Vivid and ephemeral beauty of Autumn

“The Autumn leaves drift by my window, the autumn leaves of red and gold…”


Halloween fun in Blair

Crisp but pleasant evening for Halloween activities in Blair on Thursday, Nov. 31.

First snow of the year

Photos of light snow icing on trees and playground equipment Wednesday Morning, Nov. 6 at Stemmermann Park and Lions Park Trail at Arbor Park.



Washington County Strong

Floodwaters inundated the Arlington fair grounds in March, but thanks to the determination of the The Washington County Fair Board and hours and hours of hard work by more than 100 volunteers, the Washington County Fair was held as scheduled July 26-31.

Flooded Washington County Livestock buildings.

I enjoy everything about the fair, but the most memorable event for me this year was the livestock auction.  In addition to  raisng more than $68,000 for kids who participated in livestock competitions, bidders and contributors also  generously raised another $9,000 to help the grandson of longtime Arlington farm-family Terry and Betty Rasmussen who has leukemia.


Last of a series: Homeward bound

During the last few days of my month-long adventure through the North-west I drove along U.S. Highway 2 which parallels the Canadian Border. My plan was to end my trip as I began by visiting historical forts, battlefields, and other points of interest.

After a night off the road at a motel in Haver, Montana I made a stop at the site of the Battle of Bear Paw south of Chinook, Montana. The Bear Paw battlefield is where a band of Nez Perce led by Chief Joseph was cornered by U.S Cavalry units just 40 miles south of the Canadian Border.  At his surrender, Chief Joseph said: “Hear me my chiefs!  My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”


Fort Union Fort Buford
Bear Paw Battlefield Historical marker.

The battle in September, 1877 ended a 4 month, 1,500 mile flight to freedom after the band was forced to give up its native homeland in what is now Idaho and move to a much smaller reservation.

Weeks earlier on my travels in Idaho and Oregon, I had stopped at several historical markers at locations where the Nez Perce had come to the aid of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery.  Without the help of the Nez Perce, Lewis and Clark may never have survived.  On the return journey, the Nez Perce provided refuge as the Corps waited for the spring thaw and passage through the Bitter root Mountains.   The time between the Nez Perce coming to the aid of the Corps of Discovery in 1805 and the forced removal of these proud people from their homeland was just 72 years – one lifetime.

My other destination was the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers.  For years I have read epic tales about mountain men as well as the Lewis and Clark expedition. In each one of those real and fictional accounts, the place where the Yellowstone meets the Missouri is an important setting.

Fort Union Fort Buford
Fort Union

The partially reconstructed Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site is located at that confluence at the North Dakota/Montana border 25 miles south of Williston, South Dakota.  The original fort stockade was built in 1828 or 1829 and financed by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur company. The literature describes the imposing white washed Fort Union as the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri until 1867. Historic visitors included mountain men Jim Bridger and Hugh Glass, and wildlife and landscape artists John James Audubon, George Catlin, and Karl Bodmer.  The Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha holds extensive collections of work by both Catlin and Bodmer.

Fort Buford State Park
Fort Buford State Park

A short distance from Fort Union is Fort Buford State Historic Site which I had never heard of until I was looking for a campsite. Fort Buford was commissioned in 1867 to protect river and overland routes and to protect survey and construction crews for the Great Northern Railway.  Some of the soldiers garrisoned at the fort were, “Galvanized Yankees.”  Galvanized Yankees were ex-Confederate soldiers recruited from Union prison camps and sent to the frontier to protect the trails, telegraph lines and U.S. Mail routes.

In July, 1881 Chief Sitting Bull and about 35 families who were near starvation crossed  U.S. border from Canada and gave up their arms and horses. In a formal surrender ceremony the following day, Sitting Bull gave up his Winchester rifle to his son Crowfoot who surrendered it to Major David H. Brotherton.

The Bismarck Tribune reported that at his surrender Sitting Bull said: “ I surrender this rifle through my young son…I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle. This boy has given it to you, and he now wants to know how he will make a living.”

Another account is that the Lakota chief told the eight year old boy, “ My son, if you live, you will not by a man, because you will not have a rifle or pony. Give my rifle to the Major and tell him I am the last Lakota to surrender.”

Fort Union Fort Buford
Restored grave markers in the Fort Buford cemetery include the cause of death as well as the date.

I also spent some time wandering through the Fort Buford cemetery. The restored wooden grave markers include the cause of death as well the date. Far more soldiers and civilians laid to rest in the cemetery died from diseases and afflictions than from bullets and arrows.

So ends my June journal of my Northwest Adventure. Thank you again to all who have followed my journey and for the many kind comments.


Spring time in Glacier National Park

For the past two years I have planned to visit Glacier National Park and each time a severe forest fire dashed those plans. This year I decided to incorporate the trip in my journey to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail. While Lewis and Clark never passed through what is now Glacier National Park, streams within the park are the headwaters of the Marias river which Lewis and Clark explored.  Just west of Glacier National Park is a National Historic Monument at the site of Camp Disappointment where Merriweather Lewis and three of his men camped on the banks of the Cutbank River.

I purposely waited until the end of my trip to visit Glacier National Park hoping that Going-to-the-Sun Road would be open.  The park service never lists a specific opening date because of the unpredictability of heavy late spring snowstorms.  Maintenance crews begin in April to remove  the 80 or more feet of snow that covers Logan Pass during the winter. Generally the road opens in late June to early July and closes with the first heavy snow in October.  Forest fires in the past two years have caused the road to close in September.

Bear Grass blooms among burned timbers along Going to the Sun Road.

Construction of the monumental engineering project began in 1927 and was completed in 1932. The Sun Road, as it is sometimes called, is a National Historic Landmark. Driving along the narrow road, gazing up at lofty peaks and waterfalls and down over the steep canyon walls gives me more thrills than an amusement park ride.

A vehicle approaches an arched bridge across a water fall on Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park.

This year the road was scheduled to open June 22, but remained closed due to dense fog and clouds. The road opened the following day, but clouds and intermittent rain showers persisted.  Several times I tried to take some moody photos in the mist and rain, but the mountain tops were hidden in clouds. Overnight the skies cleared and before dawn I packed my gear and drove along the Sun Road to photograph those incredible mountains and valleys before heading toward home.

Morning fog fills a valley between mountain peaks along Going-to-the-Sun road.

Going-to-the-Sun Road links West Glacier and Apgar Village on the west, and St. Mary and Many Glacier to the east.  The west side of the park attracts the largest share of visitors and offers many more amenities.  In Apgar village and the town of West Glacier just outside the park there are many gift shops, restaurants and equipment rental shops.  A tour boat on Lake McDonald and the historic Lake McDonald Lodge are also popular attractions.

On the east side of the park, the scenic glaciers and access to high country trails are the main attraction.  Many Glacier also features the historic and picturesque Many Glacier Hotel.

If you have your passport with you, visiting Waterton on the Canadian side of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is definitely worth the hour drive from St. Mary. The historic 90-room Prince of Wales Hotel sits high above Lake Waterton and looks something like a set from a Harry Potter movie. The hotel was built in 1927 and still retains that last century old world flavor. The hotel offers picturesque views of Lake Waterton and the towering peaks beyond.

Exterior of Prince of Wales Hotel
Historic Prince of Wales Hotel overlooks Waterton Lakes on the Canadian side of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The union of the two parks was achieve in 1932.

An area of Glacier National Park that is off the beaten path is the rugged and authentically rustic North Fork of the Flathead river on the northwest boundary of the park.  The entry point for the remote lakes and praries is the community of Polebridge and the Polebridge Mercantile. The Merc was built in 1914 and is listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places.  The store is well known for bakery items – particularly its huckleberry bear claws and rolled fresh bread sandwiches. It also sells handmade crafts and souveniers.  Next door to the Merc is an old cabin that is the home to the Northern Lights Saloon where backwoods enthusiasts gather to share stories of the days exploits.

Store front at Polebridge township
The historic Polebridge Mercantile is a magnet for back country enthusiasts looking for a huckleberry bear claw and good conversation.

Mid to late June is a great time to visit the Park if you want to avoid heavy traffic and crowded trails.  The problem is that you may find many  of the high country trails closed until the end of June due to heavy snow and the shuttle buses do not begin operating until July 1.  I enjoyed my week in the park and look forward to a return visit.






Wandering along the Washington coast

Following the Lewis and Clark Trail to the Columbia river and the Pacific Ocean was only one part of my vision in traveling to the Northwest.  The other part was to view some of the sights that my wife and I had visited almost 36 years ago when we were first married.

On leaving Oregon I put the Lewis and Clark trail behind me and followed  Highway 101 along the Pacific Coast through Washington State to Olympic National Park.

Kalaloch beach on the Olympic Peninsula coast.

It was a very beautiful and peaceful  drive.  I have driven the Pacific Coast Highway through California, and this was a much more peaceful experience.  The Washington coast is much like Oregon. There are stretches of forests and meadows as well as sandy beaches and rocky cliffs.  During my drive the weather was cool and sunny with enough morning and evening fog to make the photography interesting.

Traveling alone I could stop as I pleased to shoot the beaches and surf.  The best part of using a digital camera is that I can shoot for hours playing with the composition and then go through and select the keepers.  My goal in shooting ocean and landscapes is not much different than shooting events for the newspaper.  The game I play is to find one or a handful of images that best communicate what I see and experience at the moment that I press the shutter.

My personal favorite beach shot was a man by the name of Jon Maxon fishing in the surf at Kalaloch Beach at sunset.  I like the play of light and shadow as the fisherman casts his rod toward the sun.  Jon and his family were staying at the same campground overlooking the ocean where I was staying.

Fisherman at sunset on Kalaloch Beach on the Olympic Peninsula coast.

The next morning I drove to the Ho Rainforest campground. In the afternoon I followed the Hall of Mosses trail which is one of the best known trails in the park, but I was disappointed with the experience.  I just couldn’t make a decent photograph.

The following morning I hiked 6 to 7 miles along the Ho River trail until I decided  it was time to turn back. I was carrying entirely too much photography gear and not enough water. It was a strenuous hike, and my images were just ho-hum.

On my last morning at the campground, I got up early and revisited the Hall of Mosses that I photographed the first day. In that short early morning hike, the clouds and fog hung low over the peaks and glades.  I was alone and had the trail all to myself.  I finally made the images I had envisioned. The light and the weather was what I had hoped for.

Leaving the Ho Rain Forest, I circled to the far side of the park to Hurricane Ridge.  When I had visited years before, the low clouds prevented me from seeing anything.  On this day the skies were relatively clear and I was rewarded with an awesome view of Mount Olympus and the entire Olympic Range.

When I left Hurricane Ridge and Olympic National Park, I really didn’t have a plan.   I generally tried to avoid big city traffic, but I just couldn’t get this close to Seattle and not make at least a short visit.  While waiting for a ferry to cross the Sound, I booked a room at a hotel within blocks of the Seattle Space Needle.  As I drove toward the city, the traffic was heavy and road construction confusing, but I did manage to find my way to my hotel.  I spent that evening and the next morning revisiting Seattle landmarks that were touchstones to my past.

Seattle at night from the Space Needle

I did enjoy my ride to the top of the Space Needle and I did make a few nice shots of lights on the water front and harbor.  But my favorite Seattle landmark is the Pike Street Market. I know from Facebook comments that many remember  from  movies and television shows.  The market is totally unique.

Yes, I did watch a fish vendor entertained customers by throwing a “flying fish” across the counter to  another vendor.  I also had a nice Sunday brunch  at the Sound View – delightful little restaurant with a view of the harbor and the sound.

Pike Street Market, Seattle

Leaving Seattle I drove south-east to Mount Rainier National Park.  The 14,410 foot mountain is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range.  It is the most glaciated peak in the continental United States and mountain a very impressive sight.



Ocean in view!

View of the mouth of the Columbia River from the Astoria column high above Astoria, OR.

“Ocian in view!  O! the joy,”  were the words ( and spelling) that Clark penned in his journal on November 7, 1805. He was a bit premature – what he had seen was the Columbia River estuary – not the ocean. Never-the-less he was near the end of his trek to reach the Pacific Ocean.

I think I experienced at least a sense of that joy as I followed the river through the Cascade Mountains just hours from my destination. A sudden downpour made for poor visibility, and then a full rainbow appeared in front of me from one side of the canyon to the other.  It was the first of many mental images that I will remember from this trip.

That drive through the Cascades and arrival at Fort Stevens State Park capped a three day journey from Montana which was where I left off in my last column.

Two days before I left Missoula, Montana and followed the Lewis and Clark trail through the Lolo Pass and the dense and rugged Bitterroot Mountains to the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers and then on to the Columbia.

Along the way I made a brief stop at Canoe Camp near Orofino, Idaho where The Corps of Discovery, abandoned their horses and,  with help from the Nez Perce Indians,  burned and carved out dugout canoes for the last leg of their journey to the Pacific.

After a long day on the road, I spent a pleasant night at Hells Gate State Park at Lewiston Idaho. Idaho and Oregon have many excellent state parks with clean, modern restrooms and shower facilities as well as hiking trails.

My next stop was a Corps of Engineer campsite at the Dalles on the Columbia River.  There is generally no charge to camp at  Corp of Engineer campsites.  There are also few or no amenities.

Dalles is a French word for rapids through a narrow gorge.  Celilo falls near where I camped was just one of a series of rapids through the Dalles.   Lewis and Clark portaged their dugouts or eased them through the rocks with ropes. The Celilo Falls  are now submerged beneath the waters of a reservoir behind the Dalles Dam.

My Campsite at the Dalles on the Columbia river.

My base of operations on the Oregon coast was Fort Stevens State Park.  Fort Stevens was established as a military earthwork battery in 1863-64  to guard the entrance to the Columbia river.  The park is located at the south shore of the Pacific Ocean at the Columbia River. Park attractions include bay and ocean beaches and wildlife viewing areas.  A number of people have responded to my Facebook posts saying how much they love this park.  One friend even commented that he became engaged to his wife here.

I originally planned to spend two days  at Fort Stevens, but I ended up staying  four days because the facilities are excellent, and there is so much to do and see in the area.

Fort Clatsop, the Corps of Discovery encampment during the winter of 1805-06,  is located just a few miles from Fort Stevens. After arriving at the Pacific, the explorers retreated to the south side of the Columbia river and inland for protection from from harsh weather and the promise of better hunting.

Fort Clatsop Lewis and Clark National Historical Park features a replica of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s winter quarters.

The best place to get literally a bird’s eye view of the mouth of the Columbia River and many of the Lewis and Clark historic sites is the Astoria Column on Coxcomb Hill high above Astoria, Oregon.

Visitors climb the column not only for the panoramic vistas of Astoria and the Columbia River valley, but to fly balsa wood gliders that can be purchased at the park gift shop. I didn’t fly any gliders myself, but I did enjoy watching the kids in one family launch maybe a dozen gliders into the air.  It was fascinating watching the balsa wood planes circle and catch updrafts and float in the breeze.

Astoria was founded  in 1811 by John Jacob Astor as a fur trading center.  It is the oldest city in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains.

View of the mouth of the Columbia River from the Astoria column high above Astoria, OR.

One of the attractions that kept me at Fort Stevens longer than I had planned is the Oregon coast.  The rusting remains of an English sailing ship that ran aground during a storm in 1906 is a popular attraction at  Fort Stevens ocean beach.

The Peter Iredale shipwreck on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park. The English sailing ship ran aground during a storm in 1906.

Just south of Fort Stevens is the beach town of Seaside where the Corps set up salt works to collect salt to season and preserve meat for the voyage home.

Waves roll in to Cannon Beach, OR.

South of Seaside are Ecola State Park and Cannon Beach. Members of the Corps hiked over Tillmook Head to seek the remains of a beached whale, and to purchase whale oil and blubber from the local Indians.

I particularly enjoyed the magnificent views of the surf surging through rocks at Indian Beach at Ecola State Park with the Tillamook Head lighthouse in the distance. “Terrible Tilly”  – so nicknamed because of its exposure to  massive storms waves was commissioned  in 1881 to guide ships entering the Columbia River and was replaced by a whistle buoy in in 1957

Leaving the Columbia River and Oregon, I followed along the coast to Olympic National Park and then began my journey back home by way of Glacier National Park.




Northwest Adventure: Following the Lewis and Clark Trail

On May 28, 2019 – The Day after Memorial Day – I departed from my home in Blair, Nebraska on a month- long adventure through the Northwest United States.  My goal was to  visit significant historical landmarks along the Lewis and Clark Trail and  spend time in Olympic and Glacier National Parks.

Grave markers
Headstones mark the location where soldiers and Plains Indians fell during the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or Battle of the Greasy Grass.

My first stop in Montana was Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument which preserves the site of the June 25 and 26 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the plains Indians as the Battle of Greasy Grass.  While this battlefield has no direct relationship to Lewis and Clark, it was a site that I have always wanted to visit.  The site is beautiful, and it recognizes and honors fallen Lakota, Northern Cheyenne Arapaho as well as Seventh Cavalry soldiers and Civilians. What I found most surprising is that there was only about 70 years between Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the western frontier and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

After leaving Little Bighorn Battlefield I found a camping spot along the Bighorn river near the confluence with the Yellowstone River. The next morning I stopped along I 90 to spend an hour or two at Pompey’s Pillar National Monument. Pompey’s Pillar is a rock formation with a commanding view of the Yellowstone River and its surroundings.  While descending the Yellowstone on the return to St. Louis, William Clark described the formation in his journal and carved his name in the soft sandstone.  Clark named the landmark after Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Sacagawea’s son, whom he had given the nickname “Pomp.”

Pompey's Pillar National Monument
Pompey’s Pillar National Monument

Leaving Pompey’s Pillar I followed I 90 southwest to Bozeman and then a short distance to Missouri River Headwaters State Park.   The park is located at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers which flow together to  become the Missouri River.  Lewis  named the rivers after President Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison, and Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin.

View of the headwaters of the Missouri River.
Headwaters of the Missouri River at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers at Missouri River Headwaters State Park in Montana.

The next stop on my journey was Fort Benton, Montana which was the starting point for my three day canoe trip into Missouri Breaks National Monument. I booked the tour through  Missouri River Outfitters and could not have been more pleased with the experience. Except for some hazy skies due to the fires in Alberta, Canada the weather could not have been better.

The roughly 50 miles of vertical white cliffs and eroded white sandstone columns, spires, toadstools and hoodoos are still much as Lewis describes in his journal.

Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery entered the White Cliff area of the river on May 31,1805. In a lengthy and poetic journal entry Lewis described the effect of water as,

“Breaking down the soft sand clifts and woarn it into a thousand  grotesque figures…”

He describes the workmanship as, “So perfect, indeed are those walls that, I should have thought that nature had attempted here to rival the human art of masonry had I not recollected that she had first begun the work.”

On my evening in Fort Benton before my departure and the day following my canoe trip I enjoyed walking along the picturesque historic river front viewing the displays about the history of the town as a fur trading post and later as a major steamboat destination point on the upper Missouri.

There are also a number of bronze sculptures dedicated to significant and colorful local characters including Lewis and Clark at one end of the river front and Shep at the other. It is the larger than life Shep Memorial that draws visitors from across the country to the rivefront.

Statue of dog
Statue to Old Shep who followed the body of his dead master to the railroad station and then for five and a half years met every day and night train waiting for his master to return. The restored Grand Union Hotel in the background.

As the story is told, in 1936 a sheepherder fell ill while tending his sheep and was brought to the St. Clair Hospital in Fort Benton. His sheep dog followed him to town and remained near the hospital door where a kind hearted nun would feed the dog.  The sheep herder died, and his family requested that the man’s body be sent back to his home in the East.  The dog watched as the casket was loaded into the baggage car and whined as the door shut and the engine pulled away from the station.  The dog that the locals named Shep followed the train for a short way and then returned to the station.  Until the dog’s death, Old Shep would return to the station each day to meet the four trains waiting for his master to return. Old Shep was buried on a hill overlooking the depot.

The story of Old Shep was featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and years later the story was retold by Paul Harvey. In 1994 the town unveiled the larger than life Shep bronze

On Tuesday I drove from Fort Benton to the Gates of the Mountains Recreation Area and the Gates of the Mountains boat tour near Helena Montana.

Lewis’ river party arrived at the location he christened the “gates of the rocky mountains,”  on July 19, 1805. Visitors can take a two hour excursion boat tour from Gates of the Mountains Recreation Area through the narrow gorge where the high mountain cliffs tower above the river to the location to view the location Lewis describes.

Below the “Gates” the river widens, and as our excursion boat crossed from one side of the river to the other, the high cliffs do indeed appear to part before us.


Blair High School Class of 2019

Family and friends filled the Blair High School gymnasium Sunday, May 19 to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the Blair High School Class of 2019.
Blair Community Schools Superintendant Randall Gilson commended the class members for their many accomplishments in academics, athletics fine arts and extra -curricular activities.  He then told the graduates that they are entering a world of unprecedented challenges, but the class of 2019 has the ability to deliver the hard to find solutions.
“Class of 2019, we’re counting on your enthusiasm to pursue your passion and change the world”