Darn it, I thought as we approached the turn off to Moise and noticed snow on the mountains of the National Bison Range. I had a hunch that the Red Sleep Drive would be closed, but it wasn’t confirmed until we arrived at the visitor’s center where a ranger told us that 3 inches of new snow had fallen overnight. Then I knew the road closure was a sure thing. David joked with the ranger by saying that his truck still had winter tires, and that he carried chains. Her response to him was that he could have the job of pulling everyone out (out of the mud and snow, that is). She smiled and said that the road was slushy and unsafe for visitor travel.
Disappointing? Yes! But the benefit to the closure of The Red Sleep Drive was that there were no fees for the Winter Drive. Not that 5 bucks a car to see the range was going to break the bank, but doesn’t everybody love a freebie?
The Winter Drive had lots of wildlife viewing opportunities, and my family of shutter bugs didn’t pass up any chances to capture it.
David took pictures of geese along Mission Creek,
and these sweet looking deer resting in the grass. Their fur was different from the ones we’re seeing at home at this time of year. The deer in our yard still have gray/brown fur, while the ones at the Bison Range were shedding, thus revealing their orange summer coats. They were cute and exotic looking.
My husband’s observant eye caught sight of a badger as we were circling the loop, which is off of the main road on the Winter Drive. Quickly, he pulled out his camera and snapped this shot before the badger disappeared into the brush.
It took a little patience, but this elk finally raised her head long enough for me to take a decent shot. I’ve yet to get a picture of an elk with a nice big rack. It will be really cool when I do.
You’re not supposed to get out of your vehicle except in designated areas because you could get rammed, tossed, or hurt by a great big bison or other wild animal, so I took a picture of this antelope from the passenger side of the truck looking past my husband’s shoulder. Not bad considering the difficult vantage point of being in the truck.
My absolute favorite subject of the day was not a furry creature, but a feathery one. Montana’s state bird, the Western Meadowlark, was such a ham! I seized the opportunity, and caught him with his beak open as he sang his cheerful flute-like song. I also consider the Western Meadowlark’s melodic tune the quintessential sound of the Bison Range.
But I must tell you. This year’s visit to the National Bison Range, was not about the wildlife. It was about the wildflowers. When we reached the end of the Winter Drive, we saw a landscape alive with the color of spring. No flower in Montana says “spring has sprung” better than arrowleaf balsamroot, and they were bursting forth all over!
I am always impressed with David’s wildflower pictures, and he captured the essence of the meadow,
with a combination of bright yellows under a cloudy sky,
and with a closer look at the delicate pistols and stamens of the flower.
Although Eileen is not all that pleased with the next photo, I like it because it shows her vision of the profusion of color,
while I opted for close-ups from a different angle.
But it wasn’t only the arrowleaf balsomroot that caught our eye. Delicate pinks
and shades of violet bloomed among the balsamroot.
No essay about the National Bison Range would be complete without the bison,
and a picture of the mountains.