Category Archives: Special Feature

Eye of the Pyramid

Located in the northeastern sector of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Beartooth mountain range contains the highest peaks in Montana with more than twenty summits soaring to over 12,000 feet elevation.

Pyramid Mountain is a ‘twelver located on the Fishtail Plateau where the images in this feature were captured.  From its distant vantage on the range’s northern fringe, the south-facing views from Pyramid’s slopes offer a unique panorama containing almost all of the range’s highest points, including Montana’s tallest mountain, 12,799-foot Granite Peak.

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Click on the image for an expanded view of the Beartooth Range.

Getting to this location is no easy task.  Having climbed most of the peaks pictured in these images myself, I’d have to say that Pyramid was one of the most strenuous I’ve attempted.  This experts-only, off-trail route gains an incredibly steep 6,000 feet elevation over four miles of arduous boulder scrambling and wilderness bushwacking.  Four miles may not sound like a long hike, but the difficult terrain makes it an all-day (or two-day) adventure with no bailout if something goes wrong.  Use extra caution if you go.

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Looking across the West Rosebud drainage toward Granite Peak

 

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Red Wings

 

I have a favorite spot I often pass when I go biking in the country west of town where I always look forward to seeing (and hearing) Red-winged blackbirds perched on cattails, trilling their sweet summer songs.

A male will defend his territory and attract a mate by perching on a high stalk and singing. They fluff their feathers and lift the leading edge of their wing so the red shoulder patches are prominent.   Red-winged blackbirds are dimorphic, that is to say, the males and females have a completely different appearance.  Females have mottled, heavily banded plumage lacking the distinguishing red and yellow shoulders the species is known for.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park features a caldera lake in south-central Oregon which formed following the eruption of Mt. Mazama approx 7700 years ago. There are no rivers entering or exiting the lake.  These factors contribute to the lake’s clarity and deep blue color thanks to the absence of pollutants.  The lake measures about 5 miles by 6 miles across, and at an average depth of nearly 2,000 feet it is one of the top ten deepest lakes in the world.

Two islands protrude from the lake surface.  The larger one, Wizard Island, is a volcanic cinder cone that formed following the Mt. Mazama eruption. It stands about 755 feet above the lake surface. The smaller Phantom Ship island at the opposite end of the lake is a natural rock pillar that resembles a ghost ship.

We spent about four days exploring the park in July 2013, enjoying the area’s memorable sunset panoramas, lush wildflowers, and cascading waterfalls.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Last weekend brought the first severe thunderstorm of the season to the Billings area.  Although no tornadoes were spotted, the rotating cell dropped 60-mph winds and golf ball hail that destroyed shingles, windows, and siding all over town.  We were returning from a weekend trip in Wyoming and avoided damage to our car by taking an alternate route, pretending to be storm chasers along a country back road south of the town of Laurel.  In the aftermath of the storm, we were treated to a remarkable double rainbow spanning the horizon.