Packer Meadows, June 2007
If you thought you missed the camas bloom at Packer Meadows near Lolo Pass, you’re in luck.
The blue flowers, which normally bloom in June, should peak within the next week, said Dan Shook, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ representative at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center.
“Probably about three days to five days is about perfect to look at the camas,” he said.
Shook said the flowers are about a month behind their normal peak bloom as a result of deep and lingering snow. This year, the snow depth topped out at 170 inches on March 4. Usually, he said, it’s in the 40- to 60-inch range. The record is 205 inches.
Snow kept Elk Meadows Road from the visitor center on U.S. Highway 12 at the Montana-Idaho border about a mile east to the meadows closed until the weekend of June 25-26.
For updates on the camas bloom, call the visitor center at (208) 942-1234 or the Powell Ranger Station at (208) 942-3113.
To get to Packer Meadows, drive eight miles south of Missoula on U.S. Highway 93 to Lolo, then 32 miles west on Highway 12 to the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. The meadows are about one mile east on Elk Meadows Road.
“It looks like a sea of blue,” Shook said.
Every year, my wife and I try to take hiking-centered spring vacation. This year, we detoured to Utah on the way to a family gathering in Denver.
Every few years, we make our way down to the national parks and other public lands in the southern part of the state. This time, we stuck pretty close to Moab, visiting both Arches and Canyonlands national parks. We’ve been to both may times before, but still found trails we hadn’t explored.
In Canyonlands, a park ranger suggested we try the Neck Spring trail, noting that its moisture produced an abundance of plant life. Sure enough, we saw plenty of flowers, including the Utah penstemon above.
Here are more photos from Canyonlands, as well as pictures from Arches and the trail to Corona Arch outside of Moab.
Perhaps the best part of the trip was hiking 10 miles in one day. It’s the most I’ve hiked in recovering from an Achilles injury over the winter, and bodes well for spring and summer.
Project Budburst, previously written about here, is looking for fall color reports from citizen scientists. Paul Alaback, the lead science adviser for the effort to document climate change, blogs about the season here.
Also, I recently returned from a trip to Colorado, where golden aspens were on display. While I wasn’t there specifically to view fall foliage, some can be seen in photos here.
Today is the first full day of autumn, but fall colors have been around for a while.
Huckleberry bushes have gone bright red and aspens are yellow. Purple asters can still be seen, but pinedrops are but rusty stalks. And it won’t be long before larch in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness and the Seeley-Swan Valley are glowing gold.
The photo above is from a trip to Heart and Pearl lakes in the northern Bitterroot Mountains near Superior in early September.
Here are a few resources to track the season’s changing foliage:
Keep an eye out!
As summer comes to a close and students return to school, we are reminded of the time-honored tradition of the “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” paper.
This year, the Missoulian is putting a modern twist on the assignment by bringing it to the popular social networking site Twitter.
We want you, western Montanans, to send a tweet describing your summer in 140 characters or less. To have your message included in our collection, use the hashtag #wmtvaca. Abbreviations will help keep your tweet short, and feel free to include TwitPics or links to other pictures.
For example, here is the tweet from news editor and Wildflower Walks columnist Justin Grigg (@jjgrigg), coming in at 138 characters:
“Got wet hiking OR, WA. Wildflower Walked. Ran MSO 26.2. Backpacked Glacier http://twitpic.com/28pzto. Hosted houseguests. Worked. #wmtvaca”
We’ll set up a collection of all the summer vacation tweets on Missoulian.com, and a selection of tweets sent by Sept. 1 will run in the newspaper over
Labor Day weekend. And, we’re going to award a prize for our favorite – a photo album provided by Yellowstone Photo to preserve your vacation memories.
Recent travels have kept me from doing much walking around Missoula, but I did get out and see some wildflowers in the Pacific Northwest.
Check out photos from Herman Creek on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge – including plenty of red columbine like the one pictured above – and Olympic National Park in Washington.
I’m back now and hope to soon spend some more time on western Montana’s trails!
Today is the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, and the May issue of National Geographic magazine featured a spread about the recovery of the blast zone.
Part of the package was a nice illustration showing the rebirth of the ecosystem around St. Helens, including how wildflowers factor into it. For example, glacier lilies that yearly pushed up through snow on the mountain also found their way through the layer of ash, and lupine later improved the volcanic substrate by adding nitrogen.
See the 30-year portrait here. (Roll your cursor over the numbers for more information.)
Today, you can see some of the recovered ecosystem yourself. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument has several trails, including a loop around the base and a hike up to the rim.
Students at Missoula public schools and the University of Montana take spring break this year from March 29 to April 2, and that usually means time for family travel.
Why not plan a trip to see one of the best wildflower blooms in the West at Death Valley National Park in California?
From the park’s Web site:
Death Valley is famous for its spectacular spring wildflower displays, but those are the exception, not the rule. Only under perfect conditions does the desert fill with a sea of gold, purple, pink or white flowers. Although there are years where blossoms are few, they are never totally absent.
This year is shaping up to be better than previously thought, according to the park’s most recent wildflower update.
What about the heat? While summer highs top 120 degrees, spring is “very pleasant” and the most popular time to visit.
Find travel information here.