Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 90W

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 90W: The smell of fresh coffee filters throughout my hotel room, no I didn't preset the coffee pot.  It is coming from the lobby of the cabin...


The smell of fresh coffee filters throughout my hotel room, no I didn't preset the coffee pot.  It is coming from the lobby of the cabin-style hotel that I'm staying in and even though I don't drink coffee on a regular basis it smells wonderful.  I roll over and look towards the clock only to realize that Aria has let me sleep in today.  Well, that is, if you consider 630a sleeping in; which I do. Normally, Aria has me up and about no later than 530a but even today she has decided to roll over and ignore the usual routine.

With an overcast sky, storms in the area and a warm breeze that is only going to get stronger as the day goes on, I have no doubt today is going to be a slow travelling day.  Not to mention that my sense of direction is also off which has me believing that Montana isn't ready to let me leave.  The feeling is mutual.  We pack up the car and head South, yes I did say South, to check out Big Sky, Montana.

If you ever want to feel like an ant on an anthill I recommend taking 191S which will also take you into Yellowstone National Park area.  The mountains surround the highway and at times even the sky seems to disappear.  There are rivers that run alongside the highway as well as plenty of pull offs to take in shots and campgrounds to stay at, even if you don't have a camper.

There are twists and turns the whole way to Big Sky so don't take your eyes off the road to enjoy the view for too long!  As I mentioned earlier, there is an overcast sky today as well as the chance of storms.  As we close in on Big Sky the rain drops become bigger, thicker and heavier which can only mean one thing; snow.

As we approach downtown Big Sky I figure I might as well head up to the resort and see what kind of a view we get from up there.  Limited and beautiful would be the words to describe it.  The roads are wet and as we climb the temperature begins to drop; we are officially 20 degrees cooler than we were back in Bozeman which makes it right at freezing and ideal to make the wet roads become slick and icy. 

Thankfully, the snow is weak and the roads remain wet but the twists and turns and limited guard rails causes shortened breathe, quicker heart rate, slower speed and hugging the mountain on the way up and the mid-line on the way down.  I tell myself if I can survive Mount Washington with no visibility I should be able to handle this; I relax only for a moment and am anxious to get down.

There are also pull offs, both up and down, that allow drivers to pull off to let others pass or to get a better view of the mountain range that you are driving.  As a traveler I'm extremely cautious about what I'm doing and keeping safety in check, but as a photographer I will slam on the breaks do a quick pull-in because I just realized "the perfect" shot is right here, right now. 

 Any wonder Aria remains quiet during this part of the adventure but once parked she hops up on the seat looks around and then back at me as if to say, "Really? This is what we're stopping for?"  Then hops back down onto the floor and settles back in.  Love the support!

Time to head back North and get back onto 90W and continue towards the coast.  Well, almost.  As we head back we come around a bend and pull into a parking spot and I'm now face to face with a familiar place; Lava Lake Trail.  

I visited Montana for the first time about 10 years ago and this was the first trail I hiked in the state, it was also what made me fall in love with the area.  If you ever get the chance to hike it, I highly recommend it.  The summit makes the whole hike worth it, unfortunately, I didn't have the shoes or the time but being at the base brought back a lot of memories and I was happy that this time I was able to share it with Aria.

I have to say that between 94W and 90W, 90W is becoming my favorite part of the route.  It is not one to leave you bored, there are a lot of twists and turns and hills to contend with as well as construction, steep climbs and descents and unpredictable weather.  

The rain continued on and off all the way into Idaho which is bad enough but then you add the mountains and everything is now taken to the next level of excitement and fear.  There is no way to describe the unpredictability that 90W offers; the turns are sharper then they appear and almost all corners should be considered blind.  Weather goes from nothing to downpour, to drizzle in a matter of a turn here and a turn there.  

I'm thankful to have a car that loves the road as much as I do because anything less would have been uncivilized.  As you twist and turn down steep roads, blinding rain, truck spray, your wipers clear the windshield in time to see the sign, or should I say signs that read: "icy patches", "bridge maybe icy", "large potholes", and "rough road ahead".  Well I don't know about you but this makes me feel all warm and cozy inside.  Anything else you want to add?  That's right, I forgot "wildlife crossing".  

Really? Here?  Yes, really.  We came around a corner in time to see two big horn goats in the middle of the road.  Everyone slams on their breaks and come to a stop.  One looks up and takes off into the ditch while the other one stubbornly stays in the middle of the road.  There is something that has his attention and he refuses to leave until he figures it out.  At one point, no lie, he looks up at me and then around and goes back to what he was looking at on the ground.  The other goat must have called him as he finally, reluctantly and slowly, heads over to the ditch to join her.  Only in Montana would you see traffic stop and wait for them before proceeding.

Entering Idaho today was no cake walk as the rain poured down even harder and traffic is coming to a stop due to slick roads, steep decline, and yes, someone decided to do a quick pullover to the side and get out.  This time it wasn't me although, admittedly, I did say to myself, "if only I had known", I would have done the same thing.

Today's adventures have put my car and driving to the test and I'm happy to say we both survived. 


Aria remained quiet throughout the trip and was all to happy to get out when we arrived at the hotel. Until tomorrow, have a safe and wonderful evening.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Backroads

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Backroads: Here's to another day of being on the road.  I wake up to a cool morning, light dew on the cars and grass, and an anxious puppy ready to...


Here's to another day of being on the road.  I wake up to a cool morning, light dew on the cars and grass, and an anxious puppy ready to get the day started.  She is slowly getting use to this new routine we're on and after the car is packed she settles in for another day of discovery.  The journey begins on 94W but I can't help but be a little bored, even though the route around Roosevelt National Forest did provide a beautiful distraction to the road ahead.

Deep canyons etched into and through the rocks with vegetation sprinkled on the sides to offer food to the endless livestock that call this area home.  The view is endless, quiet and peaceful. Pull off onto one of the exits near the national forest and you take a step back in time to towns that hold on to the past while embracing the future.

There is plenty to do around here from hiking, camping, rafting, horseback riding or just walking the paths that surround these communities.  Take in all that is around you and enjoy the view.  This beauty is quickly taken over by open plains and the drive becomes long and slow; regardless of how fast you are going.

I was told about Highway 12 and have decided to take it and see what it can bring to help make the time go by just a little faster.  A few things I have picked up since crossing into Montana, everyone likes to drive fast and the speed limits confirm this.  Highway 12 can be considered a "back road" and yet speed limit is posted at 70 MPH, with a minimum of 65 for cars and trucks have to be going between 60-65 MPH.  There is also nothing for towns, gas stations, food or shops within the first 75 miles of Highway 12; be sure to have a full belly, full gas tank and an empty bladder.

This is an amazing drive that had me stopping wherever, whenever I could to snap a few shots.  The first 40-50 miles of the route are completely covered with cattle.  Some come down and lie next to the highway while others are so far in the distance you have to check twice to be sure it isn't a bush. They all seem content and relaxed in their environment, and who wouldn't, their grazing area looks to be endless with very few restrictions.  

However, a photographer who stops to take a shot of them grazing has them looking at each other and giving several "moo's" which could almost be mistaken for "boo's".  When that didn't work they got up and walked away, so ends that photo shoot.

"Time fly's by, don't close your eyes - Kiss by kiss love is a thrill ride - What goes up might take us upside down - Life ain't a merry go round - It's a roller coaster..." Roller Coaster By Bon Jovi.

I had to add that line from Bon Jovi's Roller Coaster because it was playing as I drove through these hills and it couldn't have been more spot on.  The road can be a true roller coaster as you twist and turn through the hills and coming out on top to take in the vast view that surrounds you will take your breath away.  

Montana is a state that has never disappointed me but even I was speechless when we came around a bend and in the distance saw the photo you see below.

Now this is my definition of "white caps".  The tops of the mountains covered in snow while their valleys are lush with green vegetation and cattle enjoying the gentle breeze from the slopes.  The mountains lay out on your left and as you look ahead to the road in front of you, your eye catches something on your right and it is another range of mountains covered in snow.  It feels like your inside a circle and that the only way out is to barrel through them, thankfully, that is not the case but you can't help but be taken in by their size as you get closer to them.

After you have gone almost 100 miles on Highway 12 towns become more frequent, signs to the interstate and major towns also come into play, as well as abandoned homes and businesses. The buildings are so badly worn down that, to me, they become beautiful.

I couldn't help but take this photo of an abandoned, run-down former gas station with a car in equal shape next to it.  This is one way to freeze the moment.  

Happy Earth Day Everyone!  I'm glad I was able to enjoy this day on the road, taking in all that Mother Earth has to offer.  She is beautiful in every way, shape and form and together we can make it last for future generations.

Aria and I are ready to relax for the evening and get ready for tomorrow's adventures, sights and great photo opportunities.  As always, thank you for your support by reading this blog, I look forward to bringing you more in the days to come.  

Written & Photographed by Nettie B

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 94W: Day 1

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 94W: Day 1: The sun rises in the East and peeks in through the blinds, a wet nose nudges me with a whimper, letting me know it is time to get up.  Today...


The sun rises in the East and peeks in through the blinds, a wet nose nudges me with a whimper, letting me know it is time to get up.  Today is the day I begin my journey out West.  I'm excited and nervous to begin this chapter but I have my co-pilot Aria with me and know that together we're going to make this work.

As I pack the car and double check I have everything, she looks at me with wonder, confusion and curiosity; is she really is going to go along?  It isn't until the harness goes on and her food is packed that she becomes excited about watching me finish packing.  We say our good-byes and hit the road, but before we get too comfortable we have to make a pit stop.  A stop at one of our favorite hiking places.

Even Aria remembers the trails of Interstate State Park and is all to ambitious to get started.  She drags me to the trail and we begin our hike.  The area is quiet, cool and calming.  The sun is still rising and there is a gentle breeze that blows by us, which is refreshing considering we're both a little out of practice with our hiking.

I take one last look around at the park and we head back to the car to continue our journey West.  We go through downtown Taylor Falls which is one street with older buildings on either side, a gas station and a few miles out a ski hill which turns into a summer park.

I'm currently bypassing part of 94W to take a scenic route known as the St. Croix Trail.  Aria and I have been on this road before, except at that time, we were heading South towards Prescott, WI.  I have always wanted to see what this portion was like and am excited to mark it off of my checklist.

The Northern route of the St. Croix Trail is not disappointing.  As you leave Taylor Falls and head uphill off to your right is a parking and scenic area and, if not looking for it, you will miss it. Thankfully, no one was behind me and I was able to get in and Aria and I had one more time to stretch our legs and take in the view that is shown above.

There are benches, covered seating areas, an observation deck and a trail that takes you out to a field. It is a great place to take in the surroundings and stretch your legs before continuing on.  The Trail takes you through twists and turns, as well as small, quaint towns.  Time flies on this route as there is plenty to see and enjoy as you head West.  Not to mention plenty of stopping areas to get out and enjoy the town's sights.

But the time has come to hook up with 94W, at first, it is your typical Interstate with a lot of cars, traffic and all around chaos but eventually it spreads out and even though you are never alone while on this route cars become far and few once away from the Twin Cities area.

A surprise to me on this route is how many exits are accompanied with the sign "no services".  It's a nice courtesy to let you know you won't find gas, food or lodging here but definitely makes you nervous when the gas needle is dropping and the major town is further away than the miles left in your gas tank.  Finally, there is a sign that comes up with the symbols for gas, camping and lodging.

Small town in the middle of open fields and no major city near by, what could possibly happen.  It has me turning around and heading back to the interstate.  The town above may look pleasant but closer observation had me thinking twice and heading back down the road.  I'm sure the locals didn't mind my departure.  However, there is still the need of gas and one has to decide how far to push my luck, only a few miles more and I have to suck it up and hope for the best.  I turn off a few miles later to another town.

I have to say, I'm kind of in love with this town.  It is literally a blink and you'll miss it and the gas station has only two pumps.  It is quiet, quaint and cozy.  The people are quiet and wave to anyone who is driving by.  Even Aria wanted to get out and take a look.  

We head out of town and back onto 94W.  The interstate has an endless array of fields, distant farms, windmills, winding roads and the hills begin to get steeper the further West we go, which can only mean one thing; we're getting close to the mountains.  

Thankfully, there is enough to see along the way to help keep your focus on the road.  I'm one to get lost in my thoughts but seeing an arch over a bridge catches my attention and has me taking note of the scenery around me.

Even a view where it feels like your the only one out here.  The endless view has me thinking of the endless possibilities that are yet to come.

Can never get enough of a passing train and just how long they can be.  Don't forget the attractions along side the road.

"Birds of Flight" a large steel structure located off of the Enchanted Highway is something to see that will make you look twice.  It can be seen several miles away and more steel structures can be seen if you continue down the 32-mile Enchanted Highway.  Thankfully, you can see this one from the Interstate and is and easy off and back on if you would like a close-up.

It has been an amazing first day and even Aria would agree, an exhausting one.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I will write more tomorrow as we continue West and look forward to heading through the mountains and taking a few more side roads to see what these states have to offer.  Until then..

Photography and Writing by Nettie B.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Local Parks In A Local Town

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: Local Parks In A Local Town: Hello everyone!  Thank you for taking the time to review my blog.  I want to apologize for not having posted in the last few months.  Here i...