Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Easter in December?

More Swans on the Flathead River
East of Perma, Montana

No fife did hum nor battle drum
Did sound its dread tattoo
But the Angelus bell o'er the Liffey swell
Rang out through the foggy dew.
--Irish ballad 

To hear the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sing this song of the Easter Rebellion in 1916, click here.  And yes, in the course of this post I'll tie in both fog and Easter (and the Irish as well--in the form of a church built for an Irish community in, I kid you not, 1916, the year of the Easter Rebellion).

Monday morning I rose with a list of chores that I would need to get done during the day, if only to feel as if I'd accomplished something.  But even as I stripped the bed and filled the washing machine, I watched the sun light up the hills surrounding our home.  You should never pass on a sunny day when you live in a winter climate, so I threw caution to the wind, grabbed my camera and my new Garmin Montana 650t GPS unit (note how I made sure to get the Montana and not the Colorado or Alaska model), and hit the road in search of more photographic opportunites, not to mention geocaches.  Photography is, after all, the use of light (φῶς, φωτός) to write or draw (γράφειν), and this morning promised beautiful light.

I hadn't made it to Highway 200 (roughly five miles from home) before I was in a deep fog--the kind that you really hate to drive through.  But by now I was on a mission, and besides, I really did have to get to Polson to pick up new test strips for my blood glucose meter.  The fog held on through Plains, but by the time I reached Paradise, some six miles further east, I was back in sunshine and all set for a great day on the river.

The first of my pre-programmed geocaches was a couple miles east of Perma on the side of Highway 200, and I quickly added "Sword Play" to my list of finds.   A few miles further another cache was hidden, this time by a rather long pull out on the river side of the road.   The name of the cache was "Why did you stop here?" and the cache owner had suggested we come up with a reason--presumably one other than "I wanted to find your cache."  The swans were swimming (may have been seven, I didn't count them all), but I grabbed a couple as seen through the trees above.  I also grabbed the cache, and proceeded on to the next on my list.

The Mission Mountains
West of Dixon, Montana

My next scheduled caches were in the town of Dixon, but before I reached the town, the Mission Mountains drew my attention, and I just had to pull off the road and take their portrait.  The Mission Mountains are one of the more spectacular ranges in our part of the country, and they never fail to impress visitors.  Well, there have been times I've brought guests to see them, only to have the mountains hide completely behind fog or clouds.  Who knew mountains could be so shy.

The Flathead River at Dixon
Dixon, Montana

I tried for two different caches in Dixon, one at a fishing access by the river and the other in the town's tiny city park, but I was unsuccessful with both.  I did get a great view of the river, a view I had never before seen, and looking downstream, there was a bald eagle perched high on a tree along the river's bank.  I switched lens and took several shots of the eagle, but I'm not particularly happy with any of them.

Just east of Dixon, I turned north off MT 200 onto Highway 212 and stopped almost immediately to grab the cache hidden under the bridge spanning the Jocko River.  The cache's name is Jocko's Troll, and the clue suggested looking just where you'd expect to find a troll--well under the bridge, silly.  There was a hint suggesting that the cache was along the Jocko under a rocko, but when I found it, the cache was in plain sight, with no rock covering it at all.  After signing the log, I carefully replaced the cache where I found it, then laid a large flat rock over it.  Wouldn't want the hint to be wrong now would I?

Bald Eagle leaving its perch
Old Agency (Dixon), Montana

North of the river, as I was approaching the Lake County line, I passed two bald eagles perched on power poles along the highway.  Turning around, I pulled off the road opposite the large birds and caught several shots of the two of them, before they finally flew out of range.  And yes, I know I clipped his wings in this shot, but he looks so majestic flying there that I'm using it anyway.

Turning the car back around, I stopped to grab a cache at the entrance to the National Bison Range, and at the same time grabbed another photo of the snow-capped Mission Mountains.  The one peak I wanted to capture, however, was behind some trees and I figured I'd have plenty more views of that peak before the day was out.  Famous last words.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church
Moiese, Montana

South of the town of Charlo, I turned onto Dublin Gulch Road and grabbed the cache hidden at St. Joseph's Catholic Church.  I've passed this church many a time, but I'd never stopped to read the historic marker on the front of the church.  The full text for the placard can be found here, but the main items of interest are that the church was built in 1916 (I believe), had its last service in 1978, and is one of only two churches in Montana built in the Craftsman style.  See.  That's why I go geocaching.  I learn so much about the area.

After leaving the church, I relied on my GPS unit to lead me to more caches, having forgotten to grab the Montana Atlas which would show me the back roads that cross the landscape connecting the various area farms.  Some of these roads are blocked by fences, and most are dirt, but hey, I was out exploring, and I didn't have to be home until 4 or so to fix supper for Kevin.  Oops, it's already 3 and I'm an hour from home and haven't done my shopping yet.  Oh well.  It will all work out.

My main destination for today's trip was actually the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge, a 4,027 acre refuge established in 1921. I figured with the light and all, I'd be sure to catch some birds in my lens. I had programmed several caches hidden around the Refuge in my Garmin, and figured I'd catch a few more before I continued on to Polson and shopping. I did find the cache at the Stocky Memorial, a parking area dedicated to the memory of biologist Dwight "Stocky" Stockstad, who was responsible for much of the Refuge being set aside, including the 70 acres dedicated to him. I previously had no idea such a place (or person) existed.

The next two caches managed to elude me, even though my GPS told me I was right on top of them.  What I did notice was that my fingers were getting very cold, and the beautiful sunny day had disappeared into a heavy bank of fog.  I caught the Easter 2014 cache, so named for the date on which it was hidden.  The clue suggested that the cache site would tie in to the name, and sure enough, when I rolled away the rock, all was revealed.  The cache container, a camouflaged plastic Easter egg, gave me some trouble when I tried to open it, but it all worked out in the end.

Down the road another mile, I stopped at the Leon Community Center, but again, even though my GPS told me I was at ground zero, I found nothing and felt even colder than I had earlier.  At this point, I was one mile away from US Highway 93, and I decided to call it a day.

Traffic on 93 was moving very slowly, as the fog had moved in completely.  The mountains, just a couple miles distant, were hidden to the point of being invisible through the fog.  I drove north, and by the time I reached the Tribal Governmental Complex at Charlo, I was back out of the fog, but I had no desire to seek out any more caches today.  There's always tomorrow, and with the seven I did find, I passed my goal of getting 300 caches reported by the end of 2014.  (Geocaching.com now shows me with a lifetime total of 302 caches, and that will probably change before New Year's Eve.)

In Polson, I was doing my shopping when Kevin called to ask if supper would be ready by four.  Oops.  Nope.  I'm in Polson, over a hour away from home.  Kevin suggested that he would get something for himself and suggested that I do the same.  Accordingly, when I saw Bambino's Pizza and Pasta alongside Polson's main street, I stopped and had a wonderful dinner of Lasgna Fresca, with a side salad and fresh, crusty bread to dip in a balsamic/oil/herb mix.  I left the restaurant with a piece of Tiramisu in a box, and the sure knowledge that I will return to Bambino's in the near future.

Polson Bay and The Narrows, Flathead Lake
Polson, Montana

No comments: