Junior Ranger Badges on Display – Finally

The Younger Fives have been collecting junior ranger badges at national and state parks throughout the United States and Canada since 2013. They have worked hard to complete junior ranger booklets and activities while visiting the park and be sworn in as a junior ranger by park staff. For several years the badges and patches have been stuffed into suitcases and the the car glove compartment while we traveled.

However, once we were a little more settled it was our intent to display their badges in some way. At first it seemed that buying a National Park Service tee-shirt or bandanna to pin them to would be the way to go. However, after several trips to park gift shops nothing turned up that worked. Most merchandise is specific to the park that you are visiting and while we have our favorite parks we wanted something more generic.

So, the badges continued to sit in a keepsake box undisplayed. Until this past week when we finally got our act together and decided to grab out the trusty glue gun and make our own hanging wall pennant with the help of some brown felt and a few backyard sticks. The whole project took less than 15 minutes and the Younger Five’s junior ranger badges are now proudly displayed on their bedroom walls. The best part is crossing this long enduring to-do item off the never ending list that is tacked to the refrigerator 🙂

Unexpected Fruits

We moved into our current rental house in November when the trees had all lost their leaves. So, it was really exciting this spring when we discovered that we had several fruit trees growing in the backyard. As the fragrant blossoms died away and we became occupied with swimming and hiking the fruit trees faded from our minds. So, it was really exciting this past week when the Younger Fives came running into the house with huge smiles and handful of ripe cherries. The tree is absolutely loaded with fruit keeping our stomachs very happy. At some point we will probably need to start thinking of what to do with all these cherries besides just snacking on them. It will be interesting to see if the other fruit trees in the yard (apple and plum) yield as much fruit.

Picnic at the Pass

Ever since our thwarted efforts to reach Glacier National Park’s high country during our first visit to Montana, we’ve been eager to make the drive up to Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Road. This past Wednesday the entire stretch opened after plow crews worked diligently for weeks to clear out the feet of snow and debris left over the winter. Knowing how busy Glacier gets in the summer, we jumped in the car this past Thursday to make our first successful trip to Logan Pass.

While the road itself was clear of snow, the top of Logan Pass definitely was not. After a quick picnic lunch, we headed out on the Hidden Lake Trail. The mix of snow below and sun above made for a quasi-winter wonderland. Hikers, skiers, and snowboarders shared the trail, and quite a few snowball fights were in full swing all around.

On the way back down the trail Five Spice had the inspiration to pull an emergency tarp out of our backpack and fashion a makeshift sled. While not the smoothest sledding experience, the backdrop of the surrounding peaks couldn’t be beat!

When we set out for the park we hadn’t planned on a romp through the snow, but it ended up making for a wonderful day. The park had definitely transformed since we last visited this past winter, and it was hard to imagine just a few months previously we had been cross-country skiing on the road we were driving on. For those not yet ready to let go of winter, Glacier provides plenty of snowy fun well into the summer.

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.

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.