A Real Foxy Visitor At Our Montana Resort

When we first moved to Elk Lake Resort, we had a semi-tame fox whom the dogs tolerated because they could never catch her even though she visited regularly. However, our second or third winter she died.

Since then, we have seen foxes, but more often we see their tracks. But this winter, something has been different. I don't know whether last year was a great fox reproductive year or whether the local wolves have pushed them closer to people or whether the stars have just aligned perfectly, but fox sightings are at an all time high.

Not only have they been more visible, they have been less wary. Thus we have been blessed to have some closer-than-normal encounters and a few good photo opps. However, nothing topped the drama played out in our front yard a few days ago.

Bo had not yet exited the kennel when Rosie noticed a fox in HER yard. With a quick bark and a burst of speed, she rushed toward the fox. Not prepared for the excitement, I did not have my camera in hand so I missed her extremely impressive nosedive when she hit the soft snow the fox had just skimmed across with ease. However, from there on out I captured their uneven dance.

Closer and closer came the fox. Until, at some apparently pre-determined spot, it turned north and crossed onto the heavy traveled (thus well-packed) snowmobile trail from the lake to the lodge.

Maybe some sixth sense alerted Rosie to the fox's position. Maybe she wasn't quite as 'unaware' as she appeared. Whatever the reason, dog and fox locked eyes. You can almost hear the fox thinking: "Must we do this again?!"

A pause. "Are you serious?" Then Rosie takes the challenge.

Once again Rosie charges after the fox. She 'knows' the ground is well packed. Her whole body seems to scream, "You're toast, buddy!"

Sorry, Rosie. Even on hard pack, that fox has a high gear you have never reached - even in your best dreams.

You have to give Rosie a '10' for heart. However, even now, we know (although she doesn't appear to have accepted the fact) the fox is safe. Once off the hard-pack, Rosie has absolutely no chance of catching that fox. (Notice the fox looking back over its shoulder - almost as though taunting Rosie now that it knows it is safe. Cocky little bugger!)

Beyond the dog's reach, the fox slows to assess its foe. I must admit, it shows not the slightest hint of worry. However, it must have discerned Rosie's point. After a good long look at the dog, Foxy turned, passed through the fence, and continued west along the road.

Over by the barn, with plenty of soft snow between it and the dogs, the fox paused once more. So, was that a 'taunt', a 'breather', or just a fox's way of showing its superiority? Whatever the reason, I am thankful it paused. Because, now with big lens in hand (and continuously strengthening morning light), I captured a couple of decent photos of our morning entertainer. Thanks, Foxy.

P.S. Two days later two foxes were seen wandering around on the lake not far from the lodge. So? Does this mean we have hopes of them denning nearby? Maybe, just maybe, we'll see a few more of these beautifully coated, extremely graceful and quick little animals. Since I have no pets or stock they can harm, I welcome the opportunity!

Lady of the Lake


Montana Snowshoeing - The Long Loop

It happens every time. As the sun's warm fingers reach through to part the now emptied grey snow blanket and shine bright messages into my world, I begin dreaming outdoor thoughts! The last two winters that translates into 'Where to snowshoe today?'

In our powder-snow world, snowshoeing is something one begins early and maintains faithfully through the season. Otherwise an afternoon snowshoe becomes a harrowing workout slogging through knee to hip deep snow strapped to snow-gathering paddles which only make extricating one's feet a BIGGER challenge. So, early on I developed three short snowshoe loops and one long one which I have faithfully reopened after each snowstorm. Today, I invite you to join me on the 'long' loop - about a 2 hour trek (when I do not get sidetracked taking pictures or just sitting on a ridge soaking in the silence).

Some storms sputter shyly. Some come and go like hot flashes on a pre-menopausal woman. Some make us wonder if heaven's snowblower isn't pointed our direction. Regardless, if they stick around long, I'm bound to have my work cut out for me. The easy days are when the trail is still visible. The hard days are when I have only my leaky memory to re-mark my prior passing! There? Or there? Or over here?

The day began with broken clouds competing for air space with sunny skies. The tug-o-war continued as I strapped on my treking gear and hit the trail. A recent storm had softened, and in many spots filled, my trail. This would be no casual stroll, but the day invited the time investment. So we took to the draw, dog and I.

I have pondered the name "Narrows Creek" many times as I travel these favored trails. Did the name spawn from the creek's dimunitive width? Perhaps. My imagination prefers to believe this narrow canyon neck brought the name to life.

Critter tracks are common winter trail ornaments. Some become as familiar and comfortable as an old coat. Yet, once in awhile, I stumble upon something unexpected - like this weasel hole which appears to go straight down yet clearly shows the animal went in and out the same hole. Hmmm! I wonder what he was doing?

Deeper into the backwoods we plunge, one snowy step at a time. Stopping to catch my breath, the view over my shoulder leaves me gasping for a different reason. Such a lovely view. One would hardly expect to find such delights in a canyon bottom. I still remember the first time I turned and gaped in shock!

While the Narrows Creek wins the "Most Often Visited" award hands down, there is something about the wildness in this unnamed draw which has pulled me, ever since it first drew my eyes nearly nine years ago. Even today I cannot help but stop and try to capture its illusive wild side.

Nearing the end, my track leads through a large hidden meadow before turning toward the lake - the road - and, around the bend, Home Sweet Home!

Sometimes returning to one's point of origin is something of a let down. Not when "THIS" is your starting and ending point. Even as the tug-o-war continues, the sun gives a dramatic pull, bursts through the clouds, and brightens my way as I drag now-weary feet to this story's end.

Lady of the Lake


Montana Moosey Mornings At Elk Lake!

For moose lovers, February in Montana's Centennial Valley is utopia. The moose seem to congregate into those 'easy-to-see' locations allowing for some great photographs and some fun moose-style entertainment. However, even those of us living in the heart of moose paradise are often only granted glimpses of our big (yet often shy) neighbors as they quickly head for the willows or a dip in the ground. Nonetheless, the last two mornings we have, quite literally, been buried in photo opps. What fun!

I know some of you think I'm crazy. I've had folks comment on the 'risks' I must take to capture a photo. To be honest, I rarely put myself anywhere near the front lines - preferring to allow the long lens to do its work.

However, I not only want to credit hubby's fine photo skills (he captured the first photo and the later photos taken at the resort), I want to make it clear - I did NOT get that close to the big bull above. That is not a cropped photo. He really did fill the frame. However hubby had a cabin to hide behind (and a long lens to keep some distance)!

The next several images were captured Thursday morning. Due to a neck issue, I tend to make the trip to the resort, settle in for the long haul, then pack it up and move it out whenever the snow begins to turn to mush. However, this year we were blessed by a visit from eight lovely (and I do mean lovely!) skiing ladies who needed transport from our staging point near Henry's Lake, Idaho. So, I crawled into my heavy winter gear, clamped on the helmet, straddled my motor on skies, and had a BLAST - viewing moose, enjoying the scenery, and just getting out of Dodge for a few hours! These were just a sampling of the eye candy.

Of course when you have moose neighbors you can occasionally find yourself in a moose traffic jam. One moose has already merged right. The other is something of a road hog. Having heard more than one story of a moose tackling a snowmobiler (and winning), we always give them the right of way.

Moose are not known for the friendly pleasant attitudes. In fact, they can be downright ornery - even to one another. This fellow is not at all happy with another big boy who, apparently, was invading his space.

Here is one more shot to wrap up that lovely moosey morning.

Such an amazing morning - and it was not over yet. Friday morning as dawn's light crawled over the ridge, we found two four-legged guests napping in our yard. One large bull lay in plain sight. Another younger bull hid behind the willow a few yards away. All the photo's which follow are to my hubby's credit.

If you are into moose dental examinations, take a closer look at the first and last photos in this series. These fellows have BIG mouths which they put to good work trimming our aspens.

As the light strengthened, hubby moved in for a few close-up shots. While his presence did not elecit much response, the big bull meandered south to the deeper snow around the cabins but the young bull debated his options. So nice of him to present some more nice photo opps.

One final photo of the big bull. Hubby peeked around the cabin corner to find himself nose-to-nose (not quite but it sure looked like it in this, another uncropped photo) with the big boy! Nice way to end a moosey photo opp!

Lady of the Lake