Fall has graced us here in Montana, and, for the first time in years, it’s been a leisurely process, with warm days and mild nights. In fact, in mid-October, we even had some record highs, with temperatures in the 90′s. Most years, though, we get those high temperatures (more often in the 70′s and 80′s) one day, and a few hours later, we’re slam-dunked into winter without any kind of transition. This early winter will last a few days, before transitioning backwards into a kind of Indian summer for a few more weeks, but, by then, the damage has been done – the leaves on the trees turn brown and gray, shrivel up and make one huge sigh onto the ground.
With this fall’s mild weather, though, our leaves are glorious, and last Sunday, we took a drive up the Canyon, towards the Beartooth Highway (which leads into Yellowstone). Since it is (almost) winter, the highway had officially closed two weeks ago. Still, we were hoping to at least get up to one of the overlooks, and look down on the blazing colors, but the gate was locked.
So, back we went, to Lake Fork Trail where we meandered along the banks of Rock Creek, just enjoying the stunning fall day. Lake Fork is a lovely trail that winds through some pine forests, and along a creek bed.
You sometimes share the trail with other characters ….
…… and horses, too.
Even though we were mostly in pine forest, the aspens and cottonwoods – interspersed where there was enough light for them to grow – were at their prime.
The unseasonably warm weather seemed to have tricked a few plants to set some buds (or maybe they’re the super-organized kind that plan ahead and bud out in the fall. I didn’t know what kind of plant this was to look it up).
At the end of the trail, I found some painterly-looking aspen bark (i.e., chewed artfully by elk) in the middle of honey-colored grasses.
After our hike, we decided to take a drive up the Bearcreek Hill, and look down into Red Lodge. The views were incredible.
There’s an artists’ studio across from the Creek, and one of the artists makes incredible sculptures from juniper wood. Aren’t these just amazing!
Since Sunday, the temperatures have dropped and most of the leaves here in Joliet have come tumbling down, so we’re really grateful we got to see this fall’s magnificence up the canyon and into the woods. And it got us excited about cross-country skiing in the same area in a month or two.
P.S. For a different – and very funny view about life in Montana – check out thisYouTube video.