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Wildflower walkers: Spencer Mountain in full bloom

Wildflower walkers: Spencer Mountain in full bloom
Wildflower walkers: Spencer Mountain in full bloom

 



Father's Day morning started with a fart joke.

Happy Farters… I mean Father's Day, the card my three daughters gave me read. You are a gassy… I mean a classy guy.

The girls' potty jokes were breaking out.

How do you want to spend your Father's Day? they asked.

Other than smoking ribs that afternoon, I had nothing planned for what turned out to be a pleasant but chilly Sunday.

Let’s go for a hike, I suggested, which, to my surprise, didn’t elicit any immediate groans.

They were willing to do what Dad wanted, and I wasn't going to pass up this rare opportunity.

We filled our backpacks with a few juice boxes and peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and headed to the Spencer Mountain trailhead, just west of Whitefish.

I've been mountain biking these trails for years, back when it was a sort of guerrilla trail building affair, and now as an officially established destination that's part of the Whitefish Trail system.

I had never hiked the section of the Whitefish Trail in Spencer, so this seemed like a great opportunity to finally take a look.

My oldest set off at the front of the pack while I stayed at the back with the two youngest for the round trip walk of about 4 miles.

I learned to enjoy the joys of travel at the speed of a preschooler. You notice things you never would have otherwise.

On this hike, it was the immense diversity of wildflowers blooming in the recently thinned national forest. Orange-pink brush fields mixed with yellow arnica and purplish hyacinths.

A bright orange flower caught my eye, honeysuckle. I had never noticed how a single leaf surrounds the collection of flowers like a small cup of tea. Fascinating.

It took us about an hour to reach the short, rocky summit of Spencer Mountain which overlooks the Farm to Market area towards Tally Lake. Low clouds contrasted with the emerald agricultural fields below.

It’s a beautiful view, my second daughter commented.

It makes me smile when they notice their surroundings and appreciate where they live.

While enjoying the snacks and the view, I took a photo with my cell phone of another flower that I had never seen before. Growing from a crevice in the rock, a stem about 18 inches long featured a pillar of white flowers at the top. It looked like a miniature bear grass, without the grass, the greenery at the base had three leaves like a large clover.

I sent the photo to my friend who is a plant and agricultural ecologist at Montana State University. He texted back a link to the Montana Field Guide (fieldguide.mt.gov), a fantastic resource for identifying native flowers and other plants.

The mysterious flower was a small alum root. It is found throughout much of Montana, with an area of ​​density in the Flathead Valley. It grows in rocky outcrops or open forests, from valley to low mountains.

While the girls had been picking bouquets throughout the hike, we left the little alum root alone. I spotted another one growing on a rock on the shady northern slopes of the mountain as we headed back to the truck.

Back home an hour later, the girls put their flowers in tiny vases and told Mom about their wildflower adventure.

It was a Father's Day hike that warmed my fart…I mean heart.

Littleleaf alumroot grows from a rock atop Spencer Mountain near Whitefish. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)
Hikers at the start of the Whitefish Trail at Spencer Mountain. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)

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