East Front #1

We took a road trip east of the mountains in order to check out the unique swath of land located at the transition from the Rocky Mountains proper to the foreland plains to the east. It is, like North Park, CO and the Alberta-BC line, some of the very best the West has to offer. Rough, thin, insular, and vast. Authentic as a pair of bucking horse Olsen-Stelzers. We're talking about an area far east of Glacier, east of the Bob, where grizzlies are returning to roam the high prairie like they did 300 years ago. Its a place that has not seen change since the Pleistocene, but is changing nevertheless. Think Livingston in 1965 or Bozeman before McLean. The East Front of Montana is one of a dwindling number of last undiscovered best places in North America. If you're buying land - and I mean big tracts - do it here.

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park

Logan Pass Visitor Center, Glacier National Park

The modern National Park Service employs too few Backcountry Rangers, Climbing Rangers, and Scientists. Today, the place is overrun by sissies, RV parking lot attendants, facility maintenance crews, and chubby people stuffed behind desks. The result of which is a tendency to suggest that visitors, "Not go out there." People wandering trails means people getting lost or hurt or eaten by bears - all headaches for the NPS staff. However, Glacier National Park is only open to visitors for about 100 days each year. Despite this sign warning against "hazardous snow", we observed several parties happily hiking the nearly snow-free Highline Trail. Logan Pass Visitor Center, Glacier National Park.

The National Park Service jumps the shark. Logan Pass Visitor Center, Glacier National Park

Making hay while the sun shines on bare ground. Logan Pass Visitor Center, Glacier National Park.

Not a glacier.

Glacier NP.

This is what you come east to see. Grizzly bear roaming the foothills near Babb, MT.

There are two funny things about the tiny Bear Paw Battlefield National Historic Park, located just south of Chinook, MT. First, the place was originally known as "Place of Manure Fire". Bummer...

...The second is that the primary duty of National Park Service Ranger and his summer technician is to keep the 1-1/4 mile trail through the prairie well mowed. We met said Ranger on our visit. He had just been transferred here from Mt. Rainier. Bummer.

A drive through the Bears Paws Mountains offers a fine tour of some of Montana's best cowboy country with volcanoes.

Somewhere there is a cow database containing all these numbers.

Fergus County Fairgrounds.

Fergus County Fairgrounds

Lewistown has a lot to offer. Except today. The ticket window is closed. On toward Winnett, then.

Lewistown

Nearly every town of size in Montana has a Mint Bar. This is Lewistown's Mint. One of us ordered the walleye.

With a name like Sluggett, you're probably tough enough to spell your first name "Lari". Fergus County Fairgrounds.

Fergus County Fairgrounds

Even if you're not into gun ranges, this facility, located outside Lewistown, is something to behold. Its huge, has lots of different stations along a winding route through the hills, and, frankly, is pretty freaking' cool.

Turns out Winnett was closed.

Warms the heart to live in a state with a Petroleum County.

This deer not only looks psycho, he was psycho. This thing chased Lucy over hill and dale, hissing and stomping all the way. Judith Mountain Lodge.

You get the feeling its always a slow shopping day on Main Street in Harlowtown.

Triumph of the Public Works Department. Here we have Lavina's historic Adams Hotel, the town's only thing of interest to photo-snapping tourists like me. And where does the new street lamp need to go? Right there in front.

Skateboarding at the Post Office is apparently a big problem in Lavina, population 173.

Storefront sign in Big Timber.

You know how some people look like their dogs? In Montana, some people's trucks look like their bar. A 1996 F250 crew cab out front at the Timber Bar, Big Timber.

We sat for over an hour at the Branding Iron waiting for BLTs. McDonalds doesn't sell BLTs.

This is what you drive east of the mountains to see.

The country around Judith Gap is gorgeous. C.M. Russell thought as much, anyway. We concur.

The far end of Main Street in Big Timber could use a little TLC (and a three day fire).

Big weather, too.

Their loyalty to domestic drafts is carved in stone in Big Timber, MT.

There's tough, then there's Montana Tough. If you're a guy who wrangles geysers for a living, you're Montana Tough.

Road trip gold. Judith Basin.

The Mint in White Sulpher Springs.

Apparently, "Groovy" means "Out" in White Sulpher Springs parlance.

White Sulpher Springs

Note the security camera, too. Neihart.

Don't worry. He found it. Stanford, MT.

Wheat futures, feeder cattle prices, and elementary school lunch menus. No room for fake news here. Stanford, MT.

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