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OCT

21

Lunch at the Lazy B in Augusta

Haystack butte AugustaToday I drove to Augusta, a mere 60 miles from Great Falls, and it is usually a beautiful drive. And, a beautiful drive it was today if you don't mind a little rain.

My goal was simple - to have a piece of pie at the Lazy B Bar and Cafe in Augusta.

Some friends had mentioned that the Lazy B had wonderful pie and I decided to check it out and include it on Central Montana's pie trail. Pie "research" was almost complete except for this one last stop so a little rain wasn't going to stop me.

I've learned my lesson that our local cafes can sell out of pie, even early in the day, so I called yesterday just to see if they would have pie.

I was assured that they would have pie and there would be several different kinds. The person I talked to said she would even leave a note that I was coming.

I got to the Lazy B a little after noon, parked and tried to look inconspicuous as I toted a backpack with camera gear, my Ipad in a case, a folder with forms for the cafe owner to complete and my purse.

Lazy B signOh yeah, it looked like I was "not from around these parts" as my Mom used to say.

The restaurant seemed quiet with two guys seated at one table and one gal in the kitchen.

I picked a table in the corner so all of my gear would be out of the way. The gal in the kitchen came out and said "you must be the pie lady". I said I was and that I appreciated the person I spoke with yesterday leaving the message.

A couple of bowls of soup were delivered to the table next to me. Hot homemade tomato soup on a cloudy rainy day was just what  my tummy was looking for!

I've learned to pace myself while doing my pie research and I only ordered a cup of soup. Jeez, I ate that and I wanted more soup but figured I had better skip it.

All this time, people were casually coming and going, chatting, kidding each other, and teasing the cook. Everyone who came in the cafe knew everyone else in the cafe. After awhile I realized that I was joining in the conversations!

Lazy B sour cream raisinNow it was time to get down to business.

I ordered sour cream raisin pie although the other choices sounded good too - rocky road, apple and strawberry rhubarb.

A guy in the corner named Short heard my order and started telling his pie story.

He told the cook that his wife had a piece of Lazy B sour cream raisin pie at their house the other day. He said he didn't think he liked that kind of pie but tried it. Then he said it was "damn good, it was addicting, and he ate the entire piece".

That is a testimony for good pie!

Jami Bouchard owns the Lazy B (she bought it in 2011) and her mother Kerry Bouchard manages it.

They proudly serve beef and pork from Vaughn meats (just down the road) and I also noticed Montana 7 Grain Oatmeal on the breakfast menu. The menu is diverse offering 8 ounce beef patties for burgers, a variety of steaks, salads, homemade pizza, Jami at Lazy Bhomemade soups, daily specials and homemade pie.

The Lazy B is open seven days a week and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. And a lot of pie! While I was there, not one person left the cafe today without the question - do you want some pie to finish off that meal?

The bar and cafe are separate and the Lazy B occupies what was once Hotel Augusta. I liked the decor, the friendliness and casual banter of all of the patrons.

And then there is the food. I could have eaten more than twice as much soup as I did, I did not even leave a crumb of pie on my plate, and I'd still like to try their burgers. When I left I realized I had been there over two hours. Two very relaxing and fun hours.

Yes, I get paid to do this job and I meet the nicest people in my travels around Central Montana. Stay tuned for details on our pie trail, have a map handy and start planning your road trips.

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OCT

16

I'm Loving Our Fall Colors

Cascade scenicI'll be the first one to admit that we get wind in Central Montana. My comment to that is we have plenty of fresh air, no stale air pollution here!

The downside to wind in the fall is that our beautiful fall foliage tends to be short-lived. I'm not sure what's different about this year but I've found "a photo op a  minute" in several different directions when I've been out driving.

Tonight I drove southwest of Great Falls, taking the frontage road (old highway) to Cascade and then to the Hardy recreation area.

I didn't see anyone wading or in driftboats near Cascade but I did stop and take this colorful photo. That's the Big Belt mountains in the background and the Missouri River. 

My timing was perfect for catching some fishermen on the river upstream though, squeezing in that last cast to land "the one that was THAT big".

As I rounded Pelican Point fishing access site and started in to the Hardy recreation area I was rewarded with several boats near the silver bridge.

The light was good when I was closer to Cascade but it wasn't the best as I worked my Hardy Creek fishermenway upstream. There was heavy cloud cover that hadn't been around when I started my drive.

Still, the scenery looked great and I ended up taking a lot of photos.

These are just a couple of many photos I took on my short drive. If I had more daylight I would have kept on driving further into the canyon on the frontage road.

I only ventured about 36 miles from Great Falls. My advice is to get out and enjoy the scenery while you can. Pretty soon those beautifully colored leaves will be gone.

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OCT

13

Breakfast at the Graves Hotel in Harlowton

Gravel hotel signAnother road trip popped up on my schedule and this one would take me to eastern Montana. I had a couple of options for highway routes when I left Great Falls and I chose to go through Harlowton.

Harlowton and its neighbor community of Judith Gap are best known these days for the large wind farm between the two towns. I love driving through that area although it's easy to be distracted by wind towers with blades turning on both sides of the highway.

I had heard that the restaurant in the historic Graves Hotel building in Harlowton had re-opened and I was eager to try it out - a perfect stop for a late breakfast or early lunch. Before I made final plans I called a friend in Harlowton to make sure they were open on Sunday. I was in luck!

It was 10:30am when we got to Harlowton and the Graves Hotel. I was hungry and tired of sitting in the car. But, the sun was shining so nicely on that beautiful old stone building so out came my camera and I started taking photos.

I had never been inside the building. It had a restaurant that was open briefly a few Graves casual seatingyears ago and I never got there. Whenever I've been in Harlowton I've always admired the structure from the outside though.

Once we were seated in the casual dining area we ordered breakfast from a good selection of entrees. While my meal was being prepared I wandered about the restaurant.

The casual dining area has antiques and crafts for sale, all cleverly displayed. The other customers looked like locals, or they seemed to know the folks working there so I assumed they were all from Harlowton.

Breakfast was good - an omelet made just how I ordered it, plenty of fresh fruit and toast. I ate and ate but finally decided I'd take the fruit along with me in the car.

After we paid for our meals the owner gave us a tour and some history of the building.

The formal dining area is completely finished with a beautiful tin ceiling and period lights. The casual dining area still needs work but I'd say this building has a lot of potential. These old buildings have so much detail. Each doorway had a "G" engraved in Graves formal seatingthe corners for Graves.

When you first enter the restaurant you see the staircase that goes to the hotel part of the building. The former registration desk is where you pay for your meal and see tempting baked goodies.

Some history - in 1907 Harlowton had a fire that destroyed 24 buildings on Main Street. After that, fire codes were put in place and the Graves Hotel was built in 1909 by A. C. Chris Graves, a prominent businessman. The Graves is made from stone quarried on the site where the hotel stands.

Upon completion the hotel had 150 electric lights, pretty impressive for 1909! It had 45 sleeping rooms and a veranda with views of the Musselshell valley.

The outside of the building has 1908 on the tallest part of the building so I'm assuming that was the year most of it was constructed. All of the literature said it opened in 1909.

The hotel is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The owners plan to gradually restore all three stories although they will have fewer, but larger, sleeping Graves front of buildingrooms with bathrooms.

Restoring historic buildings is a true labor of love. The owners already had stories to tell about the boiler system and some construction glitches. I'm glad they have persevered and I hope they can get the structure restored.

Heading to Harlo? I recommend scheduling a stop at the restaurant in the Graves Hotel on Main Street.

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OCT

4

Enjoying the Drive on US Hwy 89

Fall scenic DupuyerEvery now and then, actually quite frequently during the summer, you'll hear me complaining about highway construction. If I'm not complaining I'm stressing about whether or not I'll hit construction and be delayed.

Well, I must give kudos where they are do.

A week ago I was traveling south on US Hwy 89. I knew there had been construction there this past summer but it was after work hours and I hoped they were either done with the project or done working for the day.

The project isn't quite done but I was so amazed to see a roadside pullout every few miles. If I had known I'd discover this I would have tried to figure out if there was a pattern like every 5 miles, every 3 miles etc. The pullouts were probably put where the road and landowner allowed but what a nice touch to an incredibly scenic drive.

Fall weather has been around for a few weeks so deciduous trees were putting on a show.

The sun was beginning to set so I had perfect light for photos. 

Sunset near BynumFinally, the sun DID set and I was near another pullout. Score!

Remember to keep your camera and binoculars handy when taking drives in Montana. You'll be rewarded if you're on US Hwy 89 between Fairfield and Dupuyer and I bet you'll be tempted to pull over and enjoy the view.

Thanks to some foresight by highway planners and probably input from area landowners, we have safer roads and we can stop our vehicles without worrying about obstructing traffic.

Central Montana at it's best!

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SEP

29

Enjoying the Serenity of Lewistown's Labyrinth

Lewistown labyrinthI was in Lewistown, Montana a couple of weeks ago. My day had been one of those where just about every hour I had to be somewhere and I was feeling like I was glued to the clock and hadn't completed anything.  

When my last scheduled meeting was over I knew I had 100 miles to go to get home. Still, I decided I could use a de-stress session and I took some time to enjoy the Lewistown Community Labyrinth.

I'm always amazed when I mention Lewistown's labyrinth and people say they don't know about it.

The labyrinth is located in Frank Day Park and was constructed in 1996. If you are driving east on Main Street, turn right on 5th and you'll drive right to the park. The community swimming pool is also there.

When I arrived at the labyrinth the other day there were four other people walking it.

I got my camera out and took a few photos of the ornate benches and the statue in the labyrinth.

labyrinth benchLewistown had experienced a cold snap not too long after Labor Day and a few of the flowers were nipped. Most survived though and the labyrinth still looked very pretty.

Steve Lillegard, artist from Stanford, Montana, sculpted the statue that stands in the labyrinth. The statue depicts a young girl watering flowers and is a beautiful addition to the labyrinth. A few years ago when I was visiting with Steve he told me he used his daughter as a model for that statue.

After taking photos I started to walk the labyrinth. I debated about doing a slow moving video and then I decided I had stopped there to de-stress and I just walked and enjoyed the serenity of the area. The other walkers had left and I had the place to myself. It was quiet and so pretty.

When I finished walking the labyrith I drove to 618 Coffee and got a cup of tea for the drive home. My mission to de-stress was accomplished!  

If you are heading to Lewistown set aside some time to enjoy walking the pathways of their community labyrinth. 

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SEP

23

Weaver Quarter Horse Production Sale

Weaver horse auctionWhen a friend gave me a personal invitation and a catalog about the Weaver Quarter Horse 19th Annual Production Sale I decided I should put it on my schedule. The event was held this past Saturday in the Livestock Building at Montana Expo Park in Great Falls.

When I arrived I decided to wander around a bit. I didn't take me long to realize that I could have just sat and watched the colts for hours before they were auctioned to the highest bidder. Playful and cute sums them up best! Bay fillies, blue roan and red roan fillies, bay roan studs, black fillies and my favorite - buckskin fillies. They weren't all weanlings but those were the cutest.

The Weaver Ranch is located in the Bear Paw Mountains (an island mountain range) near Big Sandy, Montana and was established in 1888. I believe they said they were the sixth generation to work that ranch - some pretty amazing history.

The Weaver Ranch has sold quarter horses in all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces, Germany, Mexico, South Africa and Australia.

Back to the auction.

There were two guys in the auctioneer's booth and at times it seemed like they were both talking at the same time. I'm glad I wasn't bidding because at times I wasn't sure how high the bid was.

Weaver quarter horsesA phone bank was set up to accommodate call-in bids and one spotter stood in front of that just to make sure the absentee bidders had the same chance as those bidding in person.

The auctioneers kept things moving quickly. I watched to see who was bidding and heard one bidder's number called out several times. There were plenty of random bidders though and it was exciting to watch.

I've been to art auctions before but this was my first horse auction.

It was fun to see and I'm glad I went!

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SEP

21

Learning About the Solar System

CM AstronomyThe Central Montana Astronomy Society pulled out all of the stops (well, all of their scopes) Friday evening to view the sun and later the stars.

They always set up in the parking lot of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center east of Great Falls. It's far enough away from the lights of Great Falls to avoid the glow of artificial light. And, the Lewis & Clark expedition used celestial readings to guide them on their trek to explore the Louisiana Purchase - a nice connection with the Interpretive Center and the Central Montana Astronomy Society. 

During the school year the astronomy group sets up viewing scopes once a month and hopes for clear skies. This was their annual Star Party Extravaganza so both solar and night time telescopes were set up. Historically, the weather cooperates during this month and the sky is great for viewing. This week was no exception to that.

The Central Montana Astronomy Society's scopes are magnificent - it's difficult to explain them but once you look through them you get it!

In addition to the outdoor telescopes, there were inside activities in the Lewis & Clark TelescopeInterpretive Center.

Dr. Arthur Alt gave a talk in the theater and there were several kids activities. Lots of pre-planning effort went in to this event and I was glad to see the parking lot almost full.

What a great way to learn astronomy. I learn each time I go to this event but probably the most rewarding part is seeing the look of amazement on the faces of kids looking through those wonderful telescopes.

Check local event listings if you are in Great Falls and if you see the Central Montana Astronomy Star Party happening, take advantage of the group's knowledge and powerful telescopes.

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SEP

20

Great Addition to Lewistown's Trail System

Lewistown TrailheadLewistown recently installed a "trailhead" for their beautiful walking trail system.

The trailhead has a jumping fish surrounded by interpretive panels detailing the trails and also the history of Lewistown. It's magnificent and this photo doesn't do it justice!

Here's what I learned when I checked out the trailhead.

There are two loops that comprise the Lewistown Trail System - the city loop and the airport loop.

The city loop is the core of the system and you can access it from the trailhead. It wanders throughout the historic center of Lewistown and connects the local high school, junior high and three elementary schools. It also passes through the Main Street business district and connects to major recreation facilities.

The trail system gives access to three natural areas that border the city center - Brewery Flats, the Frog Ponds and Machler Restoration Project which is under construction now.

The trail system really began when work was underway on the industrial area that became Brewery FlatsLewistown sign. Then, the BNSF railroad corridor was acquired. Now, most of that rail bed has crushed gravel and is part of the trail system. Some portions of the city loop are paved.

When you are at the trailhead you can also learn history of Lewistown and read interpretive panels about Big Spring Creek fishing access sites (lots of access) and the Big Spring Creek Watershed.

The trailhead is located off Lewistown's Main Street near the Yogo Inn.

Next time you are in Lewistown be sure to check out the trails. They are a treasure!

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SEP

17

The Fish Were Biting at Ackley Lake State Park

Ackley Lake signFirst of all, a confession.

I had never been to Ackley Lake State Park until last night. When you realize it is only 7 miles off the highway from Hobson, MT it's hard to believe I haven't gone before.

It was about 5:30pm last night when I was almost to Hobson coming home from a day of work in Lewistown.

I had recently visited with the new Region 4 State Park manager and made a comment that I had been to all of the state parks in Central Montana except Ackley Lake. He asked why and I couldn't come up with a reason. At that point I decided I was going to get there!

Well, seven short and scenic miles later I pulled in to a parking area at Ackley Lake State Park.

I saw a pickup parked there, then I glanced to the south and saw three campers. Perhaps I would have someone to take a photo of instead of just some scenic shots.

Fishing at Ackley LakeTwo fishermen were casting from the shore and I started visiting with them. In a matter of 15 minutes it seemed like fish started jumping all over in the lake - in the middle, not too far from shore, truly all over! My new fishing buddies were excited and trying to cast where they saw the last fish jump.

One of the fishermen told me he was 84 years old and had recently had rotator cuff surgery. He told me he could certainly be doing better if it hadn't been for that darn surgery!

There were a couple of tugs on the line, a couple of fish got away.

Then, one was hooked! We all got just a little excited as the other fisherman did some well controlled reeling in, giving the fish a little line, then bringing him in bit by bit. This guy definitely knew what he was doing.

Another fisherman was in a tube where he could paddle and fish out in the middle. He caught a fish too and the excitement was contagious.  

I watched as the first fish caught was weighed and measured. It was a rainbow trout Campers at Ackley Lakeand was 16.5 inches long.

I was impressed!

Before I left Ackley Lake I walked around a bit. Campers were enjoying the great fall weather, it was so quiet you could hear a fish jump, and I was soaking up the serenity and beauty.

Ackley Lake State Park isn't large but what a perfect setting for fishing, motorboating or camping. And, the access is incredibly convenient.

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SEP

9

25th Annual Montana Bale Trail A Success

Scotts baleWhether you call it the Montana Bale Trail or the What The Hay, it's a huge success. And a lot of fun.

I enjoy both aspects of the Montana Bale Trail - building an entry and then going on the main day of the event to see what every one else built.

What is this event?

Twenty five years ago two ranchers in the Hobson-Utica area started it. One put up a corny bale spoofing the other rancher. Of course, a reciprocal bale spoof was in order! And, the rest of the story is all about growing the event, other neighbors joining the bale building and even people like me who live 80 miles away building an entry.

Travelers on the 22 mile route the day of the event are another facet for this gem of an event. Between 6,000 - 7,000 people attend the big day which is always the first Sunday after Labor Day. I'd like to have a "counter" on this route the week following the event to see how many folks come out when the crowds are gone.

How has it grown?

WTH baleThis year there were almost 50 bale entries. The Utica Women's Club organizes a huge craft fair with vendors and food. The Oxen Yoke bar in Utica sets up outside seating for their huge grilled burgers. The Midway Caf-hay is located, can you believe it, about midway on the route! There is a free hay-maze by the Midway Caf-hay and several preserved bale entries from previous years are displayed. On the lawn of the Hobson Library & Museum there are several entries in the Hay-zoo. This year they even had an elephant sculpted from hay that spouted water through his snout. Snoop-hay, a couple of Minions from Despic-hayble Me, an allig-haytor and much more all appeared on the lawn. Hobson restaurants get in to the game with entries built outside their businesses and even the Bar 87 at Windham had a Miller Hay-Life bale entry.

Where is it?

If you are on US Highway 87 between Great Falls and Lewistown you'll have two entrance/exit points for the Montana Bale Trail. Hobson is one, Windham the other, and the little town of Utica is in-between. The route is about 22 miles, all paved, and you drive past well-kept farms and ranches.

pig hayWhat does it cost?

There is no charge to view the Montana Bale Trail and you even get a chance to vote for your top three favorite entries in the People's Choice section.

This year I did a completely different bale entry and I've already come up with an idea for next year's entry. I even wrote it down so I'd remember it. When you are driving the route all types of ideas pop in to your head. Then, when the time rolls around I struggle so that's why it is written and attached to my calendar!

The event is all about having fun and good times in Central Montana, enjoying our rural communities and our farmers.

Put the Montana Bale Trail on your calendar for next year, first Sunday after Labor Day. Psst...videos of past events and a 2015 calendar with event photos are for sale.

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