Monday, July 17, 2017

A Day Trip to Painted Rocks State Park

It has been quite awhile since Mr. Keith and I have had a day trip away from the KOA and away from chemo. We've seen most of the sights around Missoula, but I discovered a spot on the map where we had not been, the Painted Rocks State Park, south of Darby, Montana. We packed a lunch and set out early to beat the heat. Driving down the Bitterroot is always awe-inspiring, always different in each season. In mid-July the snow is almost entirely gone from the mountain tops and the grasses in the valley are tall and lush. Just south of Darby we saw this small herd of buffalo munching grass and protecting their 2 or 3 little calves.

 We were anticipating what the "painted rocks" would look like. This is it! The State Park is along this man-made lake on the west fork of the Bitterroot River, way out from civilization.

 The park itself was just a few camping spots at the lake-side, populated by a couple of RVs and one or two tents.

We saw this fellow from a distance and hoped he would still be close enough for a photo. I should say he was! He appeared to have no fear of our car pulling right up beside him, in fact, he looked as though he were hoping for a hand-out! We've seen other mountain goats in our travels who were not skittish at all, either.

I am always trying to identify the mountain peaks in the Bitterroot but have only managed to name a few. This one, Trapper Peak, is most unusual because it has pointy tops in contrast to the rounded crests of the other peaks along the way. The State of Montana was most kind in putting up a sign at a roadside pull-out giving the history of area. Trapper Peak is the very highest of all the mountains in the Bitterroot at 10,157 feet. 
From the sign:
Trapper Peak has witnessed human activity in the Bitterroot valley for at least 8,000 years. earliest Valley occupants were prehistoric hunters and gatherers. The Bitterroot Salish Native Americans thrived in the Valley until 1891, when they were moved to the Flathead Indian Reservation. In 1805, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed here; followed by traders, trappers, and missionaries. In an attempt to flee from the U.S. Army in 1877, the non-treaty Nez Perce Native Americans passed peacefully through the Valley on their way east. Mining, agriculture, and logging brought settlers, and in 1876 the mountain was named by Granville Lee Shook, a surveyor for the Anaconda Mining Company, for its trapping success. Trapper Peak’s timeless and sturdy form represents history; from the historic travelers of the past, to the modern-day traveler of tomorrow.