A Hike Across The Lake
It has been a busy summer; we are glad. However, busy days translate into little time to hike. The last few weeks, most of my outdoor time has been spent jogging - not a sport at which I excell (nor one I particularly enjoy) but, nonetheless, a good way to get quick exercise and enjoy the sunrise.
Due to the 'lack' of hiking, however, I obviously jump on a chance to go, even for a couple hours. So when I found a little time one afternoon, my faithful helper, friend, and co-hiker, Anna, and I did a quick review of our options. Nothing too long. Nothing to far away. Nothing too familiar (after all, we wanted to make the most of this window in time). So, after a brief deliberation, we decided to take sa boat across the bay and hike around on Elk Mountain's west slope.
The afternoon shimmered with light. A breeze threatened to become wind as thunderclouds billowed in the distance. However, we decided to risk a squall (which didn't come), grabbed our cameras, and headed for the boat dock.
I spend the majority of my time behind the camera. Since Anna finds herself in the same position, we have decided to photograph each other (keeping our fingers crossed our cameras survive the experience) to record our presence in this place we love so much. So. . .this post will feature more personal photos than normal. If nothing else they will prove I really live in this amazing place!
Cut across Elk Mountain's west face is a trail, almost road-width. A leftover of a bygone era, this pounded track used to feel the hooves of many animals moving between grazing sections. Known as a stock driveway, one can find similar routes beaten into the terrain in various locations - sometimes the most unlikely ones.
The cattle had been grazing this side of the lake for a few weeks. Thus the stock driveway and numerous other 'preferred' paths were well used. We stuck to the stock driveway awhile, photographing and enjoying the flowers which flourish in the cool shade provided by the large evergreens.
Where to go? Awww - what a delightful dilemna. We were enjoying ourselves so much, it really didn't matter. However, in the end, we decided to hike further up the mountain's side, thinking to gain better vistas (and loose a little of the 'cow' aroma). Along the way we found more flowers to enjoy.
As we climbed, the terrain became more rocky - the perfect setting for Montana's tough and beautiful state flower - the ever gorgeous Bitterroot. I know every state has its flower. However, I can think of few state flowers which so perfectly reflect the character of the people. Tough. Hardy. Able to grow in a less than perfect environment. Beautiful in spite of its challenges. Useful. I suspect, if I gave it much thought, I could come up with a few more attributes to compare the flower to the people. However, the hike must go on - and, in our case, up!
Except for the well traveled trail, we were quickly climbing out of the favorite cow haunts. The grass became taller. The smells more forest and less bovine. Nonetheless, like the Bitterroot, Montana's cows are hardy stock. As we crested out on the top of the first knoll, what did we find? A few more cows. These heifers were so curious they actually followed us for awhile.
Okay, I'll admit it. I like cows. I appreciate cowboys and cowgirls and farmers and their wives and all those who have, for the most part, 'conserved' much of the western lifestyle and countryside which outsiders so enjoy. So, I couldn't resist a few pictures of this black beauty. But, you have to admit she has a pretty face!
From what I've read, photographers like contrasting elements - amongst other things. Certainly the rocky scree which occupied most of our remaining time, was fairly bursting with contrast. Rocks. Flowers. Twisted limbs of long departed sage. Ferns. Amazing. Even with full sun we couldn't resist trying to capture some of the magic of this hillside - visible from the lodge but probably visited by very very few.
I stand amazed at how something so harsh and unforgiving can provide succor to something so delicate and beautiful. It gives meaning to the phrase, "Beauty from ashes."
With all her amazing talent, I do not think our recent wedding florist could not top the beauty found naturally in God's creation. It's almost as someone planted these together, between the rough pock-marked granite boulder and the yellow lichen splashed rock.
Try as I might - and I did try (I even have Anna's photo for proof) - I couldn't begin to capture the beauty in these wildflowers. However, I have to say I think Anna did a great job of capturing the essence of my loves. Elk Lake in the background. A camera in hand. A rocky mountain setting. Sunshine - blue skies - a wild country. I am so very blessed!
Obviously I am not alone in my enjoyment of this incredible piece of creation. Anna loves it too. Obviously! Thus it is only appropriate I take a picture of her in her favorite environment too.
We just couldn't get enough. At one point Anna asked me, "What are we going to do with all these pictures?" Well, at the least, we'll create some blog posts - and some memories.
Many of the trees on Elk Mountain have succumbed to the pine beattle plague. While I hated to see much of the verdant mountain-side turn rusty and then grey, I hope one day to enjoy the Aspen's softer greens and brilliant reds and golds as they, hopefully, retake old territory. Mixed in with the next generation of evergreens (seen in the cow portraits) and the stately monarchs (like this gnarly old man of the mountain), perhaps one day the mountain will regain its former beauty.
Even now, as these photos have shown, there is beauty around every corner and across every log - and, in this case, beside every rock. Red lichen. Red flowers. And, look closely. The backdrop is not sky as you might have first supposed. That is the lake's blue waters.
A few feet further and the vegetation opened fully to reveal the steep rock slide we had just traversed resting above the beautiful waters of Elk Lake. What a view!
The view across the lake looking north toward the Madisons was expansive, to say the least. A deep blue jewel raked by the wind's fingers, cradled by sage green hills splashed with dark evergreens against the deep blue mountain backdrop and canopied by the blue, grey, and white of a thundercloud-studded sky - this is Big Sky country at its best!
And then there's the view looking south-west. A simple little resort nestled amongst the hills sprinkled with sagebrush and evergreens and resting along the shore's of a quiet lake - has anyone ever enjoyed a more wild and picturesque home? I can't imagine it!
How quickly the time flies. Soon duty called. Responding appropriately we followed the grassy ridge down to the lake shore then briefly amused some nearby fishermen as, within feet of our faithful transport, we searched the shoreline wondering where we'd left our boat. Oh - just over there, around the point of that hill. Clamber aboard. A quick jaunt across the lake. And we returned to the home place which had seemed so far - and yet so near - just a few brief moments earlier.
Lady of the Lake