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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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!”
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.
Last weekend was the bachelor party of bachelor parties. The original location for the party was going to be Helena. We had planned to float the Missouri river for the day. After the float trip we planned to get into your typical bachelor party adventure on the party bus that evening. As plans often times do they changed. It was decided by the bachelor party committee that we would have it at Lolo Hot springs. I had never been to Lolo Hot Springs however I have always heard how beautiful it was. As it turns out Lolo Hot springs is in the center of everywhere for bachelor parties. By the time we arrived in Lolo that Friday one of the members of the party had lost his pants along the way and was down to his chonies. He was intoxicated enough that he politely asked bystander for a pair of shorts to borrow… and the adventure had begun. The first adventure to be undertaken was the 30min drive back into Missoula. A bachelor party wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a strip joint and this one was no exception. We started the establishment on the west side of Missoula out by the truck stop. The “environment” was “okay” but not appealing to our group. From there we took the party to the Fox Club downtown. Let me tell you things were looking up! The “environment” was just right for having a good time. After an S&M beating for the soon to be groom by two beautiful women and more liquor then the human body is supposed to take we headed back to Lolo. I would also like to add that during this little adventure we had two Designated Drivers to get us around; they drank pop and water all night. It was cool how easy it was to find someone in the group willing to stay sober all night to take care of his buddies…. On with the adventure! In Lolo there is a nice little bar and grill that serves not too bad of a breakfast and dinner. After a night like that we are going to need some breakfast!
The Mountains around Lolo and on the Idaho border are amazing to say the least. We found hours of entertainment back in the sticks. Starting with panning for gold, we found ourselves back a few miles behind the resort. I can’t tell you the thrill of seeing flakes in the bottom of your pan. Needless to say that between the three of us with pans in our hand we came a long way from making wages. After lunch and target practice we decided to head over the pass into Idaho. The Locsha river drainage is something to put on your “Bucket List” for sure. There are amazing vistas, warm mountain springs, raging rapids and trails that don’t stop. We ended up going on the Warm springs Creek Trail to the Jerry Johns Hot Springs. Honestly they were more of a mud puddle however for the price of a small walk there are not to many other places in the lower 48 that you can see people openly walking around stark-naked. Just to add culture to your life makes it worth the walk :-). Over all it was an awesome weekend with a great group of guys.
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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