"As long at there are bluebirds, there will be miracles and a way to find happiness."
(Shirl Brunnel, I Hear Bluebirds--1984)
This past Saturday was a chilly and drizzly day for a hike but I went anyways. I loaded up my dog, Maddie Rose the Boxer, and we headed out for the mountains. Everyone else in the family was busy with life--the wife had a funeral at her church; the daughter was being a good daughter-in-law and attending one of her brother-in-laws college graduation; the youngest son was dog sitting while his sister was away; and the number two son--well, 6:00AM is a little for him. So it was just me and Maddie heading off for adventure in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness at Woodbine Canyon near Nye, Montana.
Though we took the route to the canyon that I followed two weeks ago when I spotted a moose, we pretty much struck out with the critter creeping. We did see some great birds --a Golden Eagle, several Sandhill Cranes, and a couple of Meadowlarks--but no moose. We saw lots of Whitetail and Mule Deer--but no moose. The wife has yet to see a moose since moving to Montana and swears that they do not exist. She says it is a conspiracy by the Montana Board of Tourism to lure people to the state. Because of this moose are a magical, mystical, and mythical creature around our house . . . but we did not see a moose. The closest we got to see a moose was a great big beaver on the Stillwater River as we started up the canyon. It was huge! And, ugly too!
From the beaver sighting on it was a pretty dreary hike for me. Maddie seemed to be enjoying herself as she had the opportunity to read all of the "pee mail" along the trail. I often had to stop and wait for her to catch up with me because she was so engrossed with her reading. Mostly we hiked on the muddy trail, got good and soaked, and hoped that we could make it up to Sioux Charley Lake before it started to pour. along the way we encountered two individuals who gave us some hope that things would get better--at least in the critter creeping department if not the weather.
The first was a guy on horseback who had been doing some camping around the lake. His first words were, "There is a mother moose and calf up the trail a little ways . . ." My heart soared at this news even though mother moose can be quite protective and dangerous--there was still hope for a moose sighting! Then he dropped the bomb: ". . . I encountered a grizzly bear yesterday up there too." Whoa! Grizzly bears are a whole different experience because they maul first and never ask questions. Suddenly my hope and joy were a little tempered. So we moved forward . . . there was a moose with her calf ahead.
The next guy was on foot. He, too, mentioned the mama moose and calf up ahead on the trail. I kept asking him where on the trail, but he was too busy telling me about the grizzly bear he encountered the day before. "Yeah, it came charging at me with its head down. If I hadn't shot at with my gun to scare it I would have been a goner." Kind of an ominous sign when people have to shot at the grizzly--the bear sounded pretty aggressive. It sounded like to me that the grizzly was after the moose's calf. That is not a good combination. But being the knucklehead that I can sometimes be we marched onward--me out of stupidity, Maddie because she didn't know any better and trusted me.
To say the least it was a little nerve-wrecking from that point on. Moose protecting its young are extremely aggressive, and surprisingly for as big as moose are they are fairly quiet animals in the woods. Throw into that a grizzly who has had a long winter hibernation and probably quite hungry, thinking a baby moose would make a good meal, well, things are a little tense. About a mile up the trail it started pouring down rain--a definite sign that it was time to turn around. We were soaked, our spirits were dampened, and it was time to go home. No moose, and definitely no grizzly. I carry bear spray, but the bear only sees that as seasoning before the big meal.
As Maddie and I piled in the truck to start the journey home, it felt as all was lost. No moose. Soaked to the bones. And a rainy drive back. A few miles down the road I spied a bright blue patch of color sitting on a fence post--a Mountain Bluebird. These buggers are almost tougher to see than a moose and there was one sitting on a fence post (see the picture above). I slammed on my brakes and that earned me a surprise glare from Maddie who had already started to snooze. I jumped out of the truck and started snapping pictures of the Bluebird and then it was gone. I thought I had miss getting a good picture, but was greatly surprised when I got home and downloaded the pictures . . . there it was:
The Bluebird of Happiness. This picture just made my day. To appreciate it one needs to see it blown up--the bird practically looks heavenly--angelic. There is always hope when one least expects it and the discovery of that hope is all that it takes to make a drizzly day into a wonderful day. This little bird--this Mountain Bluebird--was the perfect end to the day.
Blue skies Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies Do I see
Bluebirds singing a song
Nothing but Bluebirds All day long
(Irving Berlin, Blue Skies--1927)