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Big Sky Country

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bill and I had our doubts about our planned three-day canoe and camping trip on the Missouri River in Montana. The weather had been so horrible in North Dakota and even back home in Ohio, we just couldn't imagine being out on the river in open boats. And as we drove into Montana, that weather held.

Everyone fell asleep, leaving me to drive. It was a lonely but exhilarating feeling, to see this beloved landscape of my childhood rolling out before me, even in a thunderstorm.

When I was 12, I spent a magical summer near Opheim in the northeastern corner of Montana with my sister and brother-in-law. They indulged me tremendously, giving me a Raleigh three-speed bike to ride, arranging with friends to let me ride a 27-year-old cowhorse named Blaze, and just generally letting me wander and wonder on the prairie, which was more, more, more than enough.

This is a place where wheat is king, and grain elevators stand sentinel against roiling skies. Montana is where a lot of the hard wheat used for pasta is grown.

The elevators are all the more poignant when only pigeons are using them.

Amazingly, as we neared Virgelle, where our journey would commence, the clouds parted and the sun came out for the first time since we'd arrived in the West, and the gods smiled on us and our little family.

When I saw this landscape I almost didn't care whether I ever got in a canoe. I just stared and stared at the sky as we drove, at the cloud shadows scudding across the mountains. In some past life, I must have lived on and ridden across plains like these.

Oh, let's try a vertical. Only a panorama might begin to capture the big sky of Montana. But I try anyway.

Our first look at Virgelle, a teeny tiny town that was prepared to be a boomtown, but it never happened. The bank and boardwalk and merchantile are about all that survive. The merchantile is the large gray building on the left, and it is crammed with luscious antiques, which have come from auctions and estate sales in the immediate area.

The Virgelle merchantile is now a wonderful bed and breakfast, with little cabins and homemade quilts on the beds, candles and oil lamps for light, but modern bathroom facilities. Um-hmm, it's perfect. Just perfect. We wanted to stay longer, but we were going canoeing in the morning! And after a good night's sleep in our iron beds, we were ready!


Gee, I've been away too long - came here for a fix, and what a blessing you are. Dirt roads, clouded skies, and all the lovely details - you paint a picture of beautiful Montana and your little family and I love it.

Oh, that sky!!! Just soaking it in and trying to imagine what it looked like in person. Wow.

Remembering I have dial up and it takes a LONG time for photos to load - I thought the first grain elevator was you tower at Indigo.

BTOB, drool on dude!

I LOVE the big sky -having grown up on the prairies north of Montana - it's the sight that makes me feel grounded and HOME. I could never live in the mountains. Beautiful photos Julie, thanks!

Hi Julie:

Thaks for sharing those big sky pics. I was out in North Dakota years ago and couldn't get used to the amount of space I could see around me. I went out with a grain combine crew and then decided to walk back to the farm house. I could see it from where we were, but the thing was actually miles away! To much space and sky for an Eastern boy, who had grown up in woods and mountains!

Who is that sleeping man with no chin? Did you pick up a hitchhiker?

Julie, Thanks for the great photos. it is amazing how different the landscape there is compared to hear. In the winter, I am often excited when I can see a little way into the woods out my back door and there you can see for miles. How breath taking.

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