Friday, November 11, 2016

Back to the Misty Mountain

Is this the way?

This month’s gathering of tree-followers coincides with an unfortunate event in American history, culminating months (or was it years?) of depressing “discourse” on both sides. Is it time to leave? They say the Canadian immigration website crashed Tuesday evening, overwhelmed by US traffic. But I don’t want to leave, I like it here! I think I will go back to the Misty Mountain instead, if I can find the way.

The Misty Mountain is metaphorical—a composite of wild places and other patches of nature. I moved there forty years ago after paying off my student loan, but at some point I fell off, landing on the Human Highway. Is it possible to return? We’ll see.

The journey started at Hutton Lake, with a visit to the serviceberry I’ve been following since January. It grows in an unexpected forest along the south side of the lake, on the shady north side of a ridge of steeply-tilted sandstone.
A cool but sunny calm day (yes, calm!) in the Laramie Basin.
Dry brown November landscape, with greasewood and grass.

The prairie dogs are all hibernating, maybe dreaming of tasty green herbaceous plants.

I reached the ridge and hiked along the crest, then descended to lake level and strolled through the tiny forest.
Bare aspen, cottonwood and serviceberry trees, with tilted sandstone.
Lots of buds on the aspen trees ... they're ready for next year!

Fossilized ripples on a 100-million-year-old beach. It was uplifted and tilted when the Rocky Mountains rose.
Aspen sapling survives on rainwater that accumulates in cracks.

My serviceberry tree was bare of leaves and berries, looking pretty much as it did back in January when we met.
My tree and more ripples.
Lots of buds.

Then a large brown object swooped down from the sky and landed in a cottonwood tree nearby. Who hoo hoooo is this?!

Click on photo to view (center).
Did I wake her? I thought she preferred to fly at dusk.
It was an eared owl of some kind (“ears” are tufts of feathers), maybe a long-eared. Do you know? I think this is too slender an owl to be a Great Horned, but I’m no expert. [UPDATE: great horned owl after all.] She hung out while I photographed the serviceberry, changing her perch occasionally. When I left, she was still there, watching.

I headed back, past the tough little serviceberry on a pedestal (more here) ...
... and past castles rising from lakeshore muck. Are these homes of fairy creatures?
I wish! But no, just dead aspen saplings from years back, when the lake was lower. Now they're wrapped in salt-encrusted decaying aquatic plants. The lakeshore has a rich aroma this time of year.

Next I met a muskrat.
He was much more cautious than the owl and quickly dove, leaving a circle of ripples. I sat on the bank hoping he would return. Finally he did, staring at me just long enough for another photo before diving and swimming off again. I left so he could continue whatever business he had going there.
Cautious muskrat watching me (center of photo).

This is my November contribution to the monthly gathering of tree-followers hosted by The Squirrelbasket. Read the latest news, and consider joining us ... it’s always interesting.

I come down from the misty mountain
I got lost on the human highway
Take my head refreshing fountain
Take my eyes from what they've seen.
—Neil Young, 1978


  1. Yes, this speaks to me. And the Neil Young poetry helps. Thanks. Good luck with your journey, too.

  2. What a wonderful little adventure - and I'm pleased you have returned to the serviceberry (and so many other things).
    The owl strikes me as your "spirit guide", maybe!
    All the best :)

    1. Maybe so, Pat. How wonderful it would be to have an owl as a spirit guide! thanks :-)

  3. The Neil Young song is most apt but I thought you were referring to the song from the Hobbit. A fantasy retreat. Best version here (though close your eyes, the singer is enjoying himself too much and detracts from the eerie hauntingness of it:

    1. That's really neat, Pat, thanks! I played it ... and will again ... through the sound system in the kitchen (great acoustics) and ignored the computer monitor :-)

  4. Thanks for the wonderful hike to "Misty Mountain"--I really needed that! Great shots, beautiful critters, and I'm amazed (still wearing shorts most days...) that the prairie dogs are already snoozing for the winter. I'm such a wimp, I can't imagine such cold. It's also dawned on me that I've seen serviceberry trees in Oregon, though I don't know if what I've seen is the exact same species, or a relative. Nice post, all around!

    1. Thanks, Tina, I'm glad you enjoyed the hike ;-) Our weather has been so mild--I would have been comfortable in shorts that day. It seemed so odd to have perfectly good weather and nothing but dead grass and leaves, and prairie dogs hibernating. Obviously not the norm.

  5. You don't need to come here Hollis, you live in such a beautiful region/country. All places have their 'negatives' ;)
    Beautiful pictures and what a great capture of the owl (have no idea either which one it is).

    1. Thanks, diversifolius ... and you're right, this is a great place for nature lovers, negatives pale in comparison.