My Love Affair With Montana, Continues

DSC_6564“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“I’m in love with Montana.” C.D.D. 

My Subaru is loaded with the essentials … tripod, cameras, lens, notebook, map, and GPS. Oh, and a backpack with a few clothes and other essentials. So off I go, heading east over the Continental Divide to my road trip hub for a few days and nights–the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks.

The Sac was built in 1910 to service tourists traveling through on the railroad. Now on the Register of Historic Hotels, this white clapboard beauty is pure bliss. So when I got a call to come stay and review it, naturally I said “yes!”.

The lovely covered front porch is lined with white rocking chairs, scattered wool throws for guest use, and season appropriate floral arrangements. Greeted with a smile and a glass of chilled champagne, I am escorted to my room on the third floor. Up the original wooden stairway, past hall windows and the rustic wood doors of other guest rooms.

 

 

Barely taking the time to drop my things off, I hustle out to capture the late afternoon golden hour for some photos.

 

My first stop is Willow Creek. I’ve been wanting to stop by the Willow Creek Cafe and Saloon. One of my favorite reads is BLIND YOUR PONIES by a wonderful Montana author, Stanley Gordon, who features the town of Willow Creek in this courageous story.

Although the cafe is not yet open for business, I love driving the main street with passages from the book playing out in my imagination. But I don’t have time to dawdle for I’ve stopped dozens of times to enjoy the scenery along the Old Yellowstone Trail and am due back for dinner reservations at The Sac’s famous Pompey Grill.

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I can’t wait to return another time to splurge on Chef Matt’s famous 3-course dinners!

I finally get to snuggle into my beds luxurious crisp linens, after the sun has disappeared past the Tobacco Root Mountains to the West, deeply satisfied by wanderlust.

I slept my normal 4 hours, awake for 2, sleep for 4 more, odd schedule. Impressed by the absolute lack of noise by guests or street, I opened my window to enjoy some brisk autumn air as I stood gazing out over the sleeping town of Three Forks before returning to bed and meditating on sleep in the middle of the night.

One of the highlights of my stay at the Sacajawea Hotel is the complimentary breakfast-in-bed option. Especially for a lone-traveler, its just so relaxing to eat in suite, as I putz around preparing for my day.

Today I’m off to Pony, Montana! Settled in 1916, Pony was a prosperous gold-mining town. Today there are a number of historic buildings remaining in this town located on the edge of the Tobacco Root Mountains. Since leaving my beautiful Bitterroot Valley, I’ve been suffering with October fever in needing some rich fall foliage to satisfy. And satisfy it does!

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Off the beaten path, the highway to Pony diminishes down to a dirt road once you’re through the town.

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I spent several hours wandering each street of this charming little town, photographing and listening to some of its historic tales. Faint wood smoke from a nearby chimney, the crowing of a rooster and the clucking of hens all added to the ambiance of my visit.

 

I took over 200 photos here–so I’m being very selective about the ones I’ve chosen to show you! Many more shots are found on my Instagram feed–Montana Carole / Divineview Photography.

It’s hard for me to backtrack–leaving the way I arrived–so I found the most-used dirt road and started following it south. Before long I was able to wave down a passing farm truck–a local who surely could give me some good directional advice!

Local ranchers, the Brownson’s, were friendly and helpful as they explained a route to me, taking me up and over the mountains on a dirt road, eventually coming out on the South Boulder Creek highway just 11 miles to the west. (He quizzed me about my all-wheel drive as he carefully checked out the condition of my tires). “It’s a steep road” he said. “I’m a Montana girl and am used to it” I assured him. “It looks like snow” he said. “Yes, and I’m cautious about not wanting to get into any trouble.” “Well. We’ll be heading back this way a bit later. I’ll take a run up there just to make sure you aren’t in any trouble.” Like a protective grandpa, he wished me luck as we drove apart.

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VbarR Ranch

Yes, the weather did spit some snow, but not too much.  I passed cattle, sagebrush, aspen groves, rocky crags, stunning vista’s, rutted mud, a few old homesteads, a surprising University of Indiana research station and lots of mule deer during my wonderful cross-country trek.

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As I pulled out onto the South Boulder Creek road, a snow-squall hit with a furry, blowing the golden Cottonwood leaves off the trees and across my path. Again I stopped so many times to simply enjoy the grand October nature minutes. To enjoy the wild beauty of this wonderful state of mine. To bask in the sweet satisfaction of my hearts love cup, now filled-to-the-brim with October and Montana.

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My First Food Photography Contest!

DSC_6023A good friend sent me the link to a food photography contest with encouragement for me to enter it, combined with lots of compliments on my food photography. I went to the website, read the rules, and jotted a note in on my calendar to fit this challenge in before the end of the month deadline.

Let me tell you a little about this unusual and oft times stressful September I’ve had.  First of all, my sweet, little community has been bombarded with forest fire, smoke, soot, and ash since mid-July. Twice, I’ve been ordered to evacuate my home–mandatory–within 10 minutes. The first time it was for 12 days. The second time it was just for an afternoon. But I’ve lived with the evacuation warning threat for over a month.

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From my front porch, September 3

I don’t know if you’ve ever been charged with deciding what possessions are the most important to you but its a very hard thing to do. Especially if you’re at all like me–not a hoarder–but a collector of fine things. Until recently I had a wonderful vintage store where I sold the unusual and treasured home and garden collectibles. Naturally I’ve kept the things that I just couldn’t part with. I’m also a watercolor artist so my walls are filled with a lifelong collection of moody sepia toned cowboys, horses, and cattle drives.

And as a mom, I’ve got three kids worth of treasures, and a grandchild’s treasures–gifts to me that their little hands have fashioned and created. Of course, the usual can’t leave behind items, like photograph albums, grandma’s cookbook, grandpa’s pocket watch and hundreds of other family heirlooms.

Did I mention my antique classics book collection? Leather bound, many first editions?

And I’m trying to make time to enter this great food photography contest!

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As I first realized the threat, back when the forest fire was just thick smoke looming up from behind the mountains near our home, I made a rational and reasonable list of the treasures I would take. But each hour of each day found me adding to the ‘can’t live without this’ growing pile of boxes. I debated on just packing up my whole house except for the easy-to-replace things like the printer, table lamps, and canning jars. Reason won as I gave myself the mature-toned voice of “everything’s replaceable” speech.

All’s well that ends well–my house didn’t burn, though the beautiful forest in the mountains around me are ruined for many generations to come. And I’ve spent the past week trying to move four pickup loads of valuables back in. Did I mention I had a huge yard sale at a friends house last weekend? There’s a few boxes of remnants from that fiasco–things she had that I decided I needed. (I’m really just a collector, not a hoarder!)

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My beautiful Rocky Mountains with layers of burn from the forest fire

Then my son fell from a ladder, broke his wrist bones in multiple places, requiring surgery. So I volunteered to be his nurse and driver for a few days.

I work managing two vacation rental homes–both of which are closing down for the season last week and next. Packing, moving, cleaning. Two. Houses. Maybe I kept a few collectible things, but not as much as I could have!

During this month I’ve also gone camping for 3 nights, attended one funeral, had two crowns replaced on my teeth, had 6 girlfriends for a sleep over party, made it to my masseuse once, physical therapy twice, and oh yes, my lawn mower and pickup truck both broke. We had our first snow already–I won’t even get started on what preparations   are needed for this weather phenomenon. (It put out the fires! Yay!)

And I’m entering a photo contest!

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Today the sun came up over a bright blue sky. Through my soot covered windows, as I appreciated the warm, bright beams of light, I decided that the time was right for me to do the set up for my photo entry.  Did I think about going back to review the rules? No. Never even entered my foggy brain. I’d already made the #cutthecheese2017 sign and laid out my favorite trendy cutting board. But now I removed the grapes I’d laid on it a week or so ago, because they were too shriveled to merit tasty food quality photography.

Grabbing my salami and a few cheeses left-over from my camping trip, a few plums scored at Farmers Market this morning, and some my sweet vintage silver, I quickly fashioned a lovely cutting board vignette. Moving it around from counter, to coffee table, to dining table to capture the best sunlight and shadows, I took about 30 photos from various angles, heights, and settings.

The phone rang–my mom wanting to chat. As I transitioned to daughter talking to her mom, I remember making the semi-conscious decision that I was finished with the photo contest shoot, and could now proceed to eat my beautiful arrangement. It was, after all, past noon.

Slipping my camera’s memory card into my Mac, I opened the website for the John Boos Cutting Board Food Photography Contest to upload my best photo. Opps. Now I remember! I was supposed to take a documenting photo of me shooting the food photos! And I was encouraged to take a few shots of my set up to help other would-be-food-photographers learn. Well I certainly messed this one up! No more food, no more wonderful light, and no more time to do it again.

So the lesson I’d like my readers and food-photographer students is this; Review the directions before disassembling your model. And stay focused on the job rather than talk to your mother. It might also help if you eat before the shoot so the temptation from your stomach doesn’t over-power your brain.

I’ll submit my photo because I really need to tell my friend that I did what I said, and entered the contest.

Thanks cuttingboard.com and John Boos cutting boards for putting on this fun contest. I’d be thrilled (and floored) if I won, but who knows … they did suggest humor and my harried, over-wrot, weary self took them seriously without intending to.

Here’s to a relaxed October with no stress. Cheers!

I shoot RAW with my Nikon D810 camera, using my 50 mm lens, and my Manfrotto tri-pod. I shoot in my home using natural light. I do not own reflectors or bouncers or a light box, though if I win this contest, those will be quickly purchased!

As my blog intro explains, I’ve been passionate about photography since I was a young girl. As my blog attests, I love to cook (and eat) and photograph food as I journey through this fun life.

I hope you’ll consider following my Instagram feed — Montanacarole as I’d love to meet you and see what you’re up to as well! And I encourage you to enter this contest also … but you’ll need to act fast as there’s only 5 days left! Be sure to mention that I sent you!

https://www.cuttingboard.com/cutting-board-boos-contest

I’m Excited!

Recently I walked into my favorite Spokane restaurant, Chaps, for brunch. As I was at the counter contemplating how to par down my desired selections to a reasonable, manageable order, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Celeste Shaw, the owner. Our conversation was sparked by a small, sterling silver Montana state necklace around my neck. Turns out Celeste is also a Montana girl. Within minutes we were sharing our love for our State, vintage everything, food, and each other!

I mentioned I was a photo-journalist and she mentioned she was preparing to release the Flea Market Style magazine. Our connection went from spark to all-systems-go!

Waiting for the premier issue to hit the newsstands took a lot of patience but it did, I devoured the issue with glee, and once I had the feel for where she wanted to go with this new baby of hers, ideas to complement started flowing from my creative brain!

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Congratulations Celeste and co-editor Ki Nassauer on your delightful publication! I look forward to pitching some ideas for future issues as I hop on board this vintage styling train!

 

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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.