Spring has sprung and that includes all that goes with it in Montana… Typically you have warmer days mixed with some rainy, windy days and more often than not, snow. This winter seemed more challenging than most with long periods of cold, snowy weather. I found myself watching the weather closely looking for the first sign of a break and for the “Sun Gods” to express themselves.
The day finally happened and without hesitation my instant messenger lit up with my buddy telling me what had to be done. I didn’t hesitate and Dollie was quick to push me out the door.
4 a.m. rolls around fast, but nonetheless you grab gear and go. I used to drive through the dark and wonder what would happen throughout the next long hours of the day. Now I just let things unfold and take it as it comes. If I live the way I should and appreciate life, it’s all good, so in the words of a mentor – “shoot everything”.
Coming down over the pass I notice there is no wind. I whisper to myself, “this has got to be a first.” I can honestly say it was the first time I had ever experienced this place without the roaring wind. I zip into the meeting spot and I’m greeted by bloodshot eyes and that boyish smile. “Waaazzzup up sweetheart, you look purdy?!” I said. All I got back was a smile and a few choice words. Heck of way to greet your buddy after a compliment. Anyway – I loaded my gear and on down the road we went. It’s early so not a lot was said. I was pretty intent on my cup of coffee actually. After about an hour we could see our destination and the climb we had ahead. We started to get a bit stoked so within the excitement, we lit into a whole bunch of shop talk.
The climb was as we expected. I again impressed myself with keeping up easily with someone 20 years my younger. Age is only a number – right? We topped out and every time I get to these places just shy of the heavens I am in awe. I’m a photographer so I pull out the iPhone and take some video (tongue in cheek). We are here for sheep as it’s and as we hoped, it wasn’t long until we find the boys.
I know it’s truly my passion as I still get giddy even though I have photographed thousands of them. Over the next 3 hours we challenge each other to make images. Man, I love this stuff.
We begin to wrap things up by thanking the boys and talk about the next time we’ll see them on the mountain. Then, I’m literally stopped in my tracks. What happens next is a moment of my time on this big blue marble I’ll never forget. Through the sage comes a playfully keen red fox.
He’s intent on his purpose to find ground squirrels. He acknowledged us, but continued his search. What did we do? We followed of course. What did he do? Well, he did the polite thing and sat down and waited on us. Once we caught up he gave us a look as if to say “OK, you guys ready to go find some squirrels?” Off we went.
For the next 45 minutes we watched this cautious and meticulous hunter search for ground squirrels. All the while sneaking and slinking through the sage within 20 feet of us. Stopping at times to glance our way and nod as if to ask, “how am I doing?” We decided to finally just sit and watch this guy. What happened next will forever be remembered.
He trotted back to us within 10 feet. Sat down, looked right at us and then laid down and took a brief nap… never once alarmed or worried about us. If I apply anthropomorphic ideals, then I’d say he must have mentioned that “if you guys are gonna take a break, I will too.”
After he was recharged sufficiently he sat up, gave a nod and began to resume his mission – so we walked with him. We were in complete awe as he stayed by our side for another 10 minutes. We reached the edge of the sagebrush flat where it met the timber. He again sat down looked at us as if to say “until next time…” Then with a few quick steps and a bound he silently disappeared over the hill into the timber. As I sit here typing this dialoge, I still cannot believe what transpired that day. I think we both felt like we were out for a walk with our dog on a Saturday afternoon. These moments are some among my top 10 of coolest times ever on the mountain.