A Hike To Goose Lake

This time of year my excursions are usually limited to 'close to home' (although, in a future post I will be sharing the story and photos from a recent hike to Sheep Lake). Of course there are few areas within a reasonable (2 to 3 hour) hiking distance which I have not explored - at least once. However, some places are worth a second (and third and fourth and so on) visit. Goose Lake is one such place.
Regular readers might remember Goose Lake as the location I found the infamous "Jackalope" skull featured in last year's Humble Pie post. Others might remember a post from further back featuring an earlier-in-the-season hike to Goose Lake. Obviously, Goose Lake is not a new location. Nonetheless, it is a pleasurable one.
What is Goose Lake's draw? I think, more than anything, it is the serenity. Not that this is an 'elusive' element around Elk Lake. It is, in fact, easily found. However, for those of us who not only live, but also work here, the opportunity to slip away to a lake with fish and birds and other wildlife (and no work close-by) is still a treat.
This particular hike started a bit late since we had morning chores to complete before heading out the door. However, the previous evening had featured a nice shower which left the mid-morning air fresh and brisk. As we headed down the trail to our boathouse (to do a bit of cleanup before hitting the 'real' trail), the sunlight danced off raindrops on the leaves bordering our path.
Hidden Lake is a favorite 'hidden' haunt of local (and not-so-local) fly-fishermen. Thus we were not surprise to find a couple of fishermen there ahead of us. In fact, by the time we made our way back past the lake we counted EIGHT people along the shore. Who would think a little lake at the end of a gravel and dirt road would be such a popular spot? I guess it's just a testiment to the quality fishing and amazing beauty.
At Hidden Lake's north end, we came to the Hoodoo Pass junction. I've taken the hike, up - up - up that hill. It's a pretty walk, but today our feet kept us heading toward little 'ole Goose Lake. So, around the corner and down the canyon we tramped.
Three or four Grizzlies have been sighted on the Refuge this spring / summer. However, my hikes have not turned up so much as an old Grizzly track. I have seen a few Black Bear tracks, but nothing as fresh as the one we came across on our way down to Goose.
The rain the previous evening had left this section of the trail very muddy. Thus the bear left distinct images, and we were able to set a general time he (or she although there was only the one set of tracks so. . .) had passed our way. Although it was clearly a Black Bear, and although we had our bear spray, we were still glad to see he / she had been heading back the way we'd come. That meant we weren't as likely to come around a corner and find ourselves nose-to-nose with a black hairy creature who thought it owned this stretch of forest!
As long as the frost does not come too early (and too hard), it looks like this may be a great year for berries. Certainly all of our recent hikes have had built in 'pick-your-own fruit stands' scattered along the trail. Today it was wild strawberries - and they were lovely, red, and large (for wild ones that is).
As a few frequent fishermen might admit, Goose Lake has some beautiful residents. However, if they admit to their presence, they will probably also tell you they are not so easy to catch.
Goose is a fairly shallow lake. Certainly it is not deep enough to avoid freezing to an uninhabitable point unless something keeps it from doing so. Since I've never tackled the trek back here on snowshoes, I cannot speak from experience. However, based on the fact that the fish are not stocked and the natives not only survive but obviously thrive in this little lake, I've come to the conclusion the spring holes (like the one shown above surrounded by numerous fish) must keep the lake from freezing too deep as well as provide a source of food / oxygen to keep the fish alive.
Goose Lake's water is so clear, we were able to watch the fish swimming just a few feet from shore. This photo shows one of the nice Rainbows which swam within a few yards of where we sat. A Beautiful Fish!
The day did not provide any large game sightings. However, we did not expect to see much along that line in the middle of the day. But, as I tell folks who visit Elk Lake, what you see is really dependent on what you look for. I have learned that no hike (or jog, for that matter) is without something to see. And, as a result, I've gained a deeper appreciation for the critters who share my trails and haunts. From birds to bugs, from fish to falcons, from deer to dragonflies - there is always something to see, to enjoy, and from which to learn a little more.
Some of my birding guests have taken up Dragonfly photography. While I have neither the time nor the desire (right now) to join their pursuit, several of these stripped winged something-or-others (I'm afraid I do not know Dragonfly names - yet) caught my eye. With their big eyes, they are nearly impossible to approach (one of the reasons I'm not yet ready to attempt photographing them). However, this one let me get close enough to capture a decent image.

The quiet rustling of the wind in the trees - the static vibration of a dragonfly's wings - the splash of a jumping trout - the snapping and popping of the grasshoppers - these serendaded us as we relaxed by the shore. That is until the piercing cry of an Osprey cut across these peaceful sounds. I think he was telling us to get a move on - we were trespassing on one of his favorite fishing spots. Why do fishermen get so possessive of 'their' favorite holes? Whatever the reason, our time had come to go. And so, once again, I said 'good-bye' to this peaceful spot and headed back up the trail to Hidden (hoping the bear had not finished his business and headed our direction). Ahhh - what a lovely way to idle away an afternoon!
Lady of the Lake


Trout Unlimited at elk lake

Sitting just west of Yellowstone National Park as some benefits - well, it actually has a LOT of benefits! Obviously the place overflows with wild, untouched nature. The wildlife viewing and variety aren't too bad either. The natural beauty still takes my breath away even after nearly 8 privileged years. However, one often overlooked (or at least underrated) benefit is the variety of people we are blessed to meet.

I think we have had the opportunity to meet (and, with most, get to know) people from just about every ethnic, social, and economic class - at least a sampling. We've had guests from many countries and from nearly every state of the union (I'd risk saying every, but I'll play it conservative just in case we've missed one). The best part is learning a little bit about these folks - making some connections - becoming friends.

We have had the privilege of not only hosting, but getting to know folks (both individuals and groups) involved with a variety of different causes and organization. Often we find that while our opinion (if differing) often changes little, yet our differenes are not as different as we previously thought - and we may even find we see eye-to-eye on more issues than we'd imagined.

A recent visit from Trout Unlimited is a perfect example. I had heard of TU, but I really knew nothing about them. In my mind, they were just another one of the conservation groups whose work I assumed had something to do with trout and trout streams (deep observation, I know).

Having come from the Rocky's west side, in our 'prior' life we were probably more aware of the 'other' perspective. In other words, we'd seen ranchers harrased because their cows were drinking from (and standing in and, yes, even pooping in) a possible Salmon spawning stream. We had watched as livestock-owning landowners were nearly forced to fence out streams running through their property - perchance a Salmon ever swam up that waterway. Yet the whole thing often made little sense; especially as we knew several of those streams went dry by early summer and no fish had been seen plying those waters - at least not in record.

So, when Chris Hunt from Trout Unlimited contacted me about hosting the first TU Blogger Tour at Elk Lake, well, I was interested in their business from a purely business standpoint. However, I must admit I was also a little curious. Perhaps five or six or seven years ago I would not have been, but, after meeting all those different people and hearing all those different stories and seeing things from all those different perspectives - I actually have reason to hope I have become - if not more agreeable, at least more tolerant (and a bit more curious). TU and the bloggers didn't let me down.

Of course, the first question was (at least from my perspective) the most obvious. What's the point? What is TU hoping to accomplish here? While I still don't fully understand, Chris Hunt put it this way in his July 24th post on the TU Blog, "The first-ever Trout Unlimited Blogger Tour starts today in southwest Montana–four bloggers are attending the inaugural event at Elk Lake Resort in the heart of Centennial Valley. Bloggers will get a look at TU’s work all over the region to restore prime trout and grayling habitat, and to protect intact habitat from unwise or unneeded industrial development."

(Above photo courtesy of Jeff ("Owl") of OwlJones.com) I must admit, the Centennial Valley is the last place I'd expect TU to have taken their bloggers to view the protection of habitat from 'unwise and unneeded industrial development.' After all, the Centennial is probably one of the least developed spots in the lower 48. We have no industry. Shucks, as our visitors will attest, we barely have roads (at least it feels that way some times). However, maybe therein lies the logic: This is the way we 'want' things to look - at least as often as possible. Certainly the Centennial shows the pristine side of a protected environment.

As you will notice, I can't claim ownership of any of the photos in this post. They are all courtesy of TU and the bloggers. Photo credit is given with each photo. The header photo, a beautiful Grayling picture, is courtesy of Eat More Brook Trout - a TU blog.

(Another photo courtesy of Jeff ("Owl") of OwlJones.com) Usually the best way to judge someone (or something) is by what they say. While we've all known folks who 'talk good' but fail to live up to their words - typically an organization is out to attract folks with similar beliefs (and, of course, convert others to those beliefs). Thus they usually state their viewpoint in a fairly straightforward manner. So. . .what does TU's website say? Their National Conservation Agenda from September 2010 says they are seeking to protect, "Native trout and salmon watersheds. . .from pollution from energy development, mining, agricultural run-off, acid deposition, and other sources. . ." Of course this is just a 'piece' of the document. I'd encourage you to read the whole thing. (I chose this section because it supports what TU put on its blog - which gives them credence.)

(Above Grayling photo courtesy of TU via their Eat More Brook Trout.com blog) So, who were these guys and why were they here? For that matter, what difference did it make? Based on scraps of conversation heard around the breakfast table the first morning, TU is seeking to expand their base. They are looking for new and innovative ways to reach a broader section of the population. They are seeking to show the 'worthiness' of their goals. They desire to reach across the age and gender gaps to interact effectively with more people, in more areas, and from more walks of life. Part of this plan involved these four bloggers. But why these four? Well, if rumors hold water, TU ran a contest and these four won. Now, I doubt they let anyone enter. Obviously they didn't contact me :-) Perhaps that is because I obviously do not live, eat, and breathe fishing - nor do I have the ability to write interesting and compelling fishing stories creating a faithful following with similar compulsions.

(Above Rainbow photo courtesy The Tail Out Travis DuBois' blog) Because I was dependent upon the bloggers for photos - and some have failed to respond to my plea for pictures - I do not have a picture of Mike Sepelak of Mike's Gone Fishing - Again!. However, there is proof he was here posted on Sanders' blog. One of the things which surprised me the most was the short time many of these guys have been blogging. The Elk Lake blog has been up and running longer than even the longest running blog represented in this group. Mike, who has been blogging since 2009, won the 'longest running' honors.

Mike is a retired North Carolinan who seemed to be the 'note-taker' of the crowd. Thus I am a bit dissapointed he has written so little about his trip. I had hoped he would give us the best run down on the 'whats' and 'wherefores' related to TU and their goals and aspirations. As its sounds like he's encountered both computer issues and air travel earned 'rewards', perhaps this will come.

(This photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited's Blog) The next longest blogger is a young man named Travis. His blog The Tail Out started because, as he said, he likes to fish, likes to take pictures and, as a result, was filling his computer with records of his excursions. So, why not? Travis comes from Alaska but currently lives and works in Pocatello, Idaho. In my humble opinion, this young man is the group's best writer. While I've not become a follower (nor have I joined the ranks of the 'fish fascinated'), I have enjoyed reading his posts.

This photo, labeled "A Common Montana Vine" from Travis' blog, shows not only his sense of humor but also his unique view of his surroundings.

So, what was Travis' take on TU? Well, I had to chuckle when Travis admitted over breakfast that first morning, "You guys are probably going to kill me, but I'm not a member of TU." I suspect the TU folks already knew this - and I admire them for bringing along an 'outsider'. However, in the end, Travis had this to say, "Being perfectly honest I had never considered becoming a TU member. Since I don't smoke a pipe or own any tweed I thought I would be an outcast. The fact that I occasionally fish a San Juan under a bobber (whoops I mean indicator) wouldn't have helped the situation. Those were completely unfounded assumptions that my skeptic tendencies had created. Seeing and learning about the work that has and is being done here in the Centennial Valley really impressed me. It was clear that TU is a well oiled conservation machine, for anglers, and more specifically for the next generation of anglers. Looking to the future, TU also realizes that they will have to pass the torch to new members for the continued success of their protected watersheds located all over the US."

Does that sound like a plug? Travis freely admits that it is. "OK, if it sounds like I'm plugging TU, I am. Being an angler (fly or conventional) should be synonymous with being a conservationist. Not a tree hugger or a hippy (unless that's what you're in to), but a sportsmen who appreciates their public land and resources that it offers. This public land we can access freely and use should be protected, and TU does an excellent job doing that. Trout Unlimited is not just a good 'ol boys club that meets once a week to tie size 22 trico's."

You'll have to read the post for the rest - however, as I'm sure you can see, Travis came away with a positive perspective which I am sure pleased TU immensely.

(Owl's picture courtesy of - well, quite frankly, I'm not sure. I've found it on more than one of the blogger's sites so. . .take your pick) Next in blogging senority is Jeff Jones, better known as "Owl" from Owl Jones.com. I must say, Owl brought laughter to the group. His fun sense of humor (read his blog, you'll see what I mean) and his willingness to take some ribbing (and give a bit as well), added fun to what could (possibly) have been a serious event.

Best known (by the end of their sojourn) for his Darth vader helmet - Owl readily admits his aversion to insects (and I readily admit Montana has a few :-) - Owl is an unemployed guy from Georgia. Obviously not a slacker (his well-setup blog proves this), he obviously loves the sport. So, what was his perspective? In his post, Total Disclosure he says, "I have not always been the biggest TU fan or supporter. I’ve been a member of TU on and off several times over the last decade. I’m sure my opinions of TU National over the years has irked more than a few TU members. The truth is, I can’t make apologies about the opinions I held in the past because I still feel those opinions were warranted at the time. This “Blogger Tour” event where we got to sit down and really talk to some of the leadership has possibly even confirmed those former opinions, because the light has been shined on the way TU is transforming itself into a bigger, better organization

I must admit, the thing I appreciated most about these guys was their honesty. TU possibly could have wined and dined and fished these guys into compliance. However, not only do I think TU didn't try that approach, but I really don't think any of these guys could have been bought. That, more than anything, is probably the best advertisement TU will receive from this blogging tour.

(Sander's photo courtesy of his blog) The youngest blogger (not in age but in blogging experience) is Sean Sanders, better known as 'Sanders'. A likeable guy with a ready smile, Sanders lives in Colorado and works for a copier company to fund his real passion - fishing! Sanders has only been blogging since March 2011 yet he already has a faithful following. Asked what prompted him to begin he replied he liked to write, was passionate about fishing, and wanted to spare his wife from having to listen to every last little detail of his fishing escapades.

Sanders' take on this whole TU event came from yet another perspective. In his post Montana Discussion he said, "The four days spent in the Centennial Valley were more than just a great fishing trip, it was an education. It was important to see the people and places my membership dollars support. It was important to get that interaction. And as I continue to support TU and their ongoing efforts, I am confident that they have my best interests in mind.

All in all, I think Corey Fisher (photo courtesy of the TU blog) and the rest of the Trout Unlimited crew ought to be mighty happy with their bloggers' response. Furthermore, if one can base anything on the very different viewpoints of these four guys, I think TU definitely has its place in the overall conservation scheme.

Lady of the Lake


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


A Fishy Project - Grayling Reintroduction

I have mentioned Narrow's Creek in numerous previous posts. The pond on Narrow's Creek (which sits up the draw from the lodge) has been the 'star feature' of numerous photos. Many guests have traversed the quarter mile or so up the narrow canyon from which the creek derives its name to enjoy the wildlife which frequent the little stream and the pond.

However, the real story behind this unassuming creek is a lot deeper than the few inches of water which trickle down the canyon and a lot more impressive than the pond's pretty face. In fact, Narrow's Creek has been the subject of numerous studies and even more stories over the years.

Why? For at least a couple of reasons. One, Narrow's Creek, that little, unassuming, NARROW creek which flows down the canyon, has been the spawning grounds for numerous generations of fish. Cutthroat Trout and Grayling have entertained guests and produced a healthy population of young fish for Elk Lake over the years.

Many times I have heard stories of the fish spawning in this creek. Thick as fleas on a dog's back, I've been told. You could reach in and grab them as they swam by, I've heard. Water splashing marked their passage and lullabied many to sleep, so they say.

That story ended several years ago. By the time we came to live at Elk Lake, Narrow's Creek was an intermittent visitor, certainly not reliable enough to provide spawning habitat - for that matter, not even reliable enough to keep the creekbed grass free. Thus we lost our Grayling population, and the Cuts have lost their ability to reproduce. Thankfully, that is about to change!

For several years we have complained about the management (or mis-management) of the creek. For several years we have asked to have the Grayling reintroduced and their spawning grounds restored. Finally our voice has been heard. Simple, unassuming Narrow's Creek has hit the top (or nearly the top) of the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks' priority list.

Unlike Trout, Grayling are difficult to raise in a hatchery situation. Thus the best way to protect Montana's native Grayling population is to protect their spawning habitat. At least that makes sense to lay-people like me. However, the fact that Narrow's Creek has not flowed properly in several years to testimony to inconsistencies and mis-placed authority.

While I have little doubt everyone involved in the past Narrow's Creek management had good intentions, sometimes people were allowed to 'put their theories into practice' without having to prove the viability of their ideas before applying them. As a result, Narrow's Creek has been tampered with. Having lived here several years - up close and personal with Narrow's Creek - I believe I have earned the right to say: it has been harmed.

Like every other publicly owned 'situation', the management of Montana's fisheries is not without issues. One major issue which has had direct impact on Narrow's Creek and Elk Lake's Grayling population is the 'ownership' issue. It seems the USFS owns (okay, we, the people, own, but it sure seems like they own) the land and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) manages the fish living in the streams on that land. This works fine until there is a disagreement on how the waterways ought to be managed.

When we first arrived at Elk Lake, there was a 'fish' guy working for the USFS who was convinced the reason Narrow's Creek's flow had diminished was because the acquifer which fed it was diminishing. Basically his theory said: If I slow the creek's flow, I can replenish the acquifer and thus, ultimately, improve the stream's flow.

This theory, based on a study done in Colorado (I have the study as I questioned his ideas and was given the study as 'proof' he was right), required the re-introduction of beavers. However, because the FWP did not hold to the same idea, the beavers failed to arrive (and, based Beaver dam issues which have plagued the Grayling spawning out of Upper Red Rock Lake, I am glad they did not). So, to 'prove' he was right, he stuffed the creek bed full of every piece of downed timber and natural junk he could find.

Take a look at the preceeding photo. As you can see, the meadow around Narrow's Creek is virtually 'junk' free. The creek bed, however, is crammed full of everything 'natural' which he could lay his hands upon. For a broader view, take a closer look at the photo at the top of the page.

Unfortunately, this person had the authority to make such drastic changes based on a study done in Colorado. And, his idea was implemented the full length of the creek bed - from the upper meadow, clear down to where it crosses the road and enters the resort grounds.

Perhaps, had all things been equal, this would have worked. However, this is Montana, not Colorado - and that resulted in some big differences. The major difference - the soil makeup. As the moles reveal each winter, the ground over which Narrow's Creek flows is full of rock - little rock! In fact, these tunnels look like they've been created in a gravel pile.

So the inevitable happened. The creek, gagging on all the junk in its path, slowed. As it slowed, more and more water seeped into the soil instead of running down the stream. Slowly, but surely, year after year, less and less water made it downstream to the spawning beds. Without doubt it made it to the lake - but through the soil, not down the creek bed.

To the USFS's employee's credit, we did endure several dry years. However, I have talked with a grand-daughter of the first owners. Gloria spent many years at Elk Lake as a young person and then as an adult. In fact, she is one of the few Selbys who continue to visit the Centennial on a regular basis. Thus I have had the privilege of hearing some of her memories.

She spoke of the fish spawning in Narrow's Creek. Her stories confirmed the stories I'd heard from numerous past guests. I asked her if the creek had ever NOT run. No, she replied. It had always run - even in the dry years. Perhaps they didn't have to put up with well-meaning but mis-informed Forest Service employees who were given too much authority with too little accountability.

Yet he doesn't deserve all the blame. I chuckle when I think of our first conversation with the USFS before we purchased Elk Lake. We were told Narrow's Creek was a sensitive and important fish habitat. Well, I must say, it makes one wonder how come such a sensitive and important habitat doesn't warrant a decent culvert! While this has been a very good water year, every spring, at least for a little while, the creek runs over the road. Why? Because the culvert is in such bad shape it cannot handle even a 'normal' year's water flow. In this picture you can see the water running over the road, the 'pond' it has created over the years, the 'new creek bed' which flows from that pond to the creek bed, and the 'real' creek bed off to the right.

All that said, the FWP finally set their sights on fixing the problem. And, as these things go, we finally broke free of the low water years. As a result, this spring we had more water than has ever been documented flowing down Narrow's Creek. We had trout trying to spawn up the creek. And, we have hope that at least some of the issues which have harmed this 'sensitive and important' habitat will finally be handled properly. In the mean time, we've enjoyed a babbling creek outside our door - even if it did threaten to go over one of our footbridges.

A walk up the creek this spring (and even this summer) has been a totally different experience. While the creek has always flowed (or at least trickled) above and below the pond, this spring it ROARED out of the pond. (By the way, I asked the Selby's grand-daughter if she knew if the dam at the pond's base was natural or man-made - since it seems no one else knows. Her answer: I don't know. So. . .we still don't know).

The pond practically burst at its seams this spring. Obviously the water could only get so high before it flowed over the dam. However, its limits were maxed out (and it was a great sight to see).

Never a large creek, Narrow's Creek still couldn't contain itself within its banks. It's almost as if the little creek knew it had finally received a friendly glance and was doing its best to show its true worth.

Further up the trail the creek passes through what I call a 'rocky scree'. This very rocky section has a faint creek bed, but, for the most part, the creek appears to have traditionally flowed underground from the base of the upper meadow to just below the rocky scree where it pops back up again to chatter its way on down the valley. However, this year, for a short period of time, the underground passage couldn't contain the water flow. Thus it spilled all over the rocky little canyon - a sight to behold and admire.

Even the upper meadow's creek bed (which traditionally has run every spring for at least a couple of months) could not contain the water's flow. Thus, for a few short weeks the meadow floor became a mini-swamp.

But the point of this post is not just to harp on mis-management. While it does frustrate anyone who has been privy to the ways of government, there is reason to rejoice. For, not only do we appear to have broken free of the dry-cycle, Narrow's Creek has finally received the attention it deserves. And, while no one has attempted to un-clog its waterways (which I still cannot understand), there is a plan in process to once again re-establish the Grayling and their spawning habitat at Elk Lake.

The first phase focuses on getting Grayling back into the lake. As a result, three years ago the Flathead fish hatchery hatched a bunch of Red Rock Grayling eggs. However, no Grayling made it to Elk Lake that year. Nothing the next (in spite of hatching a few more eggs). But finally, last year, we received a load of Grayling ranging 5 inches and up. So far, no one has caught any of these newcomers.

But, according to FWP, the best way to get the process going is to hatch the eggs here. Thus, this spring, the little un-named creek which flows on the south side of the property took on a new look. Several man-made pools created with rocks and tarps slowed the water and created a reservoir into which the FWP put PVC pipes.

These pipes carried water into the Incubator Buckets. We were first introduced to these buckets last year when we helped transport some Grayling eggs to another set of incubator buckets on Elk Springs Creek. They are quite an ingenious setup which has showed promise in other areas (i.e. not an untested, unproven idea) and has worked well on Elk Springs Creek.

Water, carried from the pools by the PVC pipes, flows into the lower part of the bucket. About two-thirds of the way up, a screen is placed across the bucket. The fish eggs are placed on this screen. Above the screen and near the top of the bucket, the water exits the incubator. While this experiment did not have the success it has enjoyed on Elk Springs Creek (for numerous reasons), a portion of the fry did hatch. You can see a few in this photo - white strings with a 'bump' head.

Once the fry hatch, they swim to the top and are carried by the water flow out the pipe near the top of the bucket. From here they begin to make their way downstream. Here you can see another fry (middle right side) in one of the lower 'pools'.

If everything works right, these fry will be imprinted by this stream. Thus the second stage of the project must move ahead. As of right now, it sounds like the FWP (working with the USFS for a change) will be piping water from Narrows Creek (during spawning season), to what they are now calling Spring Creek (that unnamed creek on the south side of the resort). Spring Creek will undergo some work to make it 'spawning friendly'. Thus, Grayling which are looking for a place to spawn (and any of these young who survive life in the big bad lake) will have a place to pass on their genes. And, eventually, Narrows Creek is to be re-habitated as well. So - - - if (and, of course, these are always big 'ifs') everything goes according to plan, Elk Lake will end up with two spawning streams and once again enjoy a locally reproducing population of Grayling. . .

And, if this trout (it is cammoflauged between the two pipes about the middle of the picture) has any say, some Cutthroat Trout as well. One way or the other, there is hope simple little Narrows Creek will once again be allowed to run free. And, best case scenario, native Grayling will once again live and reproduce within the waters and tributaries of Elk Lake.

Lady of the Lake