Monday, June 16, 2014

To See Some Alpacas!

There are many sights to see going down the Bitterroot Valley. This church in Stevensville is the oldest building in Montana, St. Mary's, established in 1841 by Father Pierre DeSmet. Father Ravalli manned this mission until his death in 1884. I love the backdrop, the beautiful and imposing Bitterroot Mountains.

We traveled down the Eastside highway which must have been the old road before the freeway was built. This old farm is striking with its original farmhouse and rustic outbuildings.

Just east of the small community of Victor we found the Rocking L Alpaca Ranch we'd set out to see. The owners gave us a personal tour, personal because we were the only tourists there! There are 38 alpacas altogether, along with 2 "guard" llamas. These critters do not like to be petted, even though they are completely tame. We loved the little one, who stuck close to mama. Isn't his red "onesie" sweater cute? They would come up close to us and stare with their big, black eyes, checking us out. Inspection complete, they would turn away as though we were fairly boring creatures with no treats in hand!

The alpacas had been shorn just 2 weeks earlier, so looked skinny and naked, except for their furry heads. We could still see the lines the sheers made on their coats. We learned this takes place about once a year. The fur is then woven to make beautiful scarves, hats, mittens and other lovely products. Most of the completed garments we saw were sent from Peru, though the fleece from these guys was made into yarn for purchase. If I were a good knitter, I could have made my own garment! We did purchase a scarf from the gift shop. (Spoiler alert: it's a gift for someone!)

True to our habit of always driving through the oldest, original parts of the towns we pass through, we did that in Hamilton, an old settlement with lots of character.

Since we had toured the historic Daly Mansion in Hamilton during our last stay in Missoula, we just drove down the long driveway this time. So pretty!

Once again driving the back roads we passed through another very small settlement named Corvallis and saw this majestic mansion. We noticed a sign advertising it as a book store. We enjoyed our day trip today to see alpacas, and many lovely places along the way. There is so much to see in gorgeous western Montana.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

And There Were Bears!

 Finally, a day trip! We decided to tour the National Bison Range, about 40 miles from Missoula. We'd been there before, 4 or 5 years ago, and had enjoyed the spectacular beauty. Bison are awesome, but the views of the Mission Valley from this place are beyond compare. We did see some bison last time but not much else on the day we'd picked. On this trip we were much more fortunate. Our first viewpoint showed us the Flathead River far below. The gravel road through the Bison Range is 19 miles, one way, and narrow.

 It was thrilling to catch a glimpse of a black bear, but then... yes, there were 2 cubs cavorting just above her on the hillside. Mama bear is in the lower center of the photo, and the cubs are slightly higher. Click to enlarge, and you might see them.

Here is my favorite view of all. We walked out on a quarter mile trail to find this breathtaking view, looking east. I can't imagine any sight more beautiful. 
 The Montana state flower is the Bitterroot. I am always searching for wildflowers, so imagine my excitement to find lots of these pink beauties as we hiked along the short trail high in the Range. The only other Bitterroot I'd ever seen was in Eastern Washington many years ago, near Quincy.

 Bunches of them!

 Just for fun, as I got out of the car to photograph a valley scene, I snapped this pretty butterfly.

 This is the gorgeous view looking down into the Mission Valley and up at the stunning Mission Mountains, south of Glacier National Park.

 Heading down from the highest point of the Bison Range we encountered this sign, "Lake Missoula - Highest Level". Here is a link to an excellent web page filled with lots of information about Glacial Lake Missoula.

 We were lucky to see 2 deer with fawns far down in one valley . The young ones would leap and bounce a distance away from mom, then bounce right back. They repeated this several times as we watched. They were too far away for a photo. This lonely deer was having a feast down in the lower part of the Range, near the road.

 Once down from the heights and back on the main road we came across this historic Catholic Church. What a beautiful setting!

 We kept hearing a Meadowlark nearby and I finally spotted him, high on the cross, singing his heart out in praise of the gorgeous countryside.

And last, as we made the circle back to Highway 93, we drove by the beautiful St. Ignatius Church in the town of the same name. Several years ago we went inside to see the amazing paintings on the walls and ceiling. This trip we were too tired. Maybe next time!