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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Beartooth Llama Trek - 4th Afternoon

Thursday morning, we'd climbed high to Cloverleaf Lakes, where we had lunch. We followed the outlet back to our base camp at Spogen.

This route involved significant drops in elevation, which brought us alongside a series of falls, rockslides, and lakes.

In spring and early summer, these areas are flooded with rushing water. By mid-August, the water levels have receded greatly, leaving lush meadows, exposed expanses of rock, and it was possible for us to navigate without getting wet.

Rachel Lake, named by a good friend for his granddaughter.

This beautiful falls was adjacent to Rachel Lake.

Teri navigating the rock scramble between Rachel and Martin Lakes.

Jeanne on the rock scramble with Martin Lake in the background.

Wildflowers at Martin Lake.
This delicate white flower is Grass of Parnassus. Isn't it amazing?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Beartooth Llama Trek - Day 4

This day, we left the llamas staked in a grassy area near our campsite at Spogen Lake and set off for three high lakes known as Cloverleaf Lakes. So named because they are grouped like the three leaves of a clover.

We passed by Kidney Lake, Heart Lake, and Liver Lake (pictured below)

Below is a picture of Marmot Lake, also known as North Hidden Lake (depends on which map you are looking at). We passed this lake on the way to Cloverleaf Lakes. This is a lovely lake that would make a nice base camp. I am keeping this one in mind for a future trip.The wildflowers were in bloom. Their brilliant colors were a vibrant contrast to the warm shades of the granite stone formations.

Our highest point of the day was on this side hill overlooking Cloverleaf Lakes. The view from here was spectacular.

Cloverleaf Lakes, shown below - it is possible to barely see all three lakes.

We found a nice patch of snow, and Jeanne began to build a snowman.

We each made a small snow person, and enjoyed a cool break with a terrific view.

A lot of large rocks in this area appear to be very precariously perched.
Cloverleaf Lake with Indian Paintbrush in the foreground.

More precariously perched boulders.

Cloverleaf Lakes outlet.

Rugged Mountains

All these pictures, and we had not even eaten lunch yet! I'll continue with more from this glorious day in the next blog entry.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Day Three - Beartooth Llama Trek

We planned to spend three nights at Spogen Lake. This meant we would leave the llamas staked for grazing while we took day hikes. Wednesday was a warm day, and the smoke was lingering, making the landscape look hazy. We decided to try our luck fishing at Trail Lake, just a mile away from our camp. The trail led us past Wright Lake, which was smooth as glass and beautifully reflective.

Trail Lake is a small lake, but very deep and clear. This lake is home of large Cutthroat Trout, which can be seen swimming below the surface while standing on the bank. We all tried our hand at fishing. Kathy and Jeanne caught our dinner. Nice big Cuts, beautifully iridescent. They have pink meat - much like salmon. I didn't catch a fish here, although I tried. I loved watching the fish swimming around in the water. Like an aquarium.

We walked to the west bank of Trail Lake to take in this view of Green Lake, about 1/2 mile away.

Walking back to our campsite, we took a trail along the north side of the lake, where the rocky bank was blooming with wildflowers.

There were a lot of beautiful flowers, sorrel, and grasses and we saw many different types of butterflies. I've been looking through my butterfly book and am uncertain whether this one is a Small Copper or a Fritillary.

After walking much of the day, I took advantage of the cool water at Spogen Falls.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Beartooth Inspirations - Into the Studio

Beartooth Wilderness GraniteMuch of the Beartooth Wilderness lies above 10,000 feet in elevation. More than three billion years ago, the granite here was uplifted in a huge lava flow. That means much of the Wilderness area is above the tree line. Without a forest to obscure the igneous rock that made these mountains - hiking in the Beartooths is a special visual treat.
Although I have been hiking in the Beartooths for many years, this time I found myself quite captivated by the rocks. They are wonderfully colorful. I'd not previously made a mental record of the striking shades of pink and salmon in the granite. Since I hope to do a body of work related to this particular hike, I took a lot of pictures of the rocks for reference when I got back to my studio.

The day after I returned, I put some raw silk and cotton sateen into the dye pot.
Today, I took the dyed fabric a step further by screen printing with screens made from a photos I took on the trip. See below, one of my attempts to capture the essence of the pink granite on cotton sateen. This piece was also painted with a natural sponge.

This picture was snapped on the trail on the way out last Friday.

This is a piece of raw silk that has been dyed, sponge painted and screen printed.

This piece of cotton/poly has been painted with Setacolor paints. It was manipulated while still wet and sprinkled with kosher salt.

Here are the small rocks I brought back in my pack. Next step in the studio - adding lichens to the rock fabric.

This fabric has also been painted with Setacolor paints, manipulated and sprinkled with salt.

Am I getting close or should I start all over? Remember, I am going for "essence", not necessarily exact replica. At the same time, I want it to say "stone" when someone looks at it.

Beartooth Llama Trip Pictures - Day 2

Our morning at Sunrise was lovely and clear. We had a leisurely breakfast, packed up camp and prepared the llamas for the hike to our next camp. Each person led a llama. The llamas have a specific order in which they travel, and I was leading Crowfoot (AKA Crow), who fell in at the end.

We happened to meet two hikers at this beautiful spot on the trail, and they were willing to take a group picture. Our party - from left to right are Poncho with Jeanne, Chico with Kathy, Crow with me, and Hobbit with Teri.

As we neared our destination, we passed within view of Martin and Wright Lakes.

Here is Spogen Falls, which is right on the lake. There is a stream leading from Wright Lake to Spogen. The elevation difference and rock formations make for a lovely waterfall.

We walked around to the lake and set up camp on the opposite shore with a nice view of the falls. This campsite offered more privacy and better grazing for the llamas.

This is the outlet from Spogen. This stream leads to Witcomb Lake. Kathy and I walked down to Witcomb, where we caught Brook trout at Witcomb for our second night's dinner.

By late afternoon, smoke from the Sylvan forest fire in Yellowstone Park started drifting into our area. This created breathing problems for all of us. It made for a beautiful sunset, though.

Dusk at Spogen Lake.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Evacuation lifted

The evacuation was lifted yesterday at noon. It is astonishing to drive into the subdivision, where a lot of the landscape has been blackened. This morning, Joe and I walked up on the ridge to the west of our home and I snapped this picture, which shows the road leading from our place back out to town. The location of the house that was destroyed by fire is to the right of the rectangular white house near the center of the picture. Only the chimney and front steps remain. The fire is believed to have been started by lightening.

From our home, there is no evidence of the wildfire, though. We live at the end of the road, in a narrow box canyon. The wind direction took the fire another way. Even if the fire had headed into our canyon, our house is cement stucco with a ceramic tile roof. The back patio is cement, as are the front steps and walkway. We do believe our home is unlikely to burn easily from the outside.

Our house might burn from the inside, though, and that is what I feared on Sunday. As we drove away amidst the flames, I realized I had not turned off the cooktop burner. I'd been cooking a big pot of fresh beets for supper when the power went off, the smoke was blackening the sky and we realized we had to get out as soon as possible. Distracted by the tasks of closing windows and sending the kids out the door, etc. I totally forgot to turn off the burner since it was already off.
The power had been back on for quite a while by the time we were escorted to our house by a fire truck to turn off the cooktop on Monday evening. Here is what the pot looks like now. The beets are as light as paper - dry and crumbly. They probably were due to ignite shortly - had we not arrived in time to turn off the burner and remove the pot.

Our house reeks of smoke. Not from the wildfire, but from the beets that were slowly burning in the kitchen. The weather is blessedly cool and we have all the windows open in the hopes that the burnt beet smell will dissipate eventually.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wildfire and Evacuation

I haven't been able to continue with my story about the Beartooth Llama trek due to the fact that we were evacuated from our home on Sunday evening as a wildfire swept through the area.

I was in the midst of preparing dinner for family and guests on Sunday evening when a big gust of wind came up, blowing the picnic table and chairs across the patio. Joe went to look out the windows at that point, and called me immediately to come see. There was a huge black smoke cloud bellowing towards our home from the west and the smell of smoke was suddenly intense. As Joe hopped in the car to check the location of the fire, I called 911.

The 911 receptionist told me they knew about the fire and when I asked about an evacuation, I was put on hold. I waited on hold for what seemed like an eternity (probably 5 minutes - until I finally just hung up), but when I saw Joe speeding back into the driveway, I started shouting orders for the kids and their friends to grab their stuff, grab a set of car keys and get out.

Suddenly, the electricity went out and I scrambled to close windows and doors, collect the pets (the cat had run up the hill when the big gust of wind came up), and make sure the other family members were getting out OK. At that point, a fire truck appeared in the cul-de-sac and blew his warning siren. A fire fighter walked around to the back of the house and shouted for us to get out. Joe had loaded the RV with some of his valuables, and I was waiting in the car for him to go ahead. The RV would not start, so he quickly transferred the pets, etc. to my car, pulled the garage doors closed and finally climbed into the car. The kids were all ahead of us in various vehicles. We'd probably had about 15 minutes from the time we first saw the smoke to the time we were pulling out. I glanced at the clock in the car. It was 6:14.

As we started down Box Canyon Road, we could see the flames off to the west, closing in and within a few feet of the road. Joe and I knew not to take our usual route, but my cell phone rang and Elizabeth had somehow missed that instruction and had taken Trailmaster Road. She said she had been turned around by the sheriff, but her voice was shaking as she had driven close to the fire and then was forced to go back again, driving within feet of flaming trees. She said she felt the intense heat from inside the car. Airus was in the car with her. She said she had no idea where to go, so I told her where to turn, but the smoke was so thick it was almost impossible to see the car ahead, let alone the street signs.

A few moments later, Elizabeth called my cell again saying she was lost and had no idea where she was or how to exit the area. There are only two routes out of the subdivision and the only one remaining available is a bit of a maze, involving a drive up a steep gravel road. This was confusing to all our kids and guests who were unfamiliar with this route. Elizabeth was able to tell us the street name where she was located and we drove there, connected with her and had her follow us out. Thank heaven for cell phones!

We had a prearranged plan to meet on First Avenue in front of the commercial building we own, and it took a while for all our party to get there, as the exit route was very slow going - everyone in the neighborhood was on that road with their horse trailers, etc. (about 1500 people were evacuated). After we had everyone accounted for at the meeting place, we made a plan. The kids would stay with friends. The pets would go to the kennel at the vet where we always take them. I started calling around to find a room. We were fortunate to find a hotel not far from our neighborhood, which was offering deeply discounted rates for evacuees. Our room has a microwave, refrigerator, and high speed Internet hook up. I just happened to have my laptop in the car. But otherwise, we left with the clothes on our back.

Our hotel is elevated and has a good view of our neighborhood, so we have been able to keep track of the smoke and flames the past two days. We had to go buy toothbrushes and some food, a change of clothes and clean underwear. Gave us something to do during the long wait yesterday.

Last night, we drove to the road block to see if there was any news. I had been worried about what would happen when they turned the electricity back on. I had been cooking a large pot of beets for dinner, and when the power went off, in the chaos - I failed to turn off the burner. I feared a kitchen fire. The deputy manning the road block directed us to the fire station, where we found a friendly but exhausted fire fighter who called up the hill and arranged for someone to meet us at the roadblock.

It was dark by the time we met our escort fire truck at the road block, but we were able to see the dark shadows of the burned areas as we drove along the road. The fire had burned extensively, jumping the road, going from ridge to ridge and apparently traveling at great speed. We drove past the house that burned down. It is located maybe 1/8 mile from our place, and has been reduced to rubble.

It was eerie driving through the neighborhood. There were lights burning in nearly every house, but nobody was home. I was shocked to see how many lights were on at our place! We'd had a house full when the power went off, but it was still a bit of a shock.

The smell of smoke was intense as we opened the door to our home last night. The kitchen was thick with smoke. The pot of beets had been reduced to ash and the heat from the cooktop was intense. I took the pot out and put it on the patio, and turned everything off. We felt we had to leave quickly because the fire truck was waiting at the entrance to our drive. By the time we got back out to them, they bid us farewell, as they had another task, and we drove ourselves back out of the evacuated area.

A meeting for evacuees was scheduled for 8:00 this morning, and Joe and I anticipated that we might be allowed to return home following the meeting. That was not the case, though. We were told that the fire is 75% contained and we will be allowed to return at noon today. Only residents will be allowed in the area and people will have to show proof of residence to be allowed past the road blocks - which will remain for another 24 hours.

To read the newspaper articles about the fire, follow this link.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Beartooth Llama Trek for Adventurous Quilters - Day One

Close to heaven - as viewed from Surprise Lake in the Beartooth Wilderness.
Seeking inspiration from above, four female quilting companions ventured into the Beartooth Wilderness on August 13, 2007.

This particular adventure was the brain child of Kathy Lichtendahl, of Clark, Wyoming. Kathy is a skilled outdoorsman, world class quilter, talented artist, and athlete. Kathy and her husband, Ken own a number of llamas, some of which are trained as wilderness pack animals. They are well suited to the terrain and climate of the wild areas of Montana and Wyoming. You can read Kathy's blog to learn more about her life in Clark and the llamas.

Our group included four women ranging in age from 49 to 53, and four male llamas. Each woman led a llama up the trail. We began our adventure at the Clay Butte Trailhead. It was a warm, lovely summer day when we set out for six days in the wilderness.

The first day's hike was four miles long, a good "warm up" for those of us who are not as conditioned as Kathy (meaning the rest of the group). We set up camp at Surprise Lake. In the picture above, the llamas have been staked out in a grassy area to graze and rest.

Jeanne caught the first fish - a very large Brook trout.

Terri caught the second fish - also a nice Brook trout.

As evening approached, we had a few light rain showers, but by the time we crawled into the tent, it was calm and clear. When I crept out of the tent at 4 AM, I saw half a dozen shooting stars and the Milky Way - I felt very blessed.

I'll be posting images from the rest of the trip in coming days.