The state of Montana is just under 600 miles from where the sun rises to where the sun sets. From end to end and top to bottom there is about 150,000 square miles of mountains, planes, badlands, Rivers and lakes with just a few people in between. A person does not really appreciate the size of Montana until you take a trip to eastern Montana. Heading East from Grass Range you are hours from the nearest gas station and farm houses are far and few between. Until you reach the Yellowstone River valley the roads are narrow over rolling hills and there are horizons that never end. A trip down the Yellowstone Valley can take you back in time. Nowhere is this truer than just outside of Glendive in Makoshika State Park. This place is amazing! I started my day out by driving the roads and scouting the trails in the park. The goal that day was to catch a memorable sunset and unforgettable full moon rise. I made my rounds on all of the roads and trails in the park before I stopped for a nap. I have always wanted to take a nap on the hood of my truck overlooking the badlands with just the sound of the wind and the eagles that were circling in the sky (it was a real picturesque moment). This ended up being the best 45 min of sleep I have had in quite some time. I woke up fully rested and ready to eat lunch and walk the trails. I met my family down at one of the camp grounds and ate a quick lunch. While we were down there we found a rattle snake den just under the campground. If you look closely at the picture you can see a skin that was shed and hung up on the rocks. Long story short I ended up climbing out on a hill that seems to be in the middle by its self. I set my camera tripod up on what looks to me to be a fossil of a leg bone of some kind. I could see the socket on one side and the darker marrow where it was broken (How cool is that!!?) So now that I have found the perfect spot all that is left is to hang out and wait for the sun to set. I used an app on my phone to calculate the location of the full moon rise on the horizon. I ended up getting block by a wall of clouds that had settled in after the sun went down, none the less the wait was worth it. The fires that were burning on the western side of the state made the sun a deep read while maintaining a blue sky in the east making the photos stunning. If you are ever looking for a trip back in time head to the Yellowstone valley and stop by Makoshika. Don’t be scared to venture off of the trail so see what fossils you can find.
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Due to my busy schedule this summer it has been a while sense I have made any post to my blog. This summer has been a roller coaster of events and adventures. Over the next eight posts I am going to cover my summer where I left off in July to current time. When I was not working or traveling I was on the bike hitting the trail. The Rivers Edge Trail has over 45 miles of trail and I covered every mile (Check out http://thetrail.org/). With a record fire season in Montana the colors were fantastic to photograph. There was always a stunning sunset, or a once in a life time sunrise to capture. One memorable trip I took was the trip out to Ryan dam from the Rainbow dam overlooks and this trail is aggressive at best. Following the river banks of the Missouri heading North East the trail takes you up and down the fingers that reach from the prairie into the water that sit about 50′ to a 100’ above the water. Mid way between Rainbow dam and Ryan dam sits Cochrane dam. You can’t drive to it due the fact the road is private so the only way to see it is to take the trail. In the 35 years I have lived in Great Falls I had never seen the Cochrane dam. The dam a modest structure that sticks out of the water with just one power plant. Just above the dam are the remnants of infrastructure that was once used to carry irrigation water out to the grassland. It is now used by guys like me that are resting at the midpoint between Great Falls and Ryan dam. To the north side of the river the old Rainbow dam power plant building has been replaced by the smaller building in the background. Just the week before I took my trip down the trail a grass fire surrounded this facility stripping all of the vegetation away. Now fall has come and gone, winter is here and the bikes are put away. Over the months to come I will be out and about capturing a Missouri winter and planning my shots for next summer.
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While it is nice enough to ride my bike I am out and about nightly and every night I pick a new place to go. It might be downtown, or on some part of the Rivers Edge Trail. Usually I hit the trail because of the ever changing scenery.
Last week I got ambitious and took the trail up to the top of Warden Park. There is quite the elevation change in a short distance for a bike. It ended up being great exerciser on top of the Images I was able to get were excellent. As a photographer I am always looking for the “Image” and I am never let down on any given night I get out and hit the Rivers Edge Trail. I would say that over all the Rivers Edge Trail is the single best feature of Great Falls but also the best kept secret.
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This last week I was out in Tacoma for my monthly visit. As usual it was a pleasure to visit and I found myself in new territory. This time I was able to get out and see the Point Defiance Park and head down the Puget Sound cost line back to Lakewood where I was staying. With the sun roof back and the windows down and a light breeze flowing through the car I was able to find true inter peace that is seldom reached.
As I was driving through, at the fort in the middle they were having a car show with cars out of the 30’s and 40’s era. the down side for me was that the trees were so thick that the light was too low to get good shots. as I went through the park I hit all of the overlooks onto the sound. I was able to catch the boats sailing up and down and some great shots of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that sands tall where Galloping Gertie once stood. I was amazed by the amount of walk paths and the fact that they have a zoo in the middle of the park. Next time I go I would like to venture through there when I have a little more daylight.
From the park I went down to another park called Titlo Park. The park part it’s self it under construction however there is some kind of boating club tucked back on the water side. You have to park and walk a ways back; however it is well worth it. I was able to get out on the beach and get some great shots not to mention the one of the bridge with the sun setting behind the trees. Over all that was a great way to finish the day!
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After my week in Coeur d’ Alene, next on the summer schedule was my cousin and his beautiful brides wedding. They planned over a year for the perfect wedding and I would say they got “got r done”. They planned a western style wedding with all of the finishing touches right down to the pine cone bouquet and pistol salute during the kiss. The setting was outside of Helena at the “little red school house”. This school house was the first school house in the Helena valley that was built in 1888. Not having been there I was curious as to why they would have picked this location. They could have not pick a better location for a western style with the mountains in the background and the trees to provide just the right amount of shade for the large crowd that had come to witness the event.
The reception was held at the fairgrounds. When we got there to set up, it was amazing the level of organization and thought that went into this event. Everybody had their card of instructions and when the vehicles showed up the contents were unloaded and put in place. It had the layout of a well-run construction project :-). At the bachelor party weeks before my cousin was telling me about the brisket and food they had started to prepare. Well I am here to report that the food was amazing! The truth be told that there are two kinds of weddings. The first are the stressful ones that no one including the wedding party has any fun at. Then there are those that are a day of magic. It is not often we get together as a family anymore but I think it was my aunt Gen who summed it up best… “It was just like the good old day with all of us together!”
After my week in Coeur d’Alene I decided that it was time to scratch one off of my “Bucket List”. I have wanted to take the Thompson Falls cut across to Missoula from Sandpoint Idaho for years now. Without regret I made the trip :-). Sandpoint is just a quick jaunt north of Coeur d’ Alene that is a trip all in its self. We spent a few hours in Sandpoint hanging out at the beach and eating breakfast at the Beach House Lounge. Breakfast was great! After a few minutes on the beach it was time to get on the road. We stopped along the way several times to take in the scenery and enjoy the small towns along the way. If you are ever in that area I highly suggest you make the turn because the Thompson Falls cut across is amazing to say the least. My next trip back from that side of the rocks will take me through Libby and Glacier National Park.
I am running a little behind on my blogs for the month… The up side is that over the last three weeks I have rounded up plenty of blog material. Over the 4th of July I spent the week in the beautiful town of Coeur d’ Alene. I try to make it there at least twice a year and every time coming home gets harder and harder. I enjoy the scenery, the people, and the general ambiance.
I have covered a good deal of the globe and Coeur d‘ Alene is one of the few places I have been that I have felt instantly at home. The experiences are always memorable. One Memory that I don’t think I will forget any time soon was the afternoon I came back after swimming on the south side of Tubs hill. I had just realized that I left my wallet back at the house and didn’t have the $3 I would need to pay for parking by the resort. I was just commenting to my wife that I didn’t have any cash on me and what happened next just left me in bewilderment. As I was pondering how i was going to get the cash a younger gentleman overheard our conversation and approached me with “Excuse me SIR”… I then turned and he asked me if I needed cash for parking and in his hand is $3. Completely dumbfounded I asked him to repeat himself with an “Excuse me”? (Now understand that this does not happen where I am from) I reluctantly took the money with a cautious “Thank You”. To this day I can’t believe that a bystander over heard my conversation with my wife and stepped in to help. After sharing my story with my brother and sister who live over there, apparently this kind of thing happens all of the time.
We spent the morning of the 4th at the parade. The “Small town feel” of patriotism at that parade was emotional to say the least. As I came in with my family folks moved to the side with a smile to allow for my kids to squeeze in with their kids. The parade comprised of the local schools, fire departments, soldiers and just about everything you would see at a small town parade. That night we found a great spot next to the resort to watch fireworks. The colors were brilliant reflecting off of the lake, and the sounds reverberated off of the surrounding mountains. I consider this to be a “Perfect” 4th of July celebration.
The last night i was there we took a walk as a family down along the lake while the sunset over the Tubs hill. Not a breath of wind and nothing but the sounds of the lake next to the trail. Unlike other adventures, I never get home sick when I am in Coeur d‘ Alene because I already feel at home.