Friday, July 20, 2007

On This Day...

At 10:56 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969, Neil A. Armstrong sets his left foot on the surface of the Moon (upper left). He then photographed Buzz Aldrin stepping onto the surface.

This is one of my favorite moments in history. God bless America!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We weren't the only ones catching fish in MT!

Kind of a cool nature moment caught with a camera, I thought. Along the river outside our Missoula hotel we came across this snake (I'm told it's a Wandering Garter) with a fresh catch! This particular meal could not have been a particularly comfortable one, though. I'm thinking scales would dictate eating fish head first, but it's possible this is how he caught it, and he was just bringing it on land till it died and then he made the switch.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Montana: Chapter 5, Is It Over Already?

The Clark Fork River runs right behind our hotel in Missoula. Although it's kind of funny, every single person I've heard talk about that, refers to the river as running 'in front of' the hotel. It is clearly the back of the building, but it does show that the people of Montana have their priorities in order. Sandy and I both caught a few more cutthroats out of the Clark Fork there, and it was the backdrop for a wonderful dinner at the hotel's restaurant on our last night. Joel and Debbie came up to meet us and we had a great time together.

We will absolutely return to Montana. Next time we are thinking about hubbing out of Missoula and exploring south to Yellowstone. But for now, it's time to get back to work and start saving up for next year's trip!

Montana: Chapter 4, The Fish

Our float trip with Jay Dixon of Dixon Adventures has been booked for six or eight months. So when the forecasts kept creeping higher and higher, well over 100 for the day we were to go fishing, Jay really earned his fee. He put a LOT of thought and energy and expertise into trying to give us the best possible fishing day under really, really tough conditions.

105 degrees was where the day was headed, so we decided to go out later in the day. Probably close to 4:00 (and 103 degrees) when the boat hit the Bitterroot. However, soon after we were underway, we saw the first cloud cover of the week, and it helped take the edge off the temperature immensely. That was for our comfort, though, the fish were another story. Every reading Jay took in the river was over 70, most right around 73.

But he had some tricks up his sleeve, and after some immensely helpful casting instruction for both Sandy and I, we fished some places that had cooler water coming into the river. It didn't take long before we started catching fish. In fact, in our first six fish, Sandy and I had each caught a brown, a rainbow and a cutthroat. These Westslope cutthroat are beautiful fish, this was the first time I've caught one. Always nice to add a new one to the list! I would have liked to put these photos in chronological order, but the last fish of the day, above, had to be the headline photo. Beautiful rainbow caught in rapidly fading light. Jay guessed it was probably just shy of 20", but it's certainly a trophy to me no matter what it measures.

But for a good part of the day, all the bigger fish were getting caught by Sandy. Here's a beautiful brown.

I don't know if she'll let me keep this cleavage showcase photo up, but I am going to try and sneak it in under the radar because not only is it a really great fish, at that time she actualy held the household record for nicest trout! That lasted just a couple hours, but I was very proud of how well she did. She took direction from Jay really well, and was very good at line and fish management once she got a fish on. Her landing percentage could very well have been higher than mine, but we both had a great, great day.

So if you're looking for a great day of fishing, I highly recommend Dixon Adventures. Jay worked VERY hard for us, to get us to fish in tough conditions, and give us the tools we needed to land them. Thanks Jay! We'll be back next year!

Montana: Chapter 3, Glacier National Park

With the forecast calling for triple-digit temperatures, we headed up to Glacier National Park and the famous Going to the Sun road. A year and a month ago, first week in June, this road was still closed due to heavy snow. But on this trip we were thankful for the opportunity to see this park from such a great vantage point. This next panoramic shot is three photos merged together. That never really works as well as I want it to, but still kind of cool I think. But it's important to point out, I think, even the best professional nature photographers cannot adequately evoke the emotion that comes with seeing this place while you're standing in it.

Montana: Chapter 2, North to Polson

Still glowing from our Montana isolated lake experience, we passed through a town called Arlee just as a rodeo was beginning. It was part of a larger 4th of July celebration and seemed like the perfect thing to do. It was an extremely well run event and was lots of fun despite the record high temps. A couple of icy cold beers took the edge off the baking sun and when the action was over we continued on to Polson and Flathead Lake.

Flathead Lake was a beautiful setting for 4th of July fireworks. Tough to capture without a tripod, I tried to stabilize my digital camera on a sign post for this shot.

Glacier Brewing Company is a Must if you find yourself near Polson, MT and enjoy great beer in a great atmosphere. A year ago when I first visited, the tasting room had only 4 or 5 barstools. But they vastly expanded the tasting room and have an outdoor beer garden as well. This year, ten bottles of Golden Grizzly Ale made it back in my suitcase. Interestingly, I did get one of those TSA cards that lets you know they looked in your luggage, it was wrapped around one of the beer bottles, which was rolled into a shirt. Now I'm trying to remember, did I start with twelve Grizzlies??

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Montana: Chapter 1, The Cabin

My friend Joel and his wife Debbie graciously invited my wife and I to their cabin on a remote Montana lake to stay for a night. It was an absolutely perfect way to immerse ourselves in the beauty and wilderness of Montana on our vacation. This was my second time to the Big Sky state, and my wife's first.

This cabin sits at the end of a sixteen mile road that begins as gravel and steadily gets worse. It seemed to take almost an hour to get up there, although coming back down the next day was not as harrowing, maybe because on the way up we had no idea how far it was. But the payoff is amazing. We cooked burgers on the deck and toasted the start of our vacation with excellent microbrews, complements of our generous hosts. Then they headed back to town and left us there at the cabin for the night. Probably the furthest from civilization I have ever been, but it was exhilerating.

In the morning we took the boat out for a few hours and I caught two absolutely beautiful brook trout. It was just the perfect start to our trip, but we had to hit the road, there was much more to see and do. Luckily, Joel and Debbie will make another appearance in our vacation recap. Stay tuned for Chapter 2, The Rodeo...