I don’t know about for you but July has been NUTS! I have had one weekend to relax and hit the Rivers Edge Trail. This is commonly something I do 3 to 4 times a week and every Saturday and Sunday in the mornings. The weekend before last was my one weekend of the month to do this. The Rivers Edge Trail takes you all the way to Ryan Dam east of Great Falls. It is a little bit of a “jaunt” to say the least but well worth it (keep an eye for upcoming blogs). The Great thing about the trail is the constant changing scenery. A few weeks ago I was on the trail one evening and I see they are building a Sun Dial just off of the 10th street bridge. The timing was perfect for a great image. I rode by once and got to the Black Eagle Dam before I realized that the sunset that was evolving was lining up right behind it, so I raced back to grab the picture. Luckily the gentleman that was working on it was still welding away. Another night I was out and about on the west side of the river and was able to catch the sun bouncing off of the BNSF train yard shop building. I have found that Great photos are made by being at the right place at the right time. I find myself pretty lucky to be able to go out on the trail any night of the week or any weekend and catch images that stand out.
When I am not on my bike I throw the dog in the back of the truck and chase the sun. the last few nights I have been lucky. just out of Great Falls there are some great photo opportunities. From the Ulm Pishkun to the Eden Road. Photos of Square Butte, pictures of Great Falls from the Pishkun, to Belt Creek as it winds through the canyon out of the Little Belts to the Missouri. As I am wrapping this blog up I am getting ready for a trip to the Bitterroot Valley. I am looking forward to hanging out in the Bitterroot and capturing Western Montana. In the meantime I am capturing Central Montana for you!
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In the Painting “Charles M. Russell and His Friends” the Square Butte just out of Cascade Montana is the back drop for this awesome painting. The reading I have done about Charlie Russell and his prints I found that this formation was one of his favorite backdrops. I have photographed this formation from every angle and have thousands of images of it and yet it never gets old. The area around the butte seems to be a portal back in time. The first area I hit is the road that heads north from Ulm Montana towards Pishkun State Park (First People’s State Park). After a stressful day I can take about a 20min drive and be out on roads that few travel. I have a few pull outs that I hit along the way that I can park my truck and sit. While I am waiting for the sun to set or the clouds to fall into the right location I watch the deer and antelope graze and listen to the breeze blow through the cab of my truck. After about an hour of therapy I am back to neutral and ready for another day. My second favorite place to photograph Square Butte is from “Afar” for sure. Out above the Smith River on Swede bench off of the Pleasant View Road I catch the perfect view of Crown Butte and Square Butte together. In addition there are some old abandoned buildings that fit perfectly into most Images. Like Charlie Russell Square Butte catches my eye and when I am traveling and far away from home, the Butte is what I see when I think about home.
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On Saturday afternoon my 4 year old daughter and I hung out at the Pishkun out in Ulm Montana. Two thousand years before Lewis and Clark this was used as a buffalo jump. The Indians would run the buffalo off of the side of the bluff. Below they would process the meat, bones and hides for the tribe. The buffalo are long gone and all that is left is the tribute to their way of life. A person can either walk from the visitors center or take the 5 min drive around to the top. When we visit the park we drive straight to the top and when we get to the top there is a “Prairie Dog Town” that is off to the side of the road (big hit with my daughter). At the end of the road is the parking area and trail head for the jumps. I truly enjoy standing at the edge of the jumps and hearing nothing but the wind. From this vantage point I can see for miles. Some of my favorite photographs have been taken from the edge of these cliffs. All the Pictures in this album were taken from the Pishkun. From the Pishkun you can see 4 mountain ranges. The highwoods, Little Belts, Big Belts, and the Rockies all can been seen and photographed. I think that the Pishkun’s (First Peoples) State park is one of Montana’s best kept secrets. I quit going there years ago to learn the history of the Pishkun and now I visit the Pishkun to reflect and catch a breath.
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After a walk the other night on the trail above the Black Eagle Dam I scrolled through my 20k plus picture library and it was obvious that I have a great deal of pictures that have been taken from the Rivers Edge Trail. It is incredible the beautiful scenery and photo opportunities that are available on the trail. I think it would be safe to say that I have been on every foot of the miles of trail that can be traveled. On top of the scenery that can be seen and the abundant wildlife there is a ton of history. As I looked thru my photos I found a little of both. I found pictures of the Montana sunrise, and amazing sunsets. Also not to mention Pictures of the Grizzly bear statue at the place that Lewis and Clark were chased by a bear and the statues that were placed on the bluff across the river of Lewis and Clark. I would love to get into the history of the Rivers edge Trail but I don’t think I could say it as well as it is said on the website for the trail (http://thetrail.org).
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Just south of the town of Square Butte, Montana and just northwest of the actual Square Butte there are some great formations and photo opportunities. Out on Flat Creek road I was able to find some great shots that capture the beauty of Central Montana that is rarely seen. I highly recommend the trip between Fort Benton down to Stanford, Montana. From this road you have so much access to unlimited scenic views, and photo opportunities. From Great Fall up to Fort Benton, down to Sanford, and Back to Great Falls is about a 166 mile round trip. To see some of the things along the way such as down town Fort Benton, Lost Lake, Square Butte, Huckleberry ice cream in Stanford, a burger and a beer at the Brew Pub in Belt you may want to budget the entire day. Whether you are a photographer or just want to get away with your family for the day this is a great day trip. To say it is off of the “beaten path” is an understatement.