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For the past three weeks, I have been doing forestry work in the Idaho panhandle, not far from Coeur d'Alene, and also near Spokane, Washington.  I've been close enough to those cities to enjoy the trappings of civilization, but most of the time I've been in the woods.  Even when a large tract of forest land lies near towns, the winding dirt and gravel roads make for slow travel.  A highway that's easily visible from the hill I'm standing on might be 30 or 45 minutes away by road.  Camping on site allows me to save driving, and get an earlier start each morning.

While I have a day off, I'm assembling pictures from this year, as well as from previous years in the area.

Forested hills overlook valley wheat and grass farms
View of northern Idaho and Lake Coeur d'Alene
Another view from the hills, showing Lake Coeur d'Alene
My work area is in rolling mountains with elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 feet.  Farms occupy much of the lower ground, with wheat and hay being major crops.
Ocean spray
Ocean Spray can be pretty to look at, but difficult to walk through
The gaps in the forest can get quite brushy, with ocean spray being the tallest plant.  The older plants lean downhill, sometimes making navigation a challenge on steep ground.  Fortunately there are not many thorny plants out here.  However...
Stinging nettles
I could have sworn that the field guide said Singing Nettles!
I've seen lots and lots of wildlife, but the critters would not cooperate for my camera.  Numerous moose, elk, and deer make the area home.  And plenty of turkeys, too.  Yesterday I saw an extended family with 3 adults and about 15 half-grown chicks.

The most exciting moment came on the highest elevation ground, which was mostly open land with young trees.  A cow elk ran downhill, perhaps 200 feet from me.  She was pursued by two bull elk with velvet antlers.  The bulls were directly uphill from me, headed staight for me!  My survival instinct told me to take cover, so I backed behind the nearest tree.  The elk saw me moving, and changed direction.  At that point I remembered that I had my camera with me, and had I stood my ground, I could have had a great video of the event.  Oh well, I'd rather live another day than be mashed flat by two very large bull elk.

How about snakes?  I saw none at all until yesterday.  This giant measured at least eight feet, er, inches, and had just eaten a fully grown raccoon, er, grasshopper.

Garter snake
The biggest snake I've seen all month!
Young ponderosa pines
Young ponderosa pines cover this hillside
The forests in this part of the country are very diverse.  Here is the location where I camped last weekend.  I found the trees to be just the right height (up to 130 feet).  Conifer species include Douglas-fir, western larch, grand fir, ponderosa pine, western white pine, lodgepole pine, western hemlock, and western redcedar.  If you look carefully enough, you'll find a stray Pacific yew along a creek somewhere.  Deciduous trees include quaking aspen, black cottonwood, paper birch, wild cherry, and various species of maple and alder.  You'd better know your tree species if you plan to work around here!
Forest campsite August 2012
My own private camp in the Deep Dark Woods
In 2005, I worked in the same part of Idaho.  For the entire month of August, I had a lakefront campsite in Heyburn State Park.  Day after day, I'd return to camp after a long day in the woods, to be treated to views like this one:
Sunset from Heyburn State Park, Idaho
One of my favorite campsites ever, in Heyburn State Park
Wild rice, Heyburn State Park, Idaho
Looking across the wild rice towards campground at Heyburn State Park
Here are some images from elsewhere in the area.
Old Mission State Park
Old Mission State Park in early fall
Log rafts
Rafts of logs at Saint Maries, Idaho
And for you geology buffs, this is the location of the giant ice dam that formed glacial Lake Missoula at the end of the last ice age.
Location of ice dam of glacial Lake Missoula
Site of glacial ice dam that formed Lake Missoula
The final picture was taken in Montana, not Idaho.  On my trip across the country, I was hunting for a place to camp on National Forest land near Three Forks, MT.  For about 30 minutes I was treated to a double rainbow.  I had time to set up several pictures, including this one:
Evening rainbow near Pony, MT
Rainbow near Pony, Montana

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 04:30 AM PDT.

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