Exploring 101

Recently, an acquaintance requested that I take her with me on a typical exploration trip. An admirer of my photography and stories, she wanted to witness a day-in-the-life-of me on an adventure. I was, and am, flattered.

Heading north out of the greater Spokane area, we chose a random paved road neither of us had ever been on. We chatted as we drove along with no destination in mind, just admiring the natural landscape of Washington state, but not really seeing anything photo worthy.

As we drove along about 65 mph, I was being proactive in my search for something rare, unique, and beautiful. dsc_8959A foreign shape back in the woods caught my attention. As a child learning to hunt from my father, my brain was shaped to take notice when something in my vision was out-of-place. Skinny legs in a forest of thick tree trunks. A dark mass standing out green bushes. So a granite tombstone in an overgrown field of apple trees, bushes, and tall grasses was worth turning around for.

Let the real adventure begin! Wonderment, excitement, and the thrill of finding something so unusual filled our hearts with joy! Strapping on our camera’s, we began to slowly explore the area discovering additional tombstones in this old and overrun cemetery.

Most of epitaphs were dated in the 1800’s with a only a few in the early 1900’s. Considering most of the population during this time were poor farmers, the beautiful granite headstones are a tribute to the honor of the family. Many, like the one pictured above, marked several family members buried together in a family plot.

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These are graves not visited nor maintained, by the generations since. Perhaps the families have moved away as small farms were no longer sustainable and people moved into the cities for occupation. Smaller trees and shrubs planted nearby a plot over 100 years ago, have now overtaken the cemetery, turning it into a forest.

Apple trees, wild roses, chokecherries, and weeds have buried, hidden, and adorn the cemetery with color, texture, and beauty.

Even though it was early September, we were amazed to find this fresh Lupine wildflower. Typically a late spring bloom, it graced the floor of this forgotten place with the reminder that life goes on.

We enjoyed several hours on this wonderful adventure, while pausing to read each headstone. We’d often stop to question, then surmise the stories of the deceased buried there. So many had died in 1889. Was there a disease that caused so many of various ages to lose their lives at the same time? So many young children. So many young mothers. The grief and tears of those who had stood upon that land so long ago, as the final words were spoken over the freshly turned earth were felt by us.

We honored. We respected. We valued that afternoon in what we later learned was the Mica Cemetery.

My story could end here, but as part of the continuing education, let me add that once home, the computer searches began. Wanting to know the history behind the photos we now possessed as mementos and memory sparkers. Several more hours of sharing our finds with one another only added to the delight of this adventure, off the beaten path.

We could have gone shopping and out to lunch. We chose the path less traveled and were the better for it.

Chocolate, Photography & Friday … ah!

The mornings are beginning to get cold here in Western Montana, which means we need to start closing a few of the open windows at night. This morning the inside temperature was hovering around 60 degrees ~ just a might nippy for our relaxed and lazy routine!

With steaming cups of hot chocolate and coffee in hand and the glorious morning sunshine streaming in, thoughts automatically turned to capturing it with some dreamy mood shots.

I hope you enjoy these and the shared emotions of each shot!

Indulging

With fresh tomato and basil harvests dwindling down to weeks, I’m indulging my taste buds more frequently with one of my favorite summertime, mouth-watering, flavor satisfying meals!

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Heirloom tomato’s (no, I travel too often to raise a garden!) from Farmers Market, combined with fresh basil leaves, and Mozzarella balls marinated in herbs and spices that I buy from Costco.  {Formaggio brand}

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Add a few lightly buttered and toasted rounds of baguette bread and you’ve got a burst of springtime flavor in each bite! Close your eyes and you can easily imagine you’re on the Isle of Sicily where we used to walk to the neighbors dairy to buy the freshest Mozzarella cheese everyday!

Once the seasonal local crops are finished, I’ll eagerly be waiting for the summer of 2017 to enjoy my wonderfully fresh Caprese Salads again.

 

The Holt Ranch Heritage Museum

DSC_8118Meet Bill and Romana at the Holt Ranch, and you’ll have met friends for life!

 

With a career behind them in the Rodeo circuit as host announcer and contestant, this dynamic couple have an unexpected wonderful collection of Cowboy and Indian memorabilia in Lolo Montana. Bill describes it as “Cowboys and Indians – Rodeos and Powwows”. Rubbing shoulders with many celebrities, Bill and Ramona have been collecting artifacts of the Wild West with the help of their friends, for a lifetime.

The collection tells the story of cowboys, their equipment, and the evolution of different types of saddles and tack. No aspect of life on the frontier has been excluded. Nez Perce, Salish/Kootenai and Crow Indian memorabilia are included. The museum is on the famous Lolo Trail or the Nez Perce (Nee-me-poo) Trail, which was used by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806.

Before you visit the museum, stop by to enjoy their small herd of Longhorn cattle across the road. These world famous animals are all that remains of the once large herd the Holt’s raised on their ranch. 

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With two authentic teepees and a wonderful life size welded sculpture of an Indian mounted on his horse by Montana native artist Harry Koyama greeting you, your visit begins with the Holt’s wagon collection. Restored stage-coach, chuck wagon, buggy, and so forth.

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Step inside to lifesize dioramas of a dentist office, saloon, county registry, and all things rodeo, just to mention a few. Bill and Ramona enjoy the ‘show and tell’ as they walk with you, describing in greater detail with entertaining stories surrounding each item. Their collection is obviously a work of love and respect to Montana history.

If you’re a fan of entertaining greats like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Ronald Reagan, and so forth, you’ll be delighted by the fun memorabilia of these icons, in the various displays within the museum.

Here’s Sam Elliott’s boot, doing a little toe-to-toe dancing with me!

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6800 Lewis And Clark Trail Lolo Montana 59847  Open by appointment only.

 

Buffalo Gals are out tonight!

I’m basically a cowgirl at heart. I love the combined experience of nature with a western lifestyle. So camping really makes me happy! It’s like living on a ranch without the ranch house. {or hard work!}DSC_8241

Several years ago, I started a women’s adventure group and named it Buffalo Gals Travelers and Campers. Like minded women meet together for a few days–and nights–of western themed camping. DSC_8249

My little sister gave me this wonderful wool carpet bag and glitzy purse jewelry for my birthday–so appropriate for the leader, right? I love its big size, because there’s even room for my camera!

Buffalo Gals Camp was last week here in Montana.  It involved a lot of work but I enjoy event planning so it was fulfilling to see it come off without a snag or hitch.

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Every detail was attended to for these Western ‘cowgirl caravan’ campers who pulled into camp throughout the day. They found snacks, cool water, a vintage wash IMG_5591station, and some sweet little swag bags waiting for them as they arrived.

Imagine my excitement when I found sterling silver earrings that matched this year’s camp theme “Kick Up Yer Heels and Have a Good Time”, to add to all the local cowgirl boutique coupons in their swag bags!

Thanks to Cowgirl Corner, Crazy Horse, B.E. at Home, and Antiqueology shops for your support of Buffalo Gals Camp!

 

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Don’t my Sam Edleman boots make awesome centerpieces? I’ve stuffed them with a narrow canning jar, water, and fresh roadside wildflowers!

 

Four EZ up canopies gave us plenty of shade! I added some of my cotton bandanas for color, and bug control. (I did not realize I had so many — 27 in all — until I started gathering them from my two trailers, backpack, fishing gear, etc.

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My Buffalo Gals enjoyed a lovely, inviting venue for their four night stay in Western Montana. There were many options to fill our time, but most of us chose to stay in camp, chatting while cooling off in nearby Lolo Creek, reading in the shade, or dozing in one of the hammocks.

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Living life laid back. Oh, and maybe a couple of us danced by the light of the moon as the Pistorius Meteor Shower danced overhead through the night sky.

 

 

 

Ending July with Travel {naturally}

Two down and one to go! Months of summer that is. Here in the Rocky Mountains of Northern USA, those three precious months are all that is allocated to us.

With July ending on a weekend, I’ll start my diary of travel highlights with Friday evening. It was my dear mothers’  (“MaMa”) 90th birthday. So with the car packed full of decor, gifts, birthday dessert, and favors, plus my usual bag of overnight necessities (just in case), I headed into town. With a quick (45 minute) stop by her house to help her with some last minute primping, to look at her garden (unchanged since she’d proudly showed it off to me just 4 days earlier) and a reading of all the birthday cards she’d received, I packed MaMa into my car too.

We arrived at the restaurant of her choice, Finn and Porter at the Hilton. Our family has been celebrating special times for over 35 years at this venue, though none of the revolving staff realizes this fact. I’d reserved a private room for our party — which is ideal for us because it is a glassed in room that still allows us beautiful river views.

A few quick decoration touches of Happy Birthday banner and balloons, and my part was completed. Soon the room was brimming with the happy guests and we enjoyed a lovely time together. MaMa was pleased!

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On Saturday morning, I headed the car south toward my favorite Farmer’s Market in the Bitterroot Valley. Always a delightful mix of local artisans, growers, and vendors. The streets are filled with small town peoples that I simply love. No one is uptight or in a hurry. I search the crowd for familiar faces, and all too often the flow is stopped when a connection is made and the paths are blocked by happy voiced patrons. We gently ease our way around without a fuss.

A drive up one of my favorite canyons for some mountain breeze and rambling creek enjoyment, and I head home again.

Sunday morning dawned with a brilliant sunrise, in thanks partially to some hazy smoke from a forest fire somewhere.

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Traveling in my memory to other famous sunrises while I enjoyed my morning coffee on the back lawn. I could not linger though, as I had to travel north toward Glacier Park for a photo session with a client. A family reunion lakeside in Polson where a new baby was making its debut. Beautiful lighting but a brisk breeze that insisted hair and clothing go its own way was less than ideal. When we’d turn to pacify the wind, the sun’s light was wrong. Phooey. We made the best of it and as I assured the family, the memories are what’s important, not perfect photos. {not sure they bought it}

Taking advantage of the fact that a good friend lived nearby, we’d arranged for a light luncheon together with 2 other friends ~ all of us classmates in high school. One drove in from her lake cabin, another conveniently passing through town enroute to another destination, and of course me, who was there on assignment.

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What a great time we enjoyed sitting on the deck overlooking the Flathead River in Polson. Some reminiscing but mostly just catching up with one another’s lives. Years ago we discussed our babies. Nowadays we discuss our aging parents. And our grown kids. And of course, our grand-babies! Many laughs later, I traveled home to the high school tunes of memory lane ~ Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and other favorites.

What a lovely end to July with my daily road trips, filled with favorite places, scenery, and people!