Sunday morning Montana highway

Sunday morning Montana highway

Highway 287 on a Sunday morning, about 30 miles south of Choteau, Montana. Click for larger version.

Cloudy and cold Montana morning on the drive back to West Yellowstone – just cloudy enough to make the sun look like the moon.

The temperature was 7 degrees and my car slid along the icy highway several feet before finally stopping to let me get the picture.

This is three sequential shots taken with my Canon G-10 and stitched together in Photoshop. Location was about 30 miles south of Choteau, Montana on Highway 287.


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Animal Heads, Elk, Wolves, Deer and other Random Notes from the Road

A few notes from recent travels in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota …

Darby, Montana: I spent 20 minutes talking with Jimmy The Hat Man and what a quality hat maker he is. He has a brass contraption that straps onto your head for taking the perfect measurement. Impressive. Previous clients include George W. Bush and Miss Rodeo Montana.

Elk Hunt Numbers in Darby, Montana

Hunt Numbers in Darby, Montana

Darby, Montana: apparently these elk hunt numbers are down. The locals say the wolves ate them all. They also told me rumors of wolves eating the stomachs out of pet dogs. One thing is for sure in Montana – everyone has a wolf story.

west side of Jackson, Wyoming: as I headed for Jackson from West Yellowstone I missed a right turn in Ashton, Idaho that caused me an hour delay, which frustrated me. Back on my way and about to enter the pass into Jackson, there was a barricade. The gas station clerk said there had been an avalanche – one hour earlier.

Thermopolis, Wyoming: good hot springs here, though I still rank ones in Alberta and Chile higher. While doing an evening soak in 30 degree weather twelve deer wandered into the yard. Very peaceful to sit in steaming water and watch the deer graze.

Thermopolis, Wyoming: After the soak I headed inside for dinner and was blown away. Every available square inch was covered by the head of an animal. African animals, Wyoming animals, unidentified animals. Must have been 200 of them. Amazing. If you are going to decorate with animal heads, this is how to do it. Go all the way.*

Thermopolis, Wyoming: I met a lead singer for a bluegrass band and tried to think of a bluegrass song. John Denver is NOT bluegrass. What about “Dueling Banjos”? “Yes,” she said, “but you don’t want to play that one at a bluegrass festival.”

somewhere on an eastern Wyoming highway: I saw a road-kill deer on the side of the road. Nothing too unusual, but someone had cut off its head. A headless deer!

I had a table at the Yellowstone Ski Festival and told some people from Wyoming about this. They explained that while this isn’t regular behavior for Wyomites, this deer probably had a very good rack.

Custer, South Dakota – Interesting fact from a veternarian: did you know antibiotics don’t work well at all on buffalo? This is good because ranchers have no choice but to treat them decently so they don’t get sick in the first place. Contrast this with cattle raised in conditions where they are basically guaranteed to get sick, but the antibiotics let them survive until slaughter.

Rapid City, South Dakota: I was in the area and decided to see Mount Rushmore. I paid $10 and, in 5 degree weather with bitter 30 mph winds, marched through the line of state flags to see this national treasure. This is what I saw.
Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

*I currently have a very nice buffalo shoulder mount available to get your collection started. Email me about this.

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Four Days Later – A Snowfall Comparison

Four Days Later at Red Canyon

From Fall to Winter: top photo is Sunday, bottom photo is Thursday. Looking into Red Canyon just outside of West Yellowstone, Montana.

After a wonderfully warm October around Yellowstone National Park, this week we are starting to get snow and you can already see the changes in the landscape.

I took top picture looking into Red Canyon on Sunday afternoon, the day before the predicted snow was supposed to start. I went back this afternoon for the bottom shot and you can see the difference between fall and winter. You can’t see it in the photo, but the temperature also dropped. On Sunday I was using my fingerless bison gloves, while today I had to go full-fingered.

Red Canyon is across from Hebgen Lake, about seven miles away from West Yellowstone. I don’t know the story of why the old barn is there, but it makes an interesting subject.

Taking this type of photo was harder than I thought it would be. I had to match up the focal length of my zoom lens and there is no good way to find 62 mm, plus I had to find the exact spot I was standing at four days ago.

To help with matching the image, I brought along a print-out of the Sunday shots. I held them up and then tried to match that scene with what I saw in the camera’s live view screen. I was close on this one, but should have stepped back a couple of feet.

Trying to match up shots

Trying to match up shots. I took "before" photos in four locations around West Yellowstone. Red Canyon turned out to be the best for the "after" image.

P.S. I got this idea from Colorado photographer Jack Brauer who had a two-day comparison of Ouray here: before snow and after snow.

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Second to last sunset of the season

The west gate into Yellowstone National Park closes tomorrow morning. Was able to get in last night and capture this second-to-last sunset of the 2010 season. In the background is the Gallatin Mountain Range in Montana, in the foreground is the Madison River.

Sunset in Yellowstone National Park

Second to last sunset of the 2010 summer season in Yellowstone National Park. Click image for larger version.

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Coffee-Crusted Bison Pot Roast Recipe

Bison roast

Raw bison meat that I got from the Costco in Bozeman.

My mother sent me this recipe for my birthday, but I didn’t get a chance to make it until this weekend. I recommend adding some salt to the rub, but otherwise it turned out to be a great way to prepare bison, especially for you coffee fans.

I got my bison roast from the Costco in Bozeman. Not sure if they are carrying them across the country, but it was good in texture and moisture, and a reasonable price.

Spice Rub Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of finely ground Morning Glory coffee
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

In a small bowl combine the spice rub ingredients. Rub the meat with the spice mixture and then let stand for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Bison Roast after rubbing with spices

Bison Roast after rubbing with spices

Roasting vegetables

Roasting vegetables

This next step is optional, but I like to cook vegetables along with my roast. The actual ones you use are up to you, but here is what I included:

  • two carrots
  • 1 Idaho potato. My landlord drove down to St. Anthony, Idaho last week to get some fresh-from-the-ground potatoes and gave me few. You can tell by their feel that they are fresh – the ones in the store are much softer. They also have a brighter flavor.
  • 1 onion. I also happened to be in St. Anthony last week looking for a goat to slaughter (a convoluted and unsuccessful story that I probably won’t share) and found a small produce stand selling these onions. Not sure of the kind, but on the sweet side and .a nice complement.
  • two celery stalks
  • some leftover mushrooms

Chop up the veggies and put them in a roasting pan. Next time I’m going to brown them in a skillet before roasting them.

Take roast out of the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Position two racks in the middle of the oven and put the roasting pan with veggies on the lower one, and the bison roast above the pan and sitting directly on the rack. If you have an actual roasting tray, you can use that also.

Cook for around 40 minutes until the internal temperature is 115 degrees. For the best flavor, you want bison meat to be rare.

Let the meat sit for 10 minutes or so, then slice and eat.

Like I said, I think the rub needs about a teaspoon of salt, but otherwise this is a good dish to add to your meal rotation.

Coffee-Crusted Bison Roast

Coffee-Crusted Bison Roast

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Timelapse of Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Here’s a quick video of yesterday evening out at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

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Windy in Yellowstone

Here’s a short video of some scenes of yesterday in Yellowstone. The wind started around noon and didn’t let up, as you can see in many of the scenes.

For most of these shots I used the Tamron 28-75 lens, which is now my most common lens when doing video. It seems to be a very convenient focal length video (more so than when with still shots). The lens can be a bit heavy if walking around with it around your neck, but with video I’ve found that you absolutely have to use a tripod, so at that point a little extra weight doesn’t matter.

I was using my Canon T1i, but I recommend getting the newer T2i.

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Top Five Western Father’s Day Gifts

Here are five great ideas for a Father’s Day gift for the man with at least a little touch of the mountains or American West in him.

5. Bison Fiber Gloves. These rugged gloves handle moisture incredibly well, meaning I can dip my hand in an icy lake and the moisture will be gone from my skin within about five minutes. Cotton simply can’t come close.

4. Elk Antler Pens. A man should always have a really nice pen. These are hand-crafted in Montana and I think they are fantastic. They are noticeable because of the gold or silver trim, and the fine polish on the elk antlers, but using the natural product brings them down to earth. The antlers naturally fall off of the elk and were collected in central Montana.

3. a Bison briefcase. These rugged briefcases are made from shrunken bison leather which really brings out the grain. They come with a manufacturers lifetime warranty on the parts wearing out, so you know this is a quality product. And since this list is for the Western man, I’ll mention the briefcases come with a side pocket designed for carrying a firearm.

Bison Leather Wallet

Bison Leather Wallet in Bryce Canyon

2. Bison leather wallets. These long, slim wallets fit nicely in a front pocket, back pocket, or, best of all, the front pocket of a coat (imagine your Dad smoothly pulling out this wallet when he’s picking up the check). Pictured here is the one I carry with me all the time – I took the picture in Bryce Canyon in Utah.

1. A buffalo hide rug. This is the ultimate for decorating your father’s cabin, the living room floor, or even draping over the bed. It’s a lifetime purchase, so you can also call me at (406) 646-6717 and talk about a good selection.

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Some quick store updates

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks getting the store up and running, but it’s back and better than ever. Here are some updates:

Bison Leather. Did you read the Wall Street Journal article about how everyone is looking for iPad bags? Well, I’ve got two in stock, made from bison leather. You can take a look at them at the store, and it’s possible I can do a special order for you.

Canes. Ross Taylor of Utah stopped in Saturday morning and brought some of his hand-crafted goodies. Canes, shoe horns and dog chews made from the reproductive organ of a bull. Yes, you read that right and there have been two repeat customers already for the dog chews. I had a good conversation with Ross, especially about the state of boxing today, and rumor is he may be visiting again.

And the big news: an online sale. I’m taking part in Google’s “Dads and Grads” promotion, meaning you get a $20 discount on orders more than $120 when you use Google Checkout. More details on the site.

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New Boots

My friend’s rainbow trout was about to shake itself off the hook, so I jumped into Hebgen Lake to grab hold of it. Moments later water seeped through a hole and surrounded my right foot.

This had been going on for a month, including an uncomfortable ice fishing episode when the foot submerged in semi-frozen water, and finally I decided it was time to fix things by visiting the local outfitting experts.

My first stop was Free Heel and Wheel. I handed over the boot and it was taken to the back room for an examination. The verdict was that shoe goop wouldn’t work because the hole had become too large.

Next I talked to a guy from Idaho who went along on this fishing trip and he said he always uses duct tape to patch his boots. This made sense to me and I taped it up before going on a photo shoot, but the tape became wet and slipped off after an hour. I have a tendency to walk in streams and once again came home with a wet, soggy right foot.

Then I went to Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop, where I explained the entire history of water seepage, prior attempts at fixes, and various suggestions of what to do next. I received clarity in a couple of sentences: “Stop trying to fix that boot. Just go to Walmart and get another pair.”

This turned out to be good advice because Walmart in Billings had boots at half-price and I got my new ones for $10.

To finish up about my new boots, I’ll talk about being in Bozeman two weeks ago. In the morning the region woke up to a spring snowstorm and I put them on while doing errands. Later in the day I decided I needed a bunch of supplies and headed north for the 1.5 hour drive to Bozeman.

While there I thought I might as well check out the food co-op, which I had never visited. It was filled with people in very expensive mountain/outdoorsy clothes.

I noticed in myself a feeling of discomfort, and a couple things flashed into my mind. The first thought was of a local woman who says whenever she goes to Bozeman she can spot West Yellowstone people because they are wearing flannel and great big boots.

Then, keeping my eyes steady on the Montana bison meat selection, I forced myself to recall what I had on. It was my red flannel shirt, with no less than black long underwear peeking out of the collar, and of course my totally-unnecessary-in-the-situation new boots.

So while the boots are comfortable enough to forget they are on, maybe that’s a drawback, at least if you find yourself in places where it isn’t the style.

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