Summer time in Great Falls means it is time for the Farmers Market! The Farmers market is held in downtown Great Falls south of the Civic Center. In this area they squeeze in dozens of vendors and hundreds of potential costumers. If you are in the area you can smell the BBQ pork for blocks (I make sure I never miss out :-). This weekend’s event was a real treat with the live Jazz band Fizzy Watuh. The music seems to bring a great atmosphere that gave that small town festival Feeling. If you didn’t know better you would be looking around for the small carnival rides. In its place there are small pony rides that add to the “Small town” feeling. Walking around and taking in the scenery and the great music really brings out the essence of downtown. After my morning bike ride this was a great way to start out the weekend. While I was down there I grabbed some shots for your enjoyment.
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Just south of Great Falls there is a road that runs parallel to the Little Belts with the Highwood Mountains at your back. This road weaves back and forth across the Smith River with several places to park and fish. After a stressful day I can throw my Golden Retriever in the back of the truck, hop in and head out on Eden Road. From this road I can access the back side of small towns such as Cascade, Ulm, Stocket, Monarch and a good percentage of Central Montana. In the spring the storms blow over the mountains giving the Photographer endless landscape masterpieces. In the mornings the sun rises over the Little Belt Mountains giving once in a life time sunrises every single day. In the evenings the sun sets on the Rockies closing the day leaving you at piece with yourself with a feeling of how lucky you are to live in the Bigsky Country.
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After work I can’t think of a better way to burn off some stress than hitting the Rivers Edge Trail on the bikes. I can burn down a few residential blocks and hop on the trail without crossing any major streets. From there I can reach the entire length of the Missouri that passes through Great Falls with one street crossing. This crossing is located just north of the Milwaukee Depot adjacent to the skate park. There is Just one note on this crossing that I wanted to share. It can be a dangerous crossing due to the signage provided. For the trail traffic there is a stop sign provided that tells the pedestrians and bikers that they need to stop and wait until it is safe to cross. The vehicular traffic is also provided a sign that says there is a pedestrian crossing ahead. However there is no communication on who has the right away. The danger comes when a vehicle stops giving up his or her right away leading the trail traffic into a false sense of security. The vehicular traffic traveling the opposite direction may not be paying attention or willing to give up their right away. If you have a longer train there may be some miscommunication on whether or not it is safe to cross. I watched this last week almost turn into a tragic accident. Myself I let the courteous drivers that stop to allow me cross keep their “right away”. It is only until it is clear that I attempt to cross (OK! On with the rest of my blog). This is about the third of fourth time I have blogged about the Rivers Edge Trail and I can Promise it won’t be my last. Every time I am on the trail the scenic view is different than the day before.
I am on my way out the door for a bike ride. My daughter has her warm clothes on and my wife is patiently waiting for me to finish this blog :-). When you look at the map of the Rivers Edge Trail you can see that there is an access point “just down the street” from just about everywhere in Great Falls. It is amazing what the trail started from compared to what it is today. There are so many awesome views of the Missouri River and sites around Great Falls. Starting at Flag Hill just below Warden Park on the southernmost part of the trail is the best place to start your journey. From this vantage point you get a great view of Great Falls and the path of the Missouri as it cuts through Great Falls. At the Top of Warden Park there are two high powered spotting scopes that you can use to glass Great Falls and beyond. I was surprised at the quality of the glass and scopes (highly recommend). In addition to the spotting scopes there is a Folf course that works its way through the park. I took photograph of the Flag with Great Falls in the back drop from this location (called “Flying Proud”). This print is being auctioned off at the Dirty Martini’s for Clean Water on the 12th of May; this is a fundraiser for the Rivers Edge Trail. The trail on this side of the river goes all the way out to Morony Dam. On the west side of the river starting at Bay Drive there is a nice little park that gets less traffic than other parks, however it is a great place to put in for Fishing or just relaxing next to the River. It is right on the river with park benches scattered about. I took an awesome photograph of the flag and the gazebo at the top of Warden Park with a brilliant rainbow behind it (Flying Colors). You can get on the trail and take it along Bay Drive, under Central Ave West Bridge. When you get to the other side you can take the West Bank park trail where businesses are developing the river front. This side goes all the way to the island below Black Eagle dam. On the tip of that Island is a great place to grab shots of birds flying up the river. When they pass by they are flying low. They like to fly up below the dam and float back down to Giant Springs. The second option when you get to the other side of the bridge you can take the Wiseman Bridge to the east side of the river. From there you can take a right to get back up to Warden Park or take a left and head to Morony Dam, Giant Springs, Gibson Park, and Great Falls Skate Park or practically anywhere in Great Falls.
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While I was out and about this weekend I stopped by the annual “Cruising the Drag” in downtown Great Falls, Montana. Great Falls downtown area is the heart of Great Falls and one of our best kept secrets. When I was a Teenager, when my parents were teenagers, and their parents were teenagers central Avenue was the place to hang out and socialize. Somewhere between here and there that has changed a little and the kids no longer “Cruz the drag”. On an annual basis you can take a walk back in time. From all corners of the state collectors bring their classics and line them up and down Central. On my walk down Central I was able to take in the sights and sounds of classic Great falls and enjoy the cars. Do you know those classic cars that when they drive by everything in the world stops while you admire them? Or the ones that make you almost run into the car in front of you while you are driving because you are too busy eyeing that classic machine next to you? Well Cruising the Drag is seven city blocks (both sides) of those cars. This was a photographer’s Dream, I walked away with 256 photographs and I picked a few and posted them to my blog here. Being the small community that Great Falls is you see just about every one you know as you make your way down the street. It seems that about every third car we would run into an old friend that is in town for the weekend or family that was out and about. One of the more interesting people we ran into was gubernatorial candidate Jim O’Hara. I enjoyed our conversation and admired his ability hang out with the people and not try to be one of the attractions. In addition to following his positions and political point of view, in a conversation with him I can tell that he is not too different than any of us. When you attend these events in Great Falls you just never know who you are going to run into, but one way or the other taking in the culture of Great Falls is an experience all by itself.
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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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