Safe Harbor Marsh Preserve

June has been a busy month and we have found very little time to go out birding as a family. Fortunately this past Sunday our schedule freed up and we were able to head south along Flathead Lake to explore Safe Harbor Marsh Preserve. The preserve is made up of 132 acres and is managed by the Nature Conservancy. The area is home to a wide array of wildlife, but our main goal was to see some new bird species in and around the marsh.

At first the Younger Fives were a little put off by the Safe Harbor Marsh Preserve as there is no designated trail. We had to remind them that when we lived in Maine one of their favorite activities was bushwhacking through the woods. A little ways in we found a rough foot path to follow and that made them a bit happier. Five String concluded that we have spent too much time on the well worn trails of the Montana park system lately and need to seek out more secluded spots. The Younger Fives countered that being told that bushwhacking was involved and to wear long pants would have been appreciated.

Luckily any further family bickering was averted a short ways into the preserve as two Calliope Hummingbirds alighted on a tree just in front of us. This was our 88th species to date in our Family Big Year. The coloring of the male was gorgeous, but hard to capture on film. The Calliope was the only new species that we encountered at the preserve, but we did see a number of birds that we have already recorded including red wing blackbirds, turkey vultures, and tree swallows.

All in all the outing was a success. It was really nice to be off the beaten path away from hikers, dog walkers, and bicyclists. As Montana is really starting to get busy with an influx of tourists it is nice to know that places like the Safe Harbor Marsh Preserve exist as a reprieve.

10 for 10

Ten hours of reading for 10 hours of roller coasters and attractions at Silverwood Theme Park? When we heard about Silverwood’s Reading is the Ticket program through our local homeschool organization, it sounded too good to be true. But sure enough, K-8 students (homeschool and public school) have the chance each spring to earn a free ticket to the amusement park for reading 10 hours over the course of several weeks. The Younger Fives wasted no time in getting through their time requirement in a matter of days, and then the hard part came, waiting for the park to open for the season.

We chose the first weekend in June for our visit, the start of the longer hours and the water park opening. It’s safe to say we made the most of our day. The Younger Fives went on all the rides they were tall enough for, including some pretty serious thrill rides. Between hopping back and forth between adult and kiddie-sized coasters, we enjoyed the lush flower and plant life throughout the park and found plenty of shady, calm places to recharge. Five String and Five Spice didn’t hold back either and tried out some rides the kids weren’t quite ready for yet.

After several trips on every ride within the park, some clear favorites emerged…

Paratrooper – Longest, most enjoyable ride of any attraction. High and fast enough to be exciting, but not  jarring.

Frog Hopper – Rising and falling in the lap of a colorful frog. What’s not to love?

Roaring Creek Log Flume – Classic log flume with a big plunge at the end. Bystanders can deposit quarters to soak riders as they pass, which we learned the hard way.

Corkscrew – Great introduction to looping coasters. It was Five of Heart’s first trip up-side-down.

Also, some honorable mentions for Tremors, Tilt-a-Whirl and Scrambler. The latter two were boycotted by Five String due to his refusal to go on spiny rides and have the world rotate for hours afterwards, but the rest of the Fives thoroughly enjoyed both the rides themselves and the feeling of superiority.

By the time our 10 hours passed and 8 pm rolled around, we all were ready to call it a day. While we chose not to check out Boulder Bay (the water park) due to temperatures in the 50s, the weather held out and we had much more sun than originally anticipated.  The true mark of a successful day was when we asked the Younger Fives if they would come back again tomorrow for another round, and they all exclaimed “Yes!” in unison. Fortunately, for the Older Fives (feeling jolted and exhausted from experience), the tickets were good for only one day.

A Yurt In Yaak

Five String has always wanted to visit the Kootenai National Forest and an area know as “The Yaak” in northwestern Montana. Since we were on our way to northern Idaho this past week we figured that it made sense to drive through the Kootenai National Forest on our way. This area of Montana is very rural and reminds us a lot of northern Maine. We loved how green everything was and the smell of the trees, flowers and fast flowing water was unbelievably refreshing.

Since we were quickly passing through the area we decided to spend the night in a Yurt at the Whitetail campground that sits along the Yaak River. The proximity to the river was fabulous for bird watching and getting our feet wet. We challenged ourselves with skipping stones across the river and by the end of the day we were all ready for our first campfire of the season.

The Yurt was surprisingly spacious with a set of bunk-beds and a good sized table. We really loved not having to pitch a tent for the night especially when we woke up to rain showers the next morning and were able to eat breakfast inside and stay dry and warm.

Since we didn’t have to devote time to packing up camp (Yurts really do make life easier) we were able to spend more time relaxing along the river bank. On our way out of the area we stopped off at Yaak Falls where we watched an impressive amount of water cascading down over the rocks. The Yaak area is definitely a gorgeous piece of wilderness and one that we hope to be able to return to for further exploration in the future.

Maiden Voyage

As the temperatures approached 80 degrees yesterday we ventured over to Swan Lake for the maiden voyage of our new inflatable kayak (The Manatee) and our second hand canoe (The Croc 11).

The wind cooperated and we ended up paddling for most of the day interrupted only to cool off in the lake.

We had debated long and hard over the winter months as to the merits of an inflatable kayak and it turned out to have been a good purchase. It saved us having to put a new roof rack on our car, the price was very reasonable, and we didn’t find the set-up time consuming at all. We especially love how stable it is in the water. The kids can jump off of it and climb back in without the fear of the kayak tipping over. It seems to handle well and it is pretty easy to tow behind the canoe when the Younger Five’s arms tire out. Hopefully we will get some good use out of both boats this summer.