Archive for the ‘Western Heritage’ Category

The southern end of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness complex pushes up nearly a vertical mile. This Wilderness Unit shows off a glaciated history that left its rugged mark carving out jagged pinnacles, broad u-shaped valleys and high alpine cirques in the Taylor Hilgard mountain range of Southwest Montana.

We drove up Beaverhead Creek Road to Potamogeton trail head in the Beaverhead National Forest and began our moderate to strenuous journey into the Wilderness Area.

echo peak lee metcalf wilderness

Echo Peak Hilgard Basin Montana

We headed up Sentinel Creek, trail 202 all the way to Expedition Pass  then we turned south on trail 201 and followed it into the basin all the way to Blue Paradise Lake.

There are several sharp summits and ridges etched along the Divide with Hilgard Peak at 11,316 ft., being the highest point in Montana outside of the Beartooth Mountains a hundred miles to the east.  The Basin is a great glaciated relief to investigate and photograph.

Most of the high altitude 70 blue gem-like lakes that are scattered on both sides of the divide in this Wilderness Unit are in Hilgard Basin. Expedition Lake is at 9,600 feet just below the pass. It is easy to get around most of the lakes and mountain creeks which makes’ for better access to light and composition for landscape work.

Depending on where you settle for camp this adventure is a MINIMUM of a 15 to 20 mile backpack trek not counting side trips for photography and exploration.

Expedition Pass into Hilgard Basin

Expedition Pass into Hilgard Basin

Once you are up into the Basin area there are many moderate to much more strenuous side trails and bushwhacking scrambles up numerous ridges and peaks for excellent panoramic views.

Yellowstone National Park and the Tetons are to the south. Lone Mountain, the Sphinx and Helmet are to the northwest.

Among the Madison Range’s awesome landscapes, the Hilgard Basin is an unusual high-altitude, lake-filled basin.  Both early morning and evening light can be inspirational.  

The highlight of this trip was Echo Peak. At 11,214 feet, Echo is the third highest peak in the Madison Range of southwestern Montana and has a doable steady scramble route up its north ridge. It only took a few hours to climb and lunch was on top with outstanding views.

The best hiking is from midsummer into the fall season. This high country usually does not clear of snow until the middle of July. So the trail can get a little busy at times.

Some people can take in this trip as a long day hike but I feel you miss out a lot if you don’t spend at least a night or two exploring the Basin. Setting up a base camp in the main basin is the way to go.

Any time one is fortunate to experience a wilderness setting with a camera is always an opportunity to jump at.  It sharpens your senses and critical focus. The efforts made will come back to you in many ways besides the potential of good images.

For more information on the Lee Metcalf Wilderness contact the Gallatin National Forest at 406-587-2520 or http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/

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All photographs used in this entry are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photos, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction of any kind is prohibited. If you wish reproduction rights please contact: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

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Our canoes slipped silently through the chilly waters of the Madison River. A few geese honked overhead and ducks splashed along the shoreline seeking safety in the reeds and overhangs.

The ceaseless current guided our crafts past eroded sandstone and mud packed banks, on this stretch of the river it carved them into endless shapes.

Autumn canoeing on the Madison River

Madison River near Three Forks, Montana

I couldn’t help but fantasize about Lewis and Clark and the Native Americans who also floated and crossed this scenic river in the not so distant past. Not a lot has changed since those canoes pasted this way. The cottonwood trees that bore witness are still standing tall near the water’s edge.

If you read the 1805 journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, http://www.lewisandclarktrail.com, then you know where to find their campsites and place yourself in their footsteps building campfires and setting up their tents. History is all around.

The damp scents of the river and sweet cottonwoods invigorate my senses. It is easy to stay alert, watching for game, or picturing a Hidatsa Indian party riding up on the ridges, looking for Sacagawea. Her kidnapping was the beginning of a venture that led her into the annals of history in the American West and relocated her far from her homeland.

aerial Missouri Headwaters State Park

Missouri Headwaters State Park, Montana

We drifted on the river’s flow past Three Forks, Montana, www.threeforskmontana.com, and on toward the Missouri River Headwater’s State Park. Headwaters, or as most of those who live here, just call it “Three Forks”, is the geographic confluence of the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers and forms the headwaters of the Missouri, the longest river in the  U.S.

Each river has its own course flow and visual landscape. Friends and I have had many adventures, seeing the sights, on these clear water tributary trips. Deer, Moose Eagles, Heron and, of course, rattlesnakes are all out there.

Each season different animals appear, just like the transition of wildflowers from Sagebrush Buttercups to Queen Ann’s Lace or the brilliant color change from early green spring willow buds to bright yellow autumn leaves. All you have to do is pay attention.

And these graceful rivers will grab your attention!

Contact Information: Missouri Headwaters, Region 3 FWP Office, 1400 S. 19th St. Bozeman, MT  59715 or call (406) 994-4042.

For Further Information:

Bozeman Chamber of Commerce – http://www.bozemannet.com

Information on the Lewis and Clark Trail – http://lewisandclark.state.mt.us/discovery.shtm

Montana Department of Commerce – http://www.travelmt.com


Photographs used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. My image catalog can be viewed at http://www.rangeofvisionphotos.com. You can contact me through this blog or through email at: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com 

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Twice I had to stop and tighten the leather cinch on my saddle. It kept sliding to the right and I felt like I was riding on a slant about to fall off. Each time I dismounted to make the adjustment my horse, named Charlie, would take a deep breath filling his lungs with air.

When I remounted he would exhale and loosen the saddle again. He thought he was tricky but I got him the third time, stalling long enough to get those straps tight and my saddle straight. 

This was my first photo assignment that covered a cattle drive. I had been on many pack trips into the wilderness and photographed more than a dozen rodeos, but this was my first real working cowboy experience.

cattle drive

Cattle Drive in Centennial Valley, Montana

Of course not being a wrangler, (I don’t like the word dude), I was elected to ride the dusty drag line bringing up the rear, herding any stragglers wanting to double back to the ranch, and turn them toward new pastures as we approached the Centennial Valley.

The Centennial Mountains in Southwest Montana cover a swathe of some 28,000 acres and has some of Montana’s best wild and very rugged country. They connect the northern Rocky Mountains with the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 

This rough range runs along the Idaho-Montana border south east of Dillon, Montana with prime vistas and a notable wildlife population. http://www.dillonmontana.net

Native American tribes, especially the Shoshone-Bannock and the Nez Perce knew the Centennial Valley very well as it was a favored travel route between the headwaters of Big Hole River and Yellowstone country to the east.

At the base of the Centennial Mountains on the north side is the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Red Rock Lakes is designated a National Natural Landmark, (http://www.redrocks.fws.gov/) as well as one of the few marshland Wilderness Areas in the United States.

Centennial Valley

Centennial Mountains

Its diverse natural habitat provides an ideal nesting environment not only for swans, Sandhill cranes and other waterfowl but numerous hawks, eagles and peregrine falcons. The massive Centennial Range protects the valley and dominates the southern skyline blocking any view of Idaho.

Some years ago I taught Wilderness Photography Workshops through a local guest ranch that borders the Refuge so I was very familiar with the geology and terrain we were working the cattle into. Our ride was slow and very dusty as we moved 250 head of cattle from the Matador Ranch into the broad picturesque Centennial valley.

Although there were a dozen riders it was really the Australian Shepherd and Blue Healer dogs that did most of the work. Just a few barks and nips kept the cows bunched as they herded them in the right direction.

Three of the drovers chased down the strays that would take off running into the sage bellowing and crying out as if a bug had just bit them in the butt.

The quarter horses we rode knew just what to do. They could turn on a dime nosing the cows around not letting any steer get ahead of them. Actually, those of us ridding drag just took in the sights and occasionally cracked a bullwhip, more for the fun of it then a disciplinary tactic against a steer.

Two of my fellow riders were writers on this project so I just worked on some action shots of wranglers, faces and expressions. Only once was I able to get in front of the herd to photograph the oncoming steers and cows.

This was a bit disappointing to me. At times when on an assignment you have to accept what is offered, when you are a guest, even after you try to explain why you are there and the kind of imagery you want to expose for, to tell your story. Sometimes, you just can’t push the issue. You have to make the best of it.

I accepted the issue at hand and still enjoyed the day. I photographed the basics for the story and played cowboy working on my horsemanship.

Trumpter Swans

Trumpeter Swans

In the distance from the hills behinds us in the west, just barely above pine tree level, we could hear honking. Even above the constant moos and bellows of calves and cows, it grew louder. Then perhaps fifty or more Trumpeter Swans flying in a tight V formation zoomed overhead soaring toward the Red Rock marshes. Honking was so loud even the steers and horses looked up to see what was going on.

It was as if the world stopped, the entire herd, horses and riders were suddenly silent and a vortex opened allowing the flight of trumpeting white swans to pass through, channeled directly to the lakes just below us.

A whip crack snapped in the air, the vortex closed and the cattle drive was back on.

Photographs used in this post are copyrighted by Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography, 2009, All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited without the written permission of Wayne Scherr, Range of Vision Photography. My image catalog can be viewed at http://www.rangeofvisionphotos.com. You can contact me through this blog or through email at: wayne@rangeofvisionphotos.com

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