Category Archives: Montana

Rusty Montana Car

It’s not unusual to see old dilapidated log cabins, barns, tractors and other early-day farm and ranch equipment when traveling the highways and byways of Montana. But this is the first auto we’ve seen to become a home to a young tree. Maybe you will see it too between the towns of Three Forks and Ennis when traveling toward Yellowstone National Park via US Highway 287.

Sunset at the Great Fountain Geyser

The Great Fountain Geyser of Yellowstone National Park is a favorite location for photographers wanting to capture a colorful sunset. The geyser, which erupts to heights of 75 to 150 feet every 8 to 12 hours, is located on Firehole Lake Drive between Madison Junction and Old Faithful. You can expect to have a lot of company at this spot due to its well-know popularity.

The geyser, which erupts to heights of 75 to 150 feet every 8 to 12 hours.

The geyser erupts to heights of 75 to 150 feet every 8 to 12 hours.

Kehoe’s Agate Shop

Bigfork, Montana

One of the delights of travel is making new discoveries such as Koehoe’s Agate Shop in Bigfork, Montana. Koehoe’s has a well respected reputation for offering quality gem stones from around the world including agates, jade, opals and many other prized and precious gems.

Muir Van Rinsum

Many of Koehoe’s gems find their place in high-end, custom-made jewelry comparable to what one would find in prestigious jewelry stores around the world including rings, bracelets, necklaces, ear rings, broaches and assorted pins.

The shop also is home to an assorted collection of rocks and minerals fashioned into a variety of art objects, some of which are in the shape of large rectangular slabs cut and polished to reveal images of various sea creatures including fish, stingrays and the chambered nautilus. These slabs make beautiful accent pieces or perhaps could be used as counter or table tops.

Josh Covill

Josh Covill

Particularly impressive is a variety of fossilized chambered nautilus shells. Josh Covill and Muir Van Rinsum, two of the shop employees, explained that when the creature inhabiting the shell dies, the shell sinks to the ocean floor where it eventually becomes covered and buried in mineral rich sediment. The fossilization process preserves the design and shape of the shell in extraordinary detail and beautiful colors. The colors, often seen as iridescent greens, reds, yellows and blues are indicative of the particular minerals in the sediments.

The shop is such a rare and enjoyable place in which to browse, I could not resist making a small purchase. Remembering I had in my pocket an old money clip still used but which no longer bore the original scrimshaw inlay; Muir helped me find the perfect piece of jade to replace the lost scrimshaw.

You will find Koehoe’s Agate Shop at 1020 Holt Drive, Bigfork, Montana. Phone: 406-837-4467.

Hells Canyon Loop Tour: Day 1 of 3

On Highway 129 about half way between the towns of Asotin and Anatone, WA: 4:04 PM

From Lewiston, Idaho we crossed the Highway 12 bridge over the Snake River into Clarkston, Washington where we picked up Highway 129 and followed it south through to the small town of Asotin, which sits on the west bank of the Snake River.

At Asotin, we found the intersection where there is a sign that reads Highway 3. Highway 3 actually is an Oregon State Route. Washington SR 129 becomes Oregon SR 3 at the Oregon border not long after crossing the Grande Ronde River.

The highway out of Asotin, twists and turns as it climbs out of the canyon giving us great views looking back toward Clarkston and Lewiston. Once out of the canyon, the highway flattens and is a pleasant drive through wheat farms on the left and right at an elevation of 2,910 feet, or, 887 meters.

This was another beautiful September day late in the afternoon with the sun highlighting the harvested wheat fields and the high ground rising in the distance across from Hells Canyon. Struck by the beauty of our pastoral surroundings, we stopped to enjoy the views and take a few photos like the one above.

Next Stop: Dropping Down to the Grande Ronde River

Hells Canyon Loop Tour: Day 1 of 3

Visitor Center, Nez Perce National Historical Park, Spalding Site: 2:21 PM

Our first stop in the Lewiston area was to visit a spot along the Clearwater River just a few miles east of the city off US Highway 12 to begin our tour of the Nez Perce and Hells Canyon country. The spot is the location of what is now known as the Spalding Site, one of 38 sites that make up the Nez Perce National Park, which was established in May 1965.

Though the park is managed by the National Park Service, the Nez Perce Tribe is one of the key partners in governing the park. Tribal members work at the park and the Tribe is consulted whenever a major park project is undertaken.

The Spalding Site, located just minutes east of downtown Lewiston, Idaho along US Highway 95 (See Google map) and the Clearwater River, is named after Henry and Eliza Spalding who founded a mission in this area to the Nez Perce in the late 1830’s.

The center piece of the site is the Visitor Center where one can learn the story of the Nez Perce people through visiting with National Park Service staff, videos, books and the excellent museum containing thousands of artifacts including a number that once belonged to Chief Joseph (March 3, 1840 to September 21, 1904), chief of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce.

For more information on the Nez Perce and the Nez Perce National Historical Park, visit the park’s web site.

Next Stop: Lewiston, Idaho

Maupin, Oregon

My next stop after leaving Sisters was Maupin, Oregon, a small town overlooking the Deschutes River about 45 miles south of The Dalles.

River recreation is the main draw for tourists and vacationers looking for whitewater rafting and fishing for Steelhead and trout. You will find a number of cafes and restaurants and several fly shops, rafting and other outdoor outfitters. For more information about rafting, check out our Oregon Whitewater Rafting page where you will find a list of outfitters with links to their web sites.

This photo was taken from a pullout on US Highway 197 just south of town looking north. To be more precise, here are the GPS coordinates: N 45, 10.001; W 121, 4.9847.

Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park

You already may know what I have just learned: The view of Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake with the craggy peaks of Glacier National Park in the background is perhaps the most photographed spot in the entire park.

I was doing a photo shoot of the park under the tutelage of John Reddy, a professional photographer I had hired out of Helena, Montana. John and I had met a couple of years before at a photography workshop in Yellowstone National Park and I was looking forward to learning all I could about landscape photography from John.

We arrived at the Wild Goose Island “official photography turnout” and viewpoint before dawn . . . and before coffee, but not before the first photographer to arrive. Heavy clouds lingered overhead but a glimmer of light in the eastern sky suggested we might be in luck for a decent sunrise. We weren’t disappointed.

We set up our tripods alongside the first arrival, mounted our cameras, chose our lenses and checked our camera settings all in preparation for the first light of the morning.

I clicked off my first exposure at 4:40 AM, a test shot and patiently waited for the show to begin.

Slowly and steadly other photographers began to arrive and before the first rays of sun painted the scene there were more than a dozen of us there from all parts of the country clicking away. And these were serious photographers with serious equipment.

By 5:59 AM, I had clicked off 53 shots using various focal lengths, lenses and exposures and felt satisfied I had accomplished what I was after. Most of the others also had gotten the shots they wanted and we all drifted away from the spot, boarded our cars and moved on to other locations or activities.

So how popular is the Wild Goose Island viewpoint? This morning I Googled the phrase and was surprised to see a number of links all leading to photos, one of which had been posted just yesterday and recounted the photographers encounter with a Grizzly. Almost at the same time I glanced over at my copy of Moon Handbooks Montana and there on the cover was a beautiful shot of this now very familiar scene.

Should you want to go, you’ll find the turnout and viewpoint alongside the Going-to-the-Sun Road just a few miles west of the town of St. Mary, Montana.  Here are the GPS coordinates as recorded by my camera when taking the above image: N 48, 41.499; W 113, 31.8917. Related photos can be found at Shots and Spots, a Go Northwest! photo blog.

James Willard Schultz (Apikuni)

John Reddy, a professional photographer out of Helena, Montana, and I were on a photo shoot in Glacier National Park.  Weather wasn’t the most satisfactory. Haze, which probably was smoke blowing in from fires in Washington, filled the valleys and muted the sharpness of the magnificent peaks surrounding us. Clouds, too, obscured the sun and left us with overcast skies.

But we had made the best of it that morning shooting waterfalls near the Weeping Wall and were heading back toward the town of Saint Mary on Going-to-the-Sun Road when we came upon the turnoff to Rising Sun Motor Inn and decided it was time to get a bite to eat and plan out the rest of day.

The decision was fortunate. Lunch was simple and not particularly noteworthy. But stopping there led to the discovery of a book by a favorite author, James Willard Schultz (1859-1947) who also bore the Blackfoot name of Apikuni.

Schultz, while visiting with his Uncle in St. Louis, Missouri in 1877, met first hand the trappers, hunters and adventurers who traveled the Upper Missouri River into Montana. Listening to their stories of adventures inspired him to go to Montana himself where he eventually took up with the Blackfeet, learning their ways and living among them. He eventually became a writer of their stories and authored 37 books about the Blackfeet including his most famous, My Life as an Indian.

The book I found is a 2002 paperback edition of Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park published by Riverbend Publishing of Helena. I bought two copies. One I gave to John Reddy in appreciation of the time we shared during our three-day photo shoot. The other, I brought home as an addition to my modest collect of books by Schultz and as a companion to my First Edition copy of the same title published in 1916 by Houghten Mifflen Company which carries the following inscription in Schultz’s own hand:

“After these years, those with whom I camped while writing this tale, have nearly all gone to the ‘Sand Hills’. James Willard Schultz, Glacier Park, July 27, 1926”

An inscription written almost 82 years to the July date on which I bought the two paperback copies.