In Our Own Backyard…Meet BobBob is our new best friend. We became intimately acquainted with the fabled Bob Marshall Wilderness – affectionately known by the locals as “The Bob” after well pioneering forester and conservationist Bob Marshall – as we traversed the Montana wilderness on a recent trip Out West.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Bob is our new best friend.
We became intimately acquainted with the fabled Bob Marshall Wilderness – affectionately known by the locals as “The Bob” after well pioneering forester and conservationist Bob Marshall – as we traversed the Montana wilderness on a recent trip Out West.
The interior of the million-plus acres of pristine wilderness is accessible only by foot or horseback, and ATVs, snowmobiles, bicycles and hang gliders are all prohibited. It’s kind of the frontiersman’s version of the Boundary Waters, and the little slice of it we experienced was breathtaking.
Bald eagles, osprey, pelicans and trumpeter swans frequent its air space, and elk, mule deer, gray wolves and a bumper crop of grizzly bears roam its unspoiled forests.
The day we first became acquainted with “The Bob,” he gave us the cold shoulder. As we headed for the trailhead to Morrell Falls outside the little community of Seeley Lake, snowflakes were swirling all around us, sugaring the branches of the giant Douglas firs in a sprinkling of white and frosting the forest floor. The early spring wildflowers poked their heads bravely through the fresh snow as Ken and I heedlessly threw on an extra layer of polar fleece under our hooded rain jackets and set out.
We needn’t have worried, however. The early morning chill gave way to the encouragement of the late May sunshine, and the snow simply evaporated. As the clouds lifted, we were soon treated to glimpses of shimmering mountain lakes, snow-capped peaks and a chorus of birdsong. Indian paintbrush, nodding trillium and wild clematis unfurled their blooms over the mountainsides in an exotic display of color.
I soon fell behind as I stopped frequently to snap photos of flowers, scenic vistas and the butterflies that seemed to have magically emerged with the sunshine.
By the time Ken reached the falls, I was well behind him, but the roar of the falls had been in my ears for quite some time. I rounded the final bend in the trail to where Ken sat on a giant boulder, and the sight of the falls beyond him literally sucked the breath right out of me.
The waterfall cascaded in half a dozen different directions, bouncing from rock outcropping to rock outcropping before plummeting into a raging stream far below. The spray hit us in our faces and coated us in fine droplets, along with all of the trees and bushes alongside the falls. As the newly emerged sun climbed higher in the sky, the effect of its rays shining through all of those droplets was dazzling.
Once again, my camera began working overtime. I took both photos and video of the falls, and we took turns taking photos of one another at the base of the falls. The bark of a well-worn timber lodged about halfway down the falls had been eroded down to the cambium layer by the unceasing torrent of water, and it gleamed brightly red in the midst of all that swirling whiteness. Once again my camera shutter began clicking away like crazy to capture the beauty of the wilderness to take back home with us.
The next day, we hiked to another remote waterfall tucked between the Swan Mountain Range and the Mission Mountains of “The Bob.” The aftermath of glacial activity of some 10,000 years ago, the entire area is stunningly beautiful – from a picture-perfect reflecting lake mirroring the cloud-enshrouded peaks to the 50-foot waterfall that tumbles with wild abandon into the Ponderosa pines below it.
We caught a glimpse of a small herd of some type of deer I’d never seen before, with antlers newly coated in velvet, as well as the ominous imprint of what was likely a mountain lion who had passed that way earlier that morning, possibly tailing the deer herd.
By then, my senses were working on overload, and I could barely contain my excitement over each exotic new wildflower, species of bird and animal track I spied. We sat down around midday to eat the lunch we’d packed in with us, and we were part way through it when a curious (and probably hungry!) striped chipmunk poked its head out from between two rocks and stared greedily at our sandwiches. Without thinking, my hands flew to my camera, and I focused in on the little critter before firing off a whole series of shots. Ken threw out a few bits of the bread from his sandwich to lure the chipmunk in closer, and I switched to the macro setting on my camera so I could get close-ups of the little guy’s face.
I had just jokingly suggested we nickname the chipmunk “Bob” when I had one of those hit-yourself-upside-the head moments.
“Can you believe it?” I said sheepishly. “Here we drive all the way out to Montana, leave the rest of the world behind, hike in to the heart of one of the most fabled wilderness areas anywhere in the world, and here I am – taking pictures of a chipmunk!”