Suddenly Summer!

Winter came early to Big Sky Country last year.  Winter lingered long this year.  Spring was wet and gray but not without a few treats. For example, I was surprised to spy a bobcat spying on me at the National Bison Range on June 8.

Spying Bobcat

Spring babies and tender moments are always a treat, too.


Spring bear activity, such as that my sister and I watched on June 14 when a young male was working on making advances on a mama with her second year cub still in tow (though not, we figured, for much longer), makes the days seem brighter.

Yet, those hours of sun were few and far between and it remained cool. The yearning for blue skies, sunshine and warm weather grew stronger by the day.

Then…  Summer Solstice.   Mother Nature flipped a switch and suddenly, it is summer in Big Sky Country!  Snow is still deep in the mountains, but it is melting fast now.   The deep slowly melting snow and the wet spring have made for a lavish beginning to summer with deep green and a wealth of wild flowers.

And the treats keep coming. When my mom and I visited the Bison Range last Friday, the theme of the evening was “there’s another one” as we saw four black bears in quick succession one after another. The freshness of spring continues with new life.


But clearer skies offer additional treats.

Big Sky Over Lupine

Sweet Summer

A trip out on the Bitterroot trail to check the status of the bitterroot bloom showed that the bitterroots, being several weeks “behind schedule,” are still just tight buds. Maybe this weekend…

Saturday afternoon Mom and I had a few hours to spare so I suggested a trip up to Packer Meadows to check on the camas bloom. We found the first bloomers. On Saturday afternoon there were only a couple dozen camas flowers blossomed out. Soon there will be thousands. It is striking that by the same time last year instead of finding the first bloomers, I was seeking out the last bloomers as most of the camas was shot by this time last year. The snow at Packer Meadows is waist high in places.

First Blooms

We didn’t have time to see if Elk Meadows road is passable from Packer Meadows back down to the Lewis & Clark Highway (aka US Highway 12) that afternoon, so I returned on Sunday afternoon to find out. I found it is not. I swung back around and headed up the road from the opposite end to see if I could make it up to Lily Lake. I made it far enough up the mountain to become optimistic of a glorious sunset at Lily Lake before coming around a curve to discover deep, impassable snow. The snow line is right around the MT/ID border. Right at snow line, and for a couple hundred feet below snow line, there is a fantastic crop of trillium and western meadow rue to be found on wet ground where the snow has only recently melted.

Trillions of Trillum

Western Meadow Rue

At lower elevations, bear grass is blooming.

Twilight Torch

I look forward to checking the bitterroot bloom on the Bitterroot Trail at the National Bison Range and the camas bloom at Packer Meadows again this weekend. Given how deep the snow was, I don’t anticipate making it to Lily Lake for sunset for a couple more weeks. I can’t help but wonder what other treats I’ll enjoy between then and now.

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