What fun today was . . . Birdie and I drove to Florence (Montana), along with Gary Wolfe and his wife Rita, for a site visit with Kate Davis, executive director, Raptors of the Rockies to learn more about this education project and tour Raptor Ranch. Since 1988, Kate has been providing quality care to permanently disabled birds of prey and educating the public — more than 100,000 of all ages — about eagles, hawks, falcons and owls through educational and wildlife art programs. An accomplished artist, photographer and writer, she has published at least five books books about raptors including "Raptors of the West," which won the National Outdoor Book Award for design and artistic merit, and grand prize for the Montana Book Award in 2011.
With a not-so-secret desire to learn falconry, I immediately became mitten by Sonny (Bald Eagle), Nigel (Golden Eagle), Ansel (Gyrfalcon/Peregrine hybrid), iPod (Northern Pygmy-Owl), as well as all the others . . . and left a great fan of Kate, who is such a passionate powerhouse for knowledge and love of raptors!
After a tasty lunch and home-made gelato at Caffe Firenze, Birdie returned to Missoula while Gary, Rita and I headed to Stevensville. Next up, a site visit with the Bitter Root Land Trust — Tonia Bloom (board member), Kyle Barber (Conservation Director) and Emy Royce (Program Administrator) — to tour two conservation easement projects in the Burnt Fork Drainage. The first has been successfully completed while the other is currently underway. Both beautiful properties land with stunning views of the Bitterroot Valley. As it got progressively hotter throughout the afternoon, we headed to the Stevenville soda fountain for yummy Wilcoxson ice cream before our drive back to Missoula.
Alarm rings at the God-awful hour of 3 AM. Drive to Santa Barbara to catch the 5:45 AM flight to Denver, and then on to Missoula, Montana. Always hard to leave Simba and Peetie, who slept glued to me last night. No worries as they will be loved and well looked after by niece Taylor and friend Kristen while I am away.
At this hour of the morning there is no traffic, an open parking space couldn't be more perfectly situated in "long-term parking," and there is no line at check-in. Security, too, is a breeze. I love the flight to Denver over Nevada and Utah. On clear mornings like today the topography is stunning with long shadows cast on the moonscape-like landscape. Even a touch of snow lingers at higher elevations.
My seat-mate is flying to Denver to move his daughter back home home after having graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a degree in costume design. Their's is to be a road trip with stops at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. He is clearly looking forward to sharing this adventure with his daughter and is uncertain of her professional prospects!
Not living in Montana, I love site visits as a way to put faces to the Cinnabar Foundation's conservation partner organizations and and to learn first-hand about the critical issues, challenges and successes they are working towards.
The Upper Missouri River is a dream-catcher for memories — a place where Lewis and Clark paddled, walked, camped and wrote about more than 200 years ago. It's also a place where mountain men, fur trappers and other outlanders staked their dreams. It is a place where time moves slowly, where the forces of nature have carved their stories upon the landscape, where each bend of the river beckons you onwards; and where slot canyons seduce you to explore the inner and outer nooks and crannies of reality.