Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nine Mile Creek: Missoula 1989

One of the great things about living in Missoula in the late eighties was that you could drive in any direction, for about five to ten minutes, and find yourself completely alone in the woods or along a river or up in the mountains. It was Bill (MA/MN/MT/IN/FL Bill--we'll just call him MT Bill from now on--though not to be confused with a Missoula friend Bill Van Sickle [love that name] who was a native Montanan) it was Bill who took me out to the Nine Mile Creek area, west of town.
As I recall, Bill had this Czech handgun that he wanted to try out, so we jumped into my red Chevy Custom Deluxe pickup and drove westward. I think he knew of the area, which was nothing special as far as Montana woods go, which was nice enough: dirt roads, treed hills and woods, a small creek flowing through. We got out and walked a bit. There were cattle in the woods and we'd see them wander through the trees as we walked. Then we found an open spot, set up some cans and such and tried out his Czech pistol. It was fine. I'm not much of a guns man. But we had more fun exploring the little creek. That water had small eddies and pools, enough that Bill thought there'd be trout in it. We decided to come back and check some time.
(We also found a lean-to with blankets and such--an encampment--thinking it was maybe some Vietnam Vet living in the woods.)
(Maybe the land was part of a National Forest, maybe Nine Mile was a bigger creek in a watershed and the creek we walked was some unnamed one.)
So, Bill and I did come back and did a little fishing. We caught a few very small cutthroat trout that we couldn't keep. While doing that, we heard the Wood Grouse. These were pretty thick woods for western Montana, but you could hear them--it must have been mating season--doing there thumping wing call. It's a steady drumbeat that gets louder and louder--thump thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthump--and doesn't sound like a bird at all. It's loud. It's cool. So Bill--a bird hunter who had a bird dog (Brittany Spaniel named Gem--we took him pheasant hunting near Great Falls once; Sun River, MT: I'll have to write about that trip)--wanted to come back during the bird season and give it a try.
And so we did. We got nothing (which was fine with me) but had another nice outing in the woods along little Nine Mile Creek.
And one morning, early and all by myself, I made the drive out just for the heck of it. I parked my truck, walked a ways to a stand of jack pines and up in those pines were owls. They were maybe Tawny owls or Barred owls (I don't think they were Horned owls) and they were big. I love owls. Have always loved owls. It was very exciting for me to discover these big owls up in branches maybe only ten to twelve feet high. I stood under them and watched them. They looked down at me but otherwise seemed unconcerned. Cool once again.
Nine Mile Creek. Yes. I liked that spot. Woods water and animals.
A good spot for an owl-watching breakfast.

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