30 June 2010

Montana Wildflowers in June

I've been busier than a one armed paper hanger. The weather has finally gone straight to summer and everyone is busy as bees.

Over the this past month I have taken several nice photographs of the various wildflowers that I have observed and thought I would just share them with you without a lot of fan fare. So, here they are......


Wild Sunflower

Pasque Flower

So, there you have just some of the lovely wildflowers that filled my world this June. Ah, Montana. It's like living in a never ending flower garden tended, just for, me by Mother Nature.

Check out Kinsey's new blog The Liberated Photographer.

©Kinsey Barnard Photography

26 June 2010

Running Eagle Falls-Glacier National Park

On the way to Two Medicine, in Glacier National Park, visitors have the opportunity to stop and visit Running Eagle Falls on Two Medicine River. It is a very beautiful waterfall.

The waterfall was named for a great Blackfoot warrior woman and her name was Running Eagle. She was born in the early 1700's in the heartland of the Amskapi-Pikuni. Running Eagle was a real person not a legend or a myth.

Running Eagle's life is an illustrious saga of leadership and daring deeds. She is the only young woman of the Pikuni people to have gone on a vision quest. It was to these falls that she came on her quest and it was at this most sacred place that she had her vision to become the leader and warrior she became.

Running Eagle became a true woman warrior. She was a great horsewoman, fast runner and an excellent hunter. She was also kind, thoughtful and generous, traits much admired by her people. Her exploits as a warrior, leading war parties and counting coups were recounted in lodges throughout the land.

Near her thirtieth year Running Eagle was struck down and killed by the Flathead whilst on a raid across the Continental Divide. In a most fitting honor her warriors brought her home and laid her to rest in a tree overlooking these falls.

All I can say is awesome falls, gorgeous spot and beautiful story. I was fortunate to be there when I had the place all to myself, a real gift. I believed I could feel Running Eagle's spirit in the powerful falls and the clear gentle waters that flowed below.

Millions of photographs have been taken of these falls but my most favorite was not of the falls but of Two Medicine River where the falls are located. If you would care to see it go to RUNNING EAGLE MEDICINE

©Kinsey Barnard Photography

18 June 2010

Chief Mountain-Blackfeet Country

On the very northeast corner of Glacier National Park you will find Chief Mountain rising up to meet the sky. At just over 9,000 ft. it isn’t a particularly high mountain but it is certainly a majestic one.

Chief Mountain has been a sacred mountain to Native American tribes, particularly the Blackfeet, for hundreds of years. The Blackfoot name for the mountain is Ninastiko. The mountain was first seen by white explorers in the late 1700s and was known as "Kings Peak" on maps produced in the United Kingdom in 1795. Merriwether Lewis, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, saw the mountain in 1805 and called it "Tower Mountain". The name was changed in the late 1800s to reflect the Blackfeet naming of the mountain, which was "Great Chief".

The mountain has long been a place where young Native Americans have gone for their vision quest.  A vision quest is a ritual in which an individual travels to an isolated area for the purpose of entering a trance, during which a life path or destiny is revealed. It is quite literally a quest for a vision.

The image above is of the Northern entrance to the Blackfeet Reservation near the Canadian border. You can see Chief Mountain off in the distance.

There is a loop that one can drive, starting from St. Mary, that takes you up to the Piegan border crossing into Alberta and Cardston and then west to Waterton International Peace Park from there back south through the Chief Mountain border crossing. All along this route there is hardly a time when you are out of sight of Chief Mountain and it was interesting to me to watch it change shape as I followed the loop.

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world I highly recommend you take this little junket it's quite beautiful.

©Kinsey Barnard Photography

12 June 2010

Blackfeet Horses-American Drinkers of the Wind

Although, I set out for Glacier National Park I found myself more intrigued with the Blackfeet Reservation. On the east side of the park you are on reservation land whether you want to be or not. For some reason I was constantly drawn to the mystique of the reservation.

It's hard to, at least for me,  imagine American Indians without horses and yet prior to circa the 1730's the Blackfeet had never seen one. The Blackfeet who roamed the great plains of northern Montana and southern Alberta were among the last Native Americans to know the wonders of the horse. The time before horses was known as "Dog Days" and all portage was accomplished using dogs. All hunting was done afoot. Acquiring horses was a tremendous boon.

Horses were in fact native to North America in prehistoric times but they died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago. Horses were reintroduced to the continent by European explorers. Because of their geographic location the Blackfeet were amongst the last Indian tribes to come into contact with the Europeans. The Blackfeet first became aware of the horse whilst battling the Shoshone from the south around 1730.

The photo below is a photo of a photo which can be found just inside Glacier National Park at St. Mary. It was taken in 1914 and I think it's simply romantic and stunning.

On my recent visit to the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier Park I decided to look around the reservation for some descendants of the ponies that once chased buffalo across the plains. June is prime foaling time so I was not disappointed.

North of St Mary I took a dirt road to, I knew not where, and discovered a small herd of horses with several foals.

Horses, as well as cattle, are pretty much free range and can be found grazing just about anywhere. In the small band that I found was a very new paint foal. Two things I found very interesting about this encounter. First, these horses wanted no part of me and started nervously milling around and moving away as soon as I stopped the car. In the photo below you can see three generations of Blackfeet horses; the sorrel mare, the new foal and the foal's older sibling.

The other thing that was interesting was how quickly the band joined ranks to shield the little paint colt from view. What made this so interesting to me is that there were other foals in the band but it was as though this little pinto foal was a crown prince and to be guarded and protected from the likes of me. It reminded me of the way elephants move to surround their young. Clearly a herd instinct but the little pinto was the obvious object of their concern.

When they got far enough away they stopped and seemed to relax going back to their grazing. The little paint was a fine looking foal with lovely long legs and wild blue eyes. You can't see them in this photo but trust me they were very blue and very wild. He was a prince!

This next fellow, whilst not a paint, I thought was a particularly regal the way he carried himself. It was easy to envision him prancing into battle with a Blackfoot warrior astride his back.

In addition to it being foaling time it was also wildflower time and this fellow was looking quite beautiful trotting off in a field of flowers. But, that was the thing, they were always trotting or galloping off! I'm thinking these horses are not getting a lot of use these days because they seemed wild as March hares to me. You'd have a dickens of a time catching one.

I didn't really put any serious time into photographing these marvelous beasts but now I wish that I had done. I'm thinking I may have to come back next June and try again in earnest. My imagination saw the wind drinkers of the the Great Plains and the Blackfeet who rode them.  My heart yearns to honor them! All you have to do is look into their eyes and see the what was and what might have been.

©Kinsey Barnard Photography

10 June 2010

Glacier National Park-June 1, 2010 Journal Entry

Last night it rained cats and dogs. We haven’t had anything but drizzles for days. When I looked at the MDOT it showed snow at Babb. I had to laugh, it seemed I was going to the only place in America where it was snowing. Clementine was packed and I was committed. It’s a real pain to pack your RV in the rain and an even bigger pain to hitch up the tow car but we got her done and away we went.

It rained all the way to Kalispell but the sun was out and it was 59 degrees in Columbia Falls, where we stopped for provisions. Provisions acquired we headed east toward Browning. The Flathead River was running bank to bank and the Middle Fork of the Flathead, which you follow through the pass, was as well. We stopped and had a picnic right along the Middle Fork.  All the way along the rivers and creeks were rushing. As a lover of water it was beautiful to see. When we left to continue our journey the clouds gathered and it poured again. One thing about the Rockies you don’t have to wait long for the weather to change. Once, near Durango, Colorado I experienced a temperature drop of thirty-five degrees in three minutes. That made a believer out of me!

I have never approached St. Mary from the south. Usually I do the loop, taking Going to the Sun Road from West Glacier. I looked at the map and saw that one could take 49 at East Glacier and connect with 89 to St. Mary. That way you wouldn’t have to go all the way into Browning.

When I got the junction at Two Medicine I just barely caught a sign that said maximum length 21 ft. Clementine with Shadow is about 38 feet. By the time it registered I was committed. There’s no backing up with a tow car and there was no place to turn around. I thought surely there would be a last ditch turnaround for those such as myself who, lacking a talking co-pilot, missed the message. Koty just sat there and let me do it. He was probably giggling on the inside. I thought I saw a hint of a smile.

Well, that was a harrowing 12 miles of road. I was scared spitless that I was going to encounter a hairpin turn at any moment and be wedged in the road. Well, it was a narrow winding road but there were no impassable hairpins, we arrived at the 89 Junction in one piece. As we turned on to 89, headed north, I looked back to see what the sign said on this end, 47 feet!

From the junction it’s just another 15 miles to St. Mary but the road is narrow and winding so it took another 45 minutes to get there but, no problems and the drive was gorgeous. All the spring snow on the Rockies made for a glorious backdrop.

We are staying at Johnson’s RV Park. We sit up on a hill overlooking St. Mary Lake and Lower St. Mary Lake it is oh so very beautiful. God is in his heaven and all is well with the world.

©Kinsey Barnard Photography