Through a Druid’s Eyes: Alice Creek, Montana

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“Almost every person from childhood, has been touched by the untamed beauty of wildflowers.” -Lady Bird Johson


This year, it seems, we’ve had a real explosion of wildflowers in the northern Rocky Mountains. Yesterday a friend and I did a hike that had a stunning variety of flowers…

Penstemon

We started out hiking along Alice Creek, near the small town of Lincoln, Montana. The trail along Alice Creek is a very old travel route. The Nez Perce people used this route to travel across the Rockies to the eastern plains where they hunted. They called it, “The Road to the Buffalo”. Then, In the days of Lewis and Clark, when the two decided to divide the Corps of Discovery to scout separate areas, Captain Lewis took this route (on the advice of friendly the Nez Perce). My friend and I followed in the steps of the Nez Perce and Captain Lewis, hiking up to the pass that is now called Lewis and Clark Pass. Then we climbed the neighboring peak, Green Mountain before descending back the way we came.

Beargrass

The low, open slopes along Alice Creek were mostly sagebrush and native grasses interspersed with lots of wildflowers. There were golden cinquefoil blooms, showy yellow blanketflowers, white yarrow, and dazzling pink geraniums. On the higher slopes, we found vast swales of purple penstemon interspersed with sunflowers, purple asters, pale yellow paintbrush, and deep blue lupine. The top of the pass held more surprises as the tall, white flowers of beargrass hid among the forest of whitebark pine. We didn’t hang around too long in the whitebark woods, as they are great habitat for grizzly bears. Instead we descended to the open slopes and went across a high meadow to Green Mountain. The meadow was a constantly changing combination of shapes and colors: There were yellow and orange columbines, plumes of deep red indian paintbrush, white, fuzzy valerian, sprawling yellow composites, and bright pink roses. As we ascended Green Mountain, the slopes became drier and more exposed. The flowers changed again. Shades of pink and purple dominated as phacelia, lupine, and penstemon sprawled across the slope. At the top of the mountain, the colors changed again as low-growing alpines in shades of white and cream alternated with the bright yellow of stonecrop and the lemon yellow of buckwheat. It’s a good place to sit and contemplate the sky and wind before heading back down.

Columbine

There is a point where the vast number and variety of flowers almost becomes overwhelming. The senses are overloaded. I put my camera away, but every few minutes I see something new, something intriguing. Hiking back down is slow, with so many stops to take pictures or study a flower. Eventually, I just had to put my camera away. Enough trying to capture the beauty. Better to just walk and enjoy.

High mountain flowers

“Only the wind knows where it will carry our dandelion souls…” -A.R. Asher


Dave Robertson is a writer, blogger and photographer. 

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