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Ancient Grain Called Kamut Grown Locally
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Kamut signWhen you say "Kamut" to people they get a quizzical look about them and then I start to explain...this is an amazing ancient grain, never hybridized or genetically modified. And, it's grown organically in the Big Sandy area in Central Montana.
I'm a big fan of whole grains and this brand of wheat is higher in protein than most wheat on the market today. It also has magnesium, zinc and selenium plus more amino acids, lipids and vitamin E compared to modern wheat. It's the lipids that give more energy than carbs. 
So much for the details I learned!
One product made from Kamut wheat is called Kracklin' Kamut, a tasty and crunchy snack.
A week ago several of us had a meeting in Big Sandy, Montana and after that we toured the Kracklin' Kamut plant. They currently make one flavor of Kracklin' Kamut which is seasoned with salt. Other flavors are in testing phase right now such as a ranch dressing flavor.
KamutI've had waffles made from Kamut flour and also pizza crust made with it. Both had an extra texture to them, similar to a whole wheat flour or slightly nutty tasting. I loved both of them!
The folks who began raising Kamut in Montana are researching whether or not those who are gluten sensitive can digest this product without difficulty. Many people say it works for them but they would like some research to back that up. 
Agriculture in Central Montana began many years ago, and the primary grains were wheat, barley and oats. Today we are incredibly diverse and also high in the number of acres of organic crops. Kamut is one of those.
If you see a Kracklin' Kamut snack at your grocery store give it a try. It's pretty tasty! 




Have You Ever Heard of Korpivaara
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cemetaryA few weeks ago I was invited to tour a nearby area with some historic preservation folks.

They said the name of the little community was Korpivaara. I wanted them to think that I knew the Central Montana tourism region inside and out but this is one I had never heard of.

The day came, I was ready, and off we went. We drove first to Belt, Montana.

Belt is a small town about 20 miles east of Great Falls, basically a bedroom community of Great Falls. 

We met at the Belt Mercantile, an absolutely charming art and gift store located in a historic building on Belt's Main Street. I had seen their sign before but had never stopped in - my loss! I loved everything about this place from the artwork, the way it was displayed, the "inside outhouse" (you have to see it to believe it) and the great giftware for sale. The building has been restored beautifully too.

After coffee and some chat, we loaded into three vehicles and pointed our wheels towards Korpivaara.

barnWhen you aren't driving it's diffiicult to remember how many turns you took, what direction you were going and how many miles you went. We stopped frequently to see different architecture and also a community cemetary named Willow Bend. I had heard of the cemetary and actually knew two people who were buried there.

In the Finnish language Korpivaara translates to "potentially dangerous forest wilderness". This area didn't seem dangerous to me and it didn't feel like a forest or a wilderness BUT the name would have been given to the community in the late 1800s.

Finnish people settled in the area beginning in the late 1800s, first coming to work in the coal mines and timber industry. After that more Finns came to the area to farm.

The Homestead Act was passed in the 1890s where people who improved the land could acquire 160 acres for a $16 filing fee. The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 added another 160 acres to that making a farm of 320 acres. That sounds good but when you realize that most farms in Finland were less than 22 acres it must have seemed like a gold mine. Then, you factor in the soil and moisture conditions and it doesn't take long to wonder if many had a very hard life in Korpivaara.

This group I was traveling with wanted to see the Finnish architecture and we were not disappointed! In the area known as cornersKorpivaara there really is a cohesive group of hand hewn log buildings, and most are quite well maintained. Lodgepole pine was the primary building material. I studied the corners of the buildings and wondered how they were done with no mechanized equipment. The entire area has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and I can see why.

Population of the area dwindled over the years due to sickness (influenza) among early settlers, drought, and bank foreclosure during the Great Depression.  

Several places we visited are still lived in full time, others are cabins used in good weather and when winter weather conditions allow them to get in. One place even had a working sauna.  

The geography of the area is varied, from high plains to mountains and that made for a beautiful drive. I may not have known the history of this area but I learned a lot and came away with a better appreciation for the people who settled here.

All in all, it was a fabulous day!




Dupuyer's Annual Grizzly Day Does Not Disappoint
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paradeSaturday morning - a cup of coffee, gas up the car, remember my camera - and I'm on the road. My destination was Dupuyer, Montana, a small town about 85 miles northwest of Great Falls on the Rocky Mountain Front.

There are two routes to get to Dupuyer from Great Falls. I chose to take US Hwy 89 on the way to Dupuyer so I could be closer to the foothills of the Rockies. That route took me through Vaughn, Fairfield, Choteau, Bynum and then Dupuyer.

The day - Dupuyer's annual summer celebration called Grizzly Day.

It's called Grizzly Day for a reason. This little community does see grizzlies coming along the creek that runs through town in search of food.

You could spend the entire day in Dupuyer experiencing their annual celebration but I arrived in time for the parade which pretty much closes Highway 89 for about 25 minutes. 

I stood next to some motorcyclists from North Carolina who said they asked about a route to "get around the parade" and then back on the highway. They decided to stay parade carsand were very pleased that they did! The comments they said made me feel so good. They commented on the friendliness of locals they had visited with in Montana. They loved the weather (low humidity) and said US Hwy 89 was indeed a fun ride. Their destination was Glacier National Park but last Saturday they were darn glad they stopped to watch this fun parade.

The parade had great variety - the little train made of old barrels is a favorite of mine and I think the lady driving it had as much fun as the kids who rode in it later on that day. It was stuffed with teddy bears, a tribute to this town that sees a lot of the real kind.

Families on horses caught my eye and I loved the little girl on a big horse being led by her father. A couple of fire trucks were squirting each other and also having a fun time. The Shriners were out in their Corvette Patrol which consists of some very tiny cars sometimes driven by some not-so-tiny fellows.    

After the parade I visited with more people and strolled by the grizzly bear awareness display. That mounted griz was looking pretty life-like standing on the side of the grizzlyhighway. A bouncy house was set up for kids and from the sounds coming out of it they were a-bouncing!

It didn't take me long to get to the food aisle.

A Scoop in Dupe looked enticing (ice cream in Dupuyer) but I was picking up the aroma of Indian tacos coming from a food truck (bus) at the end of the aisle. Awww...writing about this makes me want that taco on fry bread all over again! Yummy in my tummy and served with a million dollar smile, just perfect.

I enjoyed that Indian taco immensely as I listed to the Milk River Band play some good country tunes.

There was more to come including a Human Foosball game. I've never seen that but I needed to scoot back home for another commitment.

Small town festivals and celebrations can be found throughout Central Montana during the summer.

serving tacosIf you get the chance to experience one of Central Montana's local events, don't hesitate.

I predict that you will be warmly welcomed by the locals and will come away with a great appreciation for life and comaraderie in our communities.  






Chief Joseph Ride Follows the Nez Perce Trail
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Chief Joseph Ride distantSometimes you have to be patient.

Thirteen years ago I missed seeing the trail riders complete the last leg of the annual Chief Joseph Ride and enter the Bear Paw Battlefield south of Chinook, Montana. I told myself I wouldn't miss is again.

The downside - I had to wait thirteen years to see it!

The Nez Perce National Historic Trail is 1,300 miles long stretching from Lapwai, Idaho through southern Montana and then ending 40 miles from the US/Canada border near Chinook. The Appaloosa Horse Club organizes an annual ride covering approximately 100 miles of the trail. At that rate it takes thirteen years to cover the entire 1,300 miles and end up at the site where Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce surrendered.

Some trivia here - in 1968 I was playing in the Chinook High School band and we played for an event at the present day Bear Paw Battlefield. I believe it was a ceremony in honor of this area becoming a state park.

BearPaw signA few land swaps later, much negotiation with the National Park Service, and the Bear Paw Battlefield became one of the park units on this trail.

You'll hear two different names for the Battlefield - Bear Paw (which is what most locals call it) and Bear's Paw which is how the legislation passed through Congress. For me, it is the Bear Paw Battlefield.

I tried to find information about this year's ride to see where their last camp would be and also to determine about what time they would ride in to the Battlefield. Information was tough to come by but I was in Chinook and ready to do some searching. One of the seasonal park rangers estimated that the riders would probably get to the Battlefield about noon.

The last campsite before riding in to the Battlefield was on People's Creek Road which I guessed would be about 18 - 20 miles. I also figured that a horse probably goes about 7 miles an hour (I was wrong, it's more like 3 miles an hour). I estimated that they would ride in to Bear Paw Battlefield about 12 noon.

Chief Joseph three ridersThe riders left their campsite that morning at 7am. One rider said he was up at 4:30am to take his tent down, pack it, get breakfast, saddle his horse and be ready to ride. That's early.

Trail ride oganizers were able to organize a route crossing private ranch land so that shortened things a bit and made it so I couldn't see the riders until about a half mile from the Battlefield. So much for my goal of getting the riders with no power lines, no irrigation systems in the background and no pavement.

It was really exciting when I saw motion on top of a small hill though. At first I wasn't sure if it was just trees swaying, but then I realized that more "trees" were appearing! It was the riders cresting that hill. I hopped in my car and got closer for some photos. The riders came through an open gate and then traveled a short distance on Route 240, a paved two-lane county road that goes past the Battlefield and as far south as Cleveland.

There were 165 registered riders and all are supposed to ride Appaloosa horses. One thing I found out, all Appaloosa horses do not have spots or a painted appearance. I spoke with one horse breeder from Washington and he explained how recessive genes Chief Joseph girlscan produce solid color horses. This guy had sponsored two Native American youth on the ride.

After all of the riders came in to the Battlefield they left, followed Route 240 north for about a quarter mile then went to the next night's camping area across the road. It seemed to take forever for them to come back but then I realized they had to tie, feed and water their horses. Most unsaddled and brushed their horses down and the trail ride chef served them lunch.

In about two hours some riders had walked or driven vehicles back to the Battlefield and we watched as about 30 Native American riders in full regalia circled the parking area three times. There was one horse with an empty saddle. Cameras were clicking, people were jockeying for better position and there seemed to be vehicles parked all over. I had a few "photobombs" with people squeezing in to get their photos but, all in all, I was able to get some great photos.

The first night of the five day ride started with a huge thunder and rain storm. Some routes had to be altered because support vehicles would not have driven on Chief Joseph boythe gumbo/mud soil - they would be stuck there until it dried out.

I am so amazed at the stamina of the trail riders. There was a variety of ages who came to honor the memory of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce who surrended to the US Cavalry at the site. History was retraced, memories were made and friendships renewed.

It was worth waiting for thirteen years to see this. 




Tracy's Restaurant and Jukeboxes
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Tracys signThe other night I took my two granddaughters out to dinner and I thought they might enjoy going to Tracy's Restaurant in downtown Great Falls and playing the jukeboxes in the booths.

I eagerly told them where we were going to go for burgers and fries and said we could play the jukebox.

Jukebox? They looked at me and said "what's a jukebox?".

So much for my big surprise - they didn't even know what it was!

Well, darn it, we were still going to go. Off we went, my expectations rather high, theirs rather questioning.

Tracy's Restaurant has been around a long time and, in all honesty, it hasn't changed much. Several years ago they did have a movie production company take over the restaurant for a couple of days and do some filming. They spiffed the place up a bit. It hasn't changed since then. There are booths at Tracy's Restaurant and a neat old counter.

Tracys JukeboxWe found a booth with an old jukebox on the table but I told them we needed to figure out our order before we played music.

The waitress came quickly, before we had decided what to order, but she said she would come back. A burger and fries for one, chicken strips and fries for the other - pretty simple and that's the type of food you can get at Tracy's.

I wasn't sure what the little jukebox took but I tried a quarter and suggested a song to one of my granddaughters. She pushed some buttons and was kind of excited when the music started. We had more "plays" for my quarter so my other granddaughter picked her song.  

We didn't spend many quarters, three I think, but it kept the girls busy until our food arrived.

The selections on the jukebox are old (really old), just my kind of tunes, but my granddaughters would probably have liked something a bit more current. They did have fun with the jukebox though.

Tracy's CounterI began to think of all of the ways kids get music these days - on their parents' phones via iTunes, Youtube and Pandora, on music channels on TV, on iPods, and the list goes on.  

As we left Tracy's Restaurant I noticed a very sleek, current-looking jukebox near the cash register. I didn't take time to see if the music on it was old-time tunes or new ones - I didn't want to know. I'd rather remember this as a trip down memory lane, old time jukebox equipment and old time songs.

Some day, my granddaughters may take their grandkids to a place to show them some outdated iPhone 6 or an iPod. I realize we have made progress with tech equipment but some days it's kind of fun to put a quarter in the jukebox and listen to an old tune.

Thanks for the memories Tracy's! 






Mountain Biking at Thain Creek
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Duane at ThainWe are still working on our mountain biking video and the location for this week's footage was at Thain Creek in the Highwood Mountains, part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

To start with, the drive to Thain Creek Campground was absolutely spectacular.

Although, we were running late and yet I wanted to stop and take photos along the way. I didn't but only because I knew our biking models were waiting.

Patient, yet eager to ride, our biking models had been waiting at Thain Creek Campground, our designated meeting place, for almost a half hour. And we still weren't there. The solution for them - take off on a trail that had good visibility of the forest service road below and they would see us when we got there.

It is a slow road getting to Thain Creek Campground. We were behind schedule because of another video subject and you can't really make up time on a road like this.

Fortunately, the mountain bikers saw us as we were driving in. One of the more aggressive riders agreed to ride ahead fast and connect with us. 

Scott Thain Creek waterI was pretty sure they were nearby because I saw two vehicles parked at the campground where we were to meet and no camp setups. All of a sudden a mountain bike came whooshing by, finally stopped, and asked if we were the video crew.

Well, yes to that question!

Daylight fades quickly in the mountains when you are surrounded by tall trees so we had to do some fast work. A trail was identified and the mountain bikers, who had just completed a pretty ambitous ride, went to work for us. Back and forth, uphill, downhill and lots of "that was great but let's do it again".

I was so impressed with these riders. Besides being in great riding shape, they had amazing stamina and were eager to please with whatever we asked them to do on their bikes.

One fast hour later and we were losing daylight too quickly to continue.

A brief gathering at the campground trailhead where we had parked, many thank yous, and plenty of "awesome riding" kudos to this group rounded out our not-long-enough Group at Thain Creekevening at the beautiful Thain Creek campground.

The Lewis & Clark National Forest has recently worked to restore Thain Creek after some flooding a few years ago.

It is in tip-top shape and is obviously great for mountain biking but it would also be a fun place to camp, hike and maybe toast a few marshmallows.

It has been years since I have camped at Thain Creek and I'm going to put it on the list for a great place to go.










Summer is for Mountain Biking King's Hill
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Kim at Showdown If you say King's Hill around Central Montana most folks think of skiing at Showdown Montana Ski Area. The ski area used to be called King's Hill and that's also the name of the mountain pass where the ski runs are located.

Recently though, we decided to get some video footage of mountain biking in the King's Hill area.

It didn't take long to line up some mountain biking models. A couple of gals who work at Showdown Montana Ski Area were eager to escape the office and show off some biking skills in their back yard.

The day - simply beautiful. You couldn't have asked for better conditions with a cool, crisp morning but plenty of sunshine. Although, I'm glad I packed a fleece.

I had a few ideas that I wanted to do to set the stage for showing off this area.

We climbed a fairly steep hill on a rather bumpy two lane track and once we got to the top I could see the all of the ski runs at Showdown across the highway. Each time we do a video I want it to be place-specific, not anywhere USA. My goal was to showcase not only the great mountain biking terrain, but also the amazing views in the area.

Bikes in Air ShowdoenWhenever I get out of the office I realize the things that we take for granted can easily be overlooked and forgotten.

One example, the wildflowers were absolutely stunning this time of year. Not showy, big blooms like arrowleaf balsamroot, but literally a carpet of delicate blooms that we were stepping (and riding) on!  

One idea I had for the "shot list" was to have the mountain bikers hoist their bikes in the air when they got to the top of the hill and then have the ski runs at Showdown visible in the background. A great idea but our models soon found out, those bikes are heavy!

But, hoist they did! And they held them long enough for several photos. They commented afterwords that their arms were a bit sore although it was a very fun photo.

We wanted to explore more but the clock was ticking and we had quite a few miles to go for some more video work.

And, I think our models might have been getting a bit weary. I know I would have been if I was climing up and down that terrain.

Avery bikingThat beautiful yellow lab pup could have gone all day without stopping though!  

Trails in this area are on the Lewis & Clark National Forest. You can ride, ride, ride and not run out of trails for a long time! And this area is easily accessible from US Hwy 89.  

If you want details on mountain biking trails on the Lewis & Clark National Forest you can visit their offices in Great Falls, the Belt Creek Ranger Station on US Hwy 89 near Monarch or the Kings Hill office in White Sulphur Springs.   

Our video - still not done - but I'm having a good time seeing the different locations and styles of mountain bikers. More to come! 








Mountain Biking on River's Edge Trail
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Sign at South SHore TrailI'll be open right up front - a mountain biker I am not! Casual, bike around the neighborhood yes, but nothing too daring.
But, we had so much fun doing a video of several mountain bikers who volunteered to be models for a video we are doing and I'd like to share the experience.
Our goal is to feature several areas of our thirteen county region and show off our awesome uncrowded trails in a short video. We aren't done with the video (more models, more locations) but here's a fun recap of how our efforts have gone so far.
Our first location was the South Shore Trail of the River's Edge Trail system in Great Falls. This trail has grown and grown - a true success story.
I remember being at a community vision session years ago and someone mentioned repurposing the old rail grade that ran through town and was no longer being used. A good idea I thought but I couldn't imagine the amount of work, planning and money it would take to do that. 
Not only did the project begin, it has grown to over 45 miles of trail, both paved and single track, and it is on both sides of the Missouri River.
Erin riding South ShoreThe mountain biking models I reached could all meet us at the South Shore Trail at 3pm on a Saturday. The day had been fairly hot with a clear sky and lots of bright sun. However, the forecast was for a quick passing thunderstorm about 4pm. So many times those predictions don't come true and I repeated that to myself as I looked at our clear blue sky.
Our models were excited and waiting for us. I wanted to have a background that epitomized the area and I chose Rainbow Dam and Falls on the east edge of Great Falls. You can easily pick up what is termed the South Shore Trail, a single track trail that crosses some hilly terrain, at the Lewis & Clark Overlook at Rainbow.
We started the video footage capture - lots of back and forth, lots of "let's do that one more time"! All of a sudden things seemed different and I glanced upwards and saw a rapidly darkening sky.  
The predicted storm was right on track. Of all the times when the forecast was wrong, this wasn't one of them.
Rider South ShoreThe video camera is expensive and I offered to hold an umbrella over it to protect it. Our models thought it was pretty cool to get a little rain on the trail, a little mud could fly and things could get fun, mountain biking style.
After a couple of loud thunder claps, I realized I was basically holding a lightning rod over that camera! By time I figured that out the storm had passed and I could see blue sky in the distance.
We were able to resume the video capture after the storm and got some good footage. The trail was a little slippery, we had one mountain biker take a tumble, but that seemed to be all in a day's work of riding.
There are several more locations lined up for getting video footage of mountain biking. Stay tuned and I'll share our experiences!




The Barnsion - A Barn That Became A Mansion
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Barnsion outsideWhen I first heard the name of this new event center a few miles east of Harlowton I wasn't sure I understood it. The Barnsion?

Well, it was explained to me that it started out as a barn, then a few additions and updates later and locals began calling it a Barnsion because it was slowly becoming a mansion. And a mansion it is!

I was lucky to go to a meeting at The Barnsion. The drive off US Hwy 12 was beautiful - a gravel road over the Musselshell River, cottonwood trees swaying in the gentle breeze and a sky that definitely said this was Big Sky Country! 

Once you turn off the highway you can see the red metal roof of the barn. After about a mile and a half I saw the cutest sign that said "Slow, Drive As If Your Kids Were Playing On This Street". We all agreed that seeing that sign was better than just saying "slow".

The scenery at The Barnsion is rolling with plenty of vegetation and the Crazy Mountains form the backdrop. Combine that with a bright blue sky and puffy clouds and we were in heaven. During our meeting we could hear sheep nearby as they grazed in the fields and Barnsion viewwe sat under a covered patio. All in all, a nice place for a meeting!

The Barnsion has lodging, almost like apartments. Two of them combine for a total of 1,700 square feet, all beautifully decorated in upscale western decor. Custom built rustic pine kitchen cabinets with stainless steel appliances, a massive fir staircase, outdoor kitchen, fireplace, gazebo and patio...and the list goes on! The third apartment is called The Shed and is located on the main floor of The Barnsion. It has a full kitchen, full bath, Dish TV and sitting area.

Of course, The Barnsion has "barn" features too! A stable and arena are next to a full tack room. Stalls in the stable are filled with fresh shavings from the wood shop next door.  

Probably the most popular event at The Barnsion is weddings followed by family reunions, retreats and conventions. This place can accommodate a lot of people in a variety of styles. Some could camp (with full hookups), some could bunk in restored sheepwagons and use the shower house or some could stay in the three apartments.

A popular wedding feature is to arrive in a white horse drawn carriage provided by The Barnsion owners.  

The Barnsion is definitely "a barn and above".  





Lewis & Clark Festival in Great Falls
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L and C honor guardEach year members of the Portage Route Chapter of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation dress in period clothing at the Lewis & Clark Festival and demonstrate skills that would have been used in the early 1800s.

This annual festival is held in Gibson Park, downtown Great Falls, the third weekend of June each year.

The Portage Route Chapter is named after the arduous portage the Lewis & Clark Expedition did around the series of waterfalls near Great Falls.

That trek over ground covered with prickly pear, around the roaring falls, caused them huge delays and set the course for the next series of events where they almost perished crossing mountains in the winter.

The chapter presents the flags to open the festival, all dressed in period clothes. They fire black powder rifles, well some mis-fire, and then the festival begins.

This year I watched as they fired their rifles, then about 10 minutes later I heard several of the rifles go off again. Misfires they told me, and they needed to clear out the rifles! Those old rifles don't always work. 

DarienOne of the members showed me his "spare bullets" which really was a case of wads of black powder that would be pushed into the rifle barrel.

If something was seriously chasing you, like the grizzly that chased Captain Lewis in the area now known as Great Falls, you'd learn to be quick at reloading those wads of powder.  

The annual Lewis & Clark Festival has a kids area where children can learn to trade, see fire making demonstrations, witness (and hear) cannon firing, watch cooking over an open fire, see animal skinning, learn to put up a tipi, experience Native American drumming and dancing, hear music and more.

This year there were also talks about the medicine used by the Corps of Discovery, how they fished for their food, what types of music they had (remember the fiddler) and how they set up camp each night.  

A Bluegrass concert kicked off the festival this year and a luminaria walk along the River's Edge Trail in Great Falls closed the activities on Saturday. 

Mike StaigmillerSunday of the festival was set aside for a cruise on the Missouri River to the Gates of the Mountains. That included a motorcoach trip to the Gates entrance, a two hour boat cruise and a bison burger dinner at the marina.

The majority of the Lewis and Clark festival is free, (tickets were sold for the Bluegrass concert and river cruise), it is educational and it is fun for the entire family!

If you missed it this year, make a note on your calendar for the third weekend in June next year. 



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