Montana

Posted by Ellen

Baby bird underfoot, along the Mill Creek Canyon Trail in Montana's Bitteroots.

Posted by Ellen

On Saturday, May 17, Hank got his diploma from the University of Montana College of Forestry. Shown here celebrating with him are his brothers Allen and John and his sister-in-law Bonnie.

That very same day, Hank's cousin Andy Koehler also completed his college studies. Andy's degree, from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, is in music.

Posted by Ellen

Blodgett Canyon, in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana, is a Yosemite-esque sort of place, flanked on the north by sheer granite walls of towering spires that are absolutely irresistible to rock climbers with ropes and stuff.

Our boy Hank climbed Blodgett's 600-foot Shoshone peak twice this spring; the first time, a sudden rainstorm forced a rapid rappelling retreat that left a lot of climbing gear stuck in cracks on the rockface. The second climb, pictured here, was a successful gear-retrieval mission–and also a sun-kissed flirtation with warm spring skies.

Posted by Ellen

The only summer in American history drier than this summer of 2012 was 1936, the time of the Dust Bowl. In South Dakota, home to the family of Vernon Evans, pictured here, the drought was compounded by a grasshopper plague. The crop failed, the bank took the farm, and there were no jobs to be had. "You couldn't even buy a job," according to Evans.

They had $54, and no idea how they were going to get by, when they piled into their Model T and headed west. The first day they only made  six miles before breaking the crankshaft; fortunately, a nearby farmer had a yard full of dead Model Ts; he told the Evanses to find themselves a crankshaft and take it, no charge. 

They were on the road again a day later and made good time for the next few days, averaging about 200 miles a day till they reached the outskirts of Missoula, Montana, where they passed a car at the side of the road with a man sleeping in it. They honked at him, "just having a good time." The man woke up quickly, started his car, and chased them down, waving frantically for them to pull over. They thought he was a cop turning them away from Missoula; many communities had posted guards to try to keep the Dust Bowl migrants out of town.

"Well, here's where we go back home," the Evanses said to one another. They had $16 left. 

But the cop turned out to be Resettlement Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein, who introduced himself, explained that the sign on the back of their car had caught his eye, and asked if he could take a picture. They told him they were headed for Yakima, Washington, hoping to arrive in time to find work harvesting hops.

Rothstein snapped eight poses there on the road to Missoula, which the family recalled seeing in newspapers and magazines a few months later, when they were newly settled in Oregon, working for the railroad.

Posted by Ellen

New York photographer Jan Cieslikiewicz titled this image "Montana, USA, 2011." He said he was on his way to a wedding when he stopped to shoot.

Posted by Ellen

Way, way out in the country, a million miles away from city lights, on a clear night the sky is lit by stars, as we see above at left, in a photo taken in Glacier National Park in Montana. The few small clouds in this starlit sky show up as black blotches that block some of the stars; a completely cloudy night in remote parts of the world is a very, very dark night, too dark to photograph at all.

In the megalopolis, however, clouds actually light up the sky by reflecting urban light pollution to brighten the night dramatically; an overcast night in a big city like Berlin, shown above at right, can be up to ten times brighter than a clear night.

Posted by Ellen

At the University of Montana, students can earn academic credit for assignments like this. Hank got an A last semester in Intermediate Rock Climbing.

Posted by Ellen

The snowline has retreated most of the way up the hillside above the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula, and the well-tended campus lawns have turned seriously green.

Still, the sky sometimes spits snow, and the trees daren't yet display a hint of green. If on some afternoons the spring air is gentle enough to warm an upturned face, you can take it to the bank that a few minutes later the wind will stir and whip and sting, and push the people back indoors.

Must be May in Montana.