Friday, June 13, 2008

A few days in Montana

I have been having so much fun running again! Last week was pretty productive, with a total of 36 miles including a tough seven miles last Saturday with Steve Shepard in extremely hot, muggy conditions at Cullen Park, just west of Houston. You won't hear me complaining about the heat. I am just happy as can be, to be back on my feet and logging some miles. On Tuesday, I went back to the track (Memorial High School) for the first time since March. Two repeat miles at just over 7:00 pace with a 400m recovery jog was about all I could handle. Six easy miles on Monday and Wednesday, along Terry Hershey Trail. Yet another six miles on Thursday, this time with a few Striders, and including 4 hill repeats at Barker Reservoir.

Talking of weather, I experienced some great weather on a 5-day visit to Montana a couple of weeks ago, on a birding trip. I flew into Missoula, Montana on a Thursday evening, having been staring at snow-covered mountain peaks almost all the way from Denver. Flying over Wyoming, I was told that the region had received significantly more snow this season than is usual, and it certainly looked impressive. Massive big mountain peaks just drenched in the white stuff. Not a sight that my Houston eyes are routinely treated to.

From Missoula, spending most of our time in the Mission Valley area, I joined a few other birders on a Montana Owl Workshop led by local scientist Denver Holt. We missed a couple of ‘target’ birds including the Great Gray Owl, but overall the trip was excellent. What a beautiful part of the country! The trip leaders and assistants were so much fun to be around and we saw many great birds, about ten or so of which were new to me. Always a thrill! The highlight was observing a couple of Long-eared Owls being mist-netted, measured, weighed, and banded. It was one of the most amazing nature experiences I have ever been part of.

In the Lolo Pass area we trampled around in 5 to 6 foot high snow pack, checking nesting boxes for breeding Saw whet Owls. Other than for a few miles in Missoula on the day of arrival, I did not get much running done, but we were working pretty hard all day, walking the valleys and forests in search of various species. Incidentally, the Missoula Marathon is coming up on July 13 this year. Western Montana is just a spectacular area to visit and I will definitely have to make it back there and try to include Glacier National Park and possibly Yellowstone as well.

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