I couldn’t focus and my mind told me there wasn’t enough time to get everything done. But after work, I went straight to one of my favorite spots on the Gallatin. I didn’t walk half-a-mile before I was out-of-sight of all human activity and when I found a good area, I sat facing the river against a blown down tree. I watched and listened, and within five minutes, everything was clear. Suddenly, my schedule didn’t seem that packed and my issues weren’t as big as I initially made them out to be — everything was fine. But what had changed? In the literal sense, nothing, but in my outlook, everything. I eased off the  gas for a mere moment and that was all it took for my perspective to relax.

Ten minutes. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat will be there when you’re done, but for those ten minutes, simplify.  Instead of dedicating unnecessary concern to a frenzied world of cyberspace, let nature play in front of you. Give yourself a chance to have a thought you otherwise wouldn’t, or don’t think at all. Focus on the elements we so often take for granted — the westward wind, a chirping chickadee, your own heartbeat.

DevonLach_MSU_People-5

I’ve since been back to that spot on the Gallatin multiple times, each occasion erasing my stresses. But it doesn’t have to be a river, it can be as easy as laying on a field outside your dorm room, whatever works for you, just take the time.

Everyday traffic isn’t going to slow down and social realms will forever be easy to join. Filter your sensory and remember what’s important. Don’t forget to step back once-in-a-while. If you want to find yourself, you’ve got to hang out with yourself. Take ten. You’ll thank yourself down the line.

Courtesy_Boz-hot-springs

Springs Break

Some like it hot.

by Corey Hockett

Soaking in hot springs, aka “hot-potting,” is a universal and timeless pleasure. Nothing beats the sensation of slipping into slightly stinging water, only to feel comfy and tranquil seconds later. Whether you’ve had a great day on the slopes, been in the library too long, or just have an afternoon off, these are the spots in which to soak your bones.

Lap of Luxury
For those into a well-developed, plush backdrop, check out these commercial pools for a luxurious soak.

Bozeman Hot Springs
Status: Developed
Access: Open to the public
Admission: $8.50
Location: 8 miles west of Bozeman

Courtesy_Boz-hot-springs2This massive facility recently underwent renovation and now has nine pools, both inside and out. It has wet and dry saunas, a fitness center, and campground. If you’re coming back from Big Sky or don’t want to travel far, this is your place.

 

Chico Hot Springs
Status: Developed
Access: Open to the public as well as to registered guests
Admission: $7.50 for adults; less for kids. Guests soak free
Location: 22 miles south of Livingston

KenDineen_chico_contest

Located in Paradise Valley, just south of Livingston, Chico provides two refreshing pools and an assortment of accommodation options for overnighters. Check it out if your family is in town or you’re looking for a romantic weekend getaway.

Norris Hot Springs
Status: Developed
Access: Open to the public
Admission: $7 for adults; reduced for kids and seniors
Location: 35 miles west of Bozeman

CourtesyNorris

This 30’ x 40’ pool is a collection of geothermal springs located near the Madison River. Dubbed “Water of the Gods” by the current owner, Norris has live music every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Added bonus: be the DD and get in for free.

 

Simple Soaking
If you’re the less-is-more type, or prefer nature to civilization, these are your hot spots.

Boiling River
Status: Primitive
Access: Unrestricted (Yellowstone Park pass required)
Admission: Park pass is $35 for single vehicle
Location: 2 miles south of Gardiner

KimTashjian-BoilingRiver

Just inside the Gardiner entrance to Yellowstone National Park, scalding channels mingle with the cold river water to form the perfect temperature for soaking—and this set of pools is only a half-mile walk from the parking lot. This gem is a must, but expect crowds.

Potosi Hot Springs
Status: Primitive
Access: Open to the public
Admission: Free
Location: 8 miles west of Pony
Head to Pony and travel southwest on Potosi Rd. / South Willow Creek Rd. Follow the signs to the campground and then venture the mile-long trail back down the creek to the spring. It’s not the warmest pool around, but it’s sized nicely for a group of 6-8.

Renova Hot Springs
Status: Primitive
Access: Open to the public
Admission: Free
Location: 10 miles south of Whitehall
Head south of Whitehall on Hwy. 55, taking the Waterloo turnoff. The road deposits you a quarter-mile from the spring, where you can bathe in rock-lined pools along a side-channel of the Jefferson River. The river mixes with warmer thermal water in two separate hot-water seeps, creating a variety of soaking temperatures. Check the river flow beforehand; at high water, the pools can get washed out.