Something to grouse about

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A ruffed grouse crosses the trail in Glacier National Park.

I dug the snow out of my ear and wiggled my shoulder back into place and wondered what had happened.

I had been watching a ruffed grouse high in a cottonwood tree eating buds.

Then I tripped over a rock-hard snowbank.

The camera and lens were full of snow, but no worse for the wear. The grouse, sensing some disturbance 75 feet below, flew away with a flourish.

Stupid grouse.

January was a brutally boring month in Glacier. Sure, there were peeks of sun here and there, but the grand vistas of Glacier were generally socked in, especially at dusk, when the light is the best.

In good Januaries, it gets well below zero, the skies clear and the views are the best of the year.

This January it has been a parade of gray. There were days when we got pounded by snow in the Park only to drive home to partly cloudy or entirely clear skies.

Heavy snow at least makes for interesting photos, but gray skies and rain make things all the more depressing and one day last week we hiked in the pouring rain. I had days on end when I didnít take a photo.

Not one.

I know this sounds like complaining, but itís not, really. Iíve been through way worse.

There really are no bad days in the woods, provided youíre not freezing to death, starving or mortally injured.

The other day, the snow was pounding down and we skied up Apgar Mountain. By the time we reached the top of the trail, our tracks were largely filled in. The ski down was way fun.

The snow was soft enough so even I, one of the worst skiers on Earth, could make a serviceable tele-turn.

Then I spotted it, sitting there on a snowbank, sort of in the shadows beneath a spruce, a ruffed grouse. It was puffed up.

I grabbed the camera and pointed it toward the grouse.

Boom!

It blasted away.

Stupid grouse.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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