A Montana winter is nothing to scoff at; abbreviated days, extended nights, buckets of snow, routine excursions below zero. 

But stop us from enjoying life out of doors it does not. 

The snow-covered mountains, crisp air, and bright sun beg to be savored.  So, to oblige them and satisfy our winter spirits, we ski, snowshoe, hunt, and fish. 

Yet, as March gives way to April, I find myself, like Thoreau at Walden Pond, “on the alert for the first signs of spring.”

Around here, those signs are conspicuous: red-winged blackbirds on the tips of cattails, receding snow on south-facing slopes, pairs of waterfowl streaking across the sky, Baetis mayflies emerging from the Yellowstone River, sandhill cranes, mountain bluebirds, fresh shoots of green. 

I’ve seen each of those vernal hellos over the past few weeks.  And even though all were expected, the onset of spring still amazes me.

Verlyn Klinkenborg might have said it best, “The abruptness of spring, its riotous biological opportunism, is always surprising.”

It is. 

Maybe it’s winter’s severity.  Maybe it’s the far-flung memories of a sunburned neck and rising trout.  Maybe it’s just my twisted love of the Cubs playing baseball outside at Wrigley Field.

I don’t know, but whatever it is, it makes spring seem so unattainably distant in the middle of winter’s grip.  

And, thus, when it suddenly arrives, I always find myself wonderfully astonished. 

To spring.


A pair of Canada geese flying in front of the Bridgers in Bozeman, Montana.

The Yellowstone River east of Livingston, Montana.  (The Yellowstone is the longest undammed river in the lower 48.)

A red-winged blackbird perched on a cattail in Bozeman, Montana.

A nesting great horned owl in an abandoned barn west of Three Forks, Montana.

A patch of snow hides from the sun in a tree-covered draw.  (Note the old buffalo wallows on the hillside in the background.)

 Two pairs of Canada geese on the Boulder River south of Big Timber, Montana.

Looking south at the Absaroka Range.

My dog, Aldo, soaking up the sweetness of spring on a recent hike.