(Feature photo by Tom Holman)
A Priceless Field of Natural Grasses
The Sundance Meadow is actually quite a rare piece of natural ground, natural in that it is not a man-made meadow, now naked where once timber stood. It has been there for a long, long time. Regardless of its timeless age, the Sundance Meadow is a grazing ground for a wide variety of North Idaho animals, including carnivores like coyotes and black bears that come to feed on the voles and mice that live in the grasses. We’ve seen fox too, red fox. And once a cougar came into the field and followed the haying tractor, probably for opportunity of harvesting any little creatures the man-machine might flush into the open, mowed grasses.
This meadow of many moods inspires me whenever I am in it or around. I’ve seen it in early frost, in the mist of first snow, in the wet of rain and the hot of mid-summer nights. I love the sound of crickets and frogs singing their mating songs as the sun sets over the Western sky of Washington state and from there, the unseen shores of Priest Lake at Coolin.
I love the brisk, cold, clean air of a star-filled moonless night when you know you cannot count all the twinkling brights that you see. And then the yip of coyotes breaks the spell. They’ve caught your scent, likely, from the far side near the timber or they’ve claimed the right to some carnivorous kill. Who really knows?
I’ve been in this meadow as the morning sun breaks over the back shoulder of Sundance Mountain and climbs all too quickly into the heat of day. The first light of morning is breathless. On a clear day it leaves you speechless. You stand quiet in its shine long enough to smile deeply, deep in the soul of life’s best experience and you know why you come here, why you love this parcel of earth on which you stand.
A Walk Around
I’m not alone in this kind of wonder and thinking. I know because the owner of the Sundance land has lived here 23 years. He likes it so much that over the course of time he’s bothered to create a hiking trail with stream bridges that takes you one a winding path completely around the backside of the meadow from one end of the house, circumventing the meadow to the backside of Lee Lake, around to the site for the guest cabin and then back again to the dock that porches off the land just due east of the heliport.
Come with me, I’ll take you around on a short walk. We’ll call it a photo journey. I’ll give you some of my collection as I take you through. But we’ll have to do this in a series. Too many photos, too special to miss.
In the Field
Really, you can walk easily out through the tall grasses and sometimes you do because you never know what you might flush into view. Could be anything. Could be that red fox or maybe the cougar, waiting. Hah! He never seemed dangerous, just opportunistic. Can’t blame the animals. You feel like one yourself when you’re here, alone.
I don’t know about you, but I see more when I’m alone. Maybe it’s because I’m looking out of wonder and not too interested in entertaining another person.
A Creek Runs Through It
Lee Creek, which holds a small population of cutthroat trout, mostly in the fry stage, flows out of Lee Lake going north, northwest through the center and then along the eastern edge of the Sundance Meadow.
Clean and clear, this mountain water feeds the entire meadow and adjacent timber through a high water table, showing itself merrily as it winds through sun-lit pools over age-long washed pebbles. Aquatic insects abound. The entire ecosystem of this mountain meadow is refreshing and self-sustaining.
Here is what the underside of the bridges looks like, fortified against spring heights and flow.
That’s a quick short view, but I’m out of writing time. Oh well, I’ll be back and I’ll tag these posts together so you can actually follow my path. It’s timeless when it happens and the photos I bring are the same now as they always were: small picture windows into an endless time in a special place.
I’ll see you again shortly. I’ve much to share.