Begone this endless city. Farewell, teeming masses.
I could either spend four hours sitting around Denver International waiting for a connecting flight to Billings, or just hop a direct flight from Newark to Calgary and drive down. Let's do that.
Chilly and windy in this Alberta city.
I get to be Canadian for a week. This rules.
Vulcan County, Alberta
Welcome to Montana. This is the 42nd state I have visited. Much time has been spent pouring over atlases and pondering the vastness. It's a very far away and mysterious land.
Shelby, MT railyard
Burlington Northern RR running past some grain elevators in the small north-central town of Conrad
Great Falls, pop. 55,000
Cascade County courthouse
Didn't get a lot of photos of Great Falls. I had to get a hotel so I could watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. New Jersey kept the dream alive for one more game.
Rainy Cascade County the next morning
There was a lot of this. During this stretch I started playing a game I called “The Hand of Man”. Basically, aside from the road, and the little fence running along the road, what could I see that was man-made? Often it was nothing. Then I'd see some powerlines or a culvert.
Into hillier Judith Basin County
Lewistown, a burg of around 6,000 near the geographic center of the state. It seemed like a neat place, but it was raining too hard to get out.
Next I took a detour to Petroleum County, whose population of 494 makes it Montana's least populous county.
The county seat, Winnett, has a population of 182.
On to Billings, Montana's largest city, with a population that passed 100,000 in the most recent census. Stay tuned for a full tour of this gruff oil refinery town.
The town of Laurel, just west of Billings
The Crazy Mountains signal the beginning of the Rockies. The Crazies' tallest peak is over 11,000 feet.
Livingston, a town of 7,000 that sits 4,500 feet above sea level.
Onward to Bozeman, Montana's fourth largest city at 37,000 (up 10k from 2000). It's one of those “lifestyle” towns that folks retire to. My friend in Billings teased Bozeman for having “Too many Subarus and black labs, and too much Patagonia.”. I found it a very pleasant town, nonetheless. I got some good tacos on Main Street.
Bozeman is also the home to Montana State U.
Simpler living on the western outskirts of Bozeman
Heading west through Gallatin County
Taking a hike along the Madison River in Madison County
Gallatin County again
Rural mail delivery, way in the distance
Townsend, the seat of Broadwater County. Pop. 1,800.
Montana's very pleasant and charming capital city of Helena. Look out for a full tour on this city later.
Sitting just aside the Continental Divide, the face-meltingly awesome city of Butte. Seriously, this town is so badass it will make your head explode, and not just from the elevation. I'll have the full tour up soon, after I edit down the 300 pics I took.
Likewise, look forward to full tour of the surprisingly neat town of Anaconda. With a name like that, you've got to bring it. It includes a masonry smokestack so huge that the Washington Monument would fit comfortably inside. No shit.
Philipsburg, a tiny town that will be featured in the Anaconda tour.
Continuing west into Missoula County. It's greener and less dry here.
Missoula, the male ponytail capital of Montana. Home to the state's flagship university, it's a damn pleasant spot.
Missoula surprisingly had some rowhouses and other forms of urban housing scattered in the neighborhood abutting the university.
U of MT
The next day, heading NE through Missoula County.
My favorite colors are blue, green, and gray. The Northwest works well for me in this regard. Missoula County in particular was a natural paradise.
Do you like mountains? Mountains are freaking awesome. I took a lot of photos of mountains, mostly of them being awesome.
Hike in the rainy woods
Standing under a huge pine tree, the drops weren't even hitting me.
See that speck of white between the two mountains? That's a waterfall. We're going there.
Looking west over Holland Lake at the Mission Range.
The waterfall. It was hard to get a good shot of it. I stood in the spray and got wet. It was cool.
Down for the night in the NW town of Kalispell
Kalispell in the morning
Since Glacier National Park was not yet fully open, I headed north to British Columbia with no particular plan.
The Kootenay River
Mt. Fernie (Canadians: is it FerNEE, or FERnee?)
Kootenay River Valley, British Columbia
Columbia Lake, the source of the Columbia River
Thanks, sign, but you're too late. I already told them that.
Columbia River Valley. This might have been my favorite spot on the whole trip.
I stood here for an indeterminable amount of time, watching the rain storms roll through the valley, and the sun occasionally peeking out at the mountains. From this spot I counted 67 visible mountain peaks.
Into Kootenay National Park
Into Alberta now. Hiking to Boom Lake (en Francais: Lac Boom) We're just east of the Continental Divide, and about 6,000 feet above sea level.
Even in mid-June, more snow up here than all winter in NJ/NY. The trail sucked, and I had inadequate footwear, so I turned around before reaching the lake. I'm now trotting around Jersey City with Alberta mud on my sneakers. That's kind of cool.
Anyone know the deal with these rocks?
After describing this fella to some old ladies I ran into later, I think it's a Prairie Chicken.
Behold the magnificence that is Mt. Rundle.
Seriously, how much ass does this mountain kick?
After an hour and a half on the Trans Canada Highway, back in Calgary.
Calgarians: where should I go next time I'm in town? I don't really know much about Calgary, and didn't know where to go. Downtown didn't really stir my blood.
10:38pm, and still some light in the sky. This is as far north as I've ever been (aside from the UK).
A river in Alberta
The farmy green-ness of central New Jersey
Okay, now that's
the New Jersey we all know and love (Bayway oil refinery in Linden)
The East End of Elizabeth, NJ
The cranes of Port Newark. I always know I'm home when I see these guys.
Stay tuned for individual city tours of several awesome Montana cities...