Writing on Stone Provincial Park

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Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Destination: Writing on Stone Provincial Park, Alberta - Canada

Quite a long time ago I had heard about a place near the Montana border called Little Jerusalem. It was said to be a coulee that contained one of my favored subjects - Hoodoos also known as Cap Rock. These rock formations are formed of sandstone shaped by various weather conditions. Found in many places on the plains of the Northwest, but often inaccessible. The Little Jerusalem rock formations near Sweetgrass Montana is such a place. I had forgotten that you needed to gain some permission to access the backcountry and missed seeing them.

Somehow I managed to find out about a place just across the border from Sweetgrass, near the town of Milk River in Alberta, Canada. It was here I set my sights upon for a quick weekend road trip. Spur of the moment road trips can often reap huge rewards if one is open to them. Follow along this trip with the photos in my Road Trip Gallery.

Photo 1: Daybreak - I didn't get quite an early enough start to my morning and as I followed along the Middle Fork of the Flathead, heading toward the sunrise, I kept looking for a place to pull over and capture the sunrise. It's a winding road and I'm not overly familiar with it. The sky started to get very red in far distance. I wanted so bad to stop in the middle of the road but knew that was unwise. Finally I found a spot near Cascadilla Creek to pull over and get into the open along the river. The sky still showed some red under the cloud cover and had me oowing and ahhing.

Photo 2 - River reflections was in the same area as Daybreak only facing the other direction after the sun rose. Autumn has almost ended and the leaves have fallen, but some still hold out for the next big wind.

Photo 3 - East Glacier along highway 2 is a small village area and is where Glacier National Park meets the plains of the northwest in Montana. This little structure caught my eye for all it's broken down character, interior and exterior, so evident.

Photo 4 - I've never spent much time on the Hi-Line, or the portion of Highway 2 that runs east and west across the northern half of Montana. There are towns along the route that have been there for years, most of which I have yet to visit. I skirted the highway and went through the town of Cut Bank where I glanced over by the local fire department and saw an old fire engine. The door had written on it "East Glacier No. 4, Volunteer Fire Department". I loved all the old gauges and the fire hydrant it is parked by so of course had to capture it. I decided to present it with selective color of the truck and hydrant.

Photo 5 - As soon as you leave Cut Bank there is a large wind farm to the east. Glacier Wind 1 and Glacier Wind 2 are wind farms providing power to over 50,000 homes. They are amazing to just listen to the sound of the blades turning. They don't move that fast but you can still hear it. The old homestead I photographed is done in black and white to give a feeling of the old and new contrasts together.

Photo 6 - Heading north out of Shelby Montana you'll come to a little town off the highway called Sunburst. Such a big name for a little town. There are a few rocking horses (oil rigs) along the highway in these parts, but otherwise just fields of grain. Sunburst population is just over 300. The wonderful grain elevator is a focal point in the town.

Photo 7 - Finally arrived at my destination of Writing on Stone Provincial Park. Considered a sacred landscape that has a spiritual significance to the Blackfoot people who have hunted and travelled the Great Plains. I was surprised by this sign at the entrance. I wondered if I would see dozens of snakes moving across the road at different points. Alas, I saw none.

Photo 8 - 11 - Hoodoos. I'm always fascinated by what weather does to stone, especially sandstone. Surreal landscapes develop in places where winds are extreme and temperature fluctuate to the max. Hoodoo or Cap stones are formed in this manner. The environment of these places are very fragile and yet people disrespect the land by defacing it with their initials or other graffiti. I carefully traversed the area being careful to keep an eye out for snakes.

Photo 12 - Evening on the Plains was so beautiful I had to capture the sky. The night was warm for early October. Unfortunately the winds picked up blowing continuously all night at a steady 40-60 mph. My tent held down by my own body weight stayed put but I didn't get much sleep.

Photo 13 - Sunrise on the Milk River in golden light tones. The Milk river is a tributary of the Missouri River and runs 729 miles long in the U.S. and Alberta. It ends just east of Fort Peck, Montana. Given its name by Captain Meriwether Lewis who described the river in his journal: "the water of this river possesses a peculiar whiteness, being about the colour of a cup of tea with the admixture of a tablespoonful of milk..."

Photo 14 - Driving toward Shelby the wind was still howling at a steady 50 mph plus, and the tumbleweeds rolled across the landscape like herds of animals fleeing a fire. Sometimes they were caught by the barbed wire fencing, the only thing to stop them in their tumble, or they would keep rolling across the prairie. Often they would cross in front of my vehicle missing me by inches. They wouldn't hurt anything, but it was odd how they always made it past the rig.

Photo 15 - Ethridge Grain Elevator where the wind really blew me from my steps! I had to get a shot of the grain elevator at Etheridge, Montana. The wind was blowing so hard that it actually dislodged a piece of the siding on the structure and had it flying through the air for about 200 yards. It nearly hit my rig as I watched it sail through the air. Along the railroad tracks the wind actually hit me at my back and pushed me in my steps. I love these old elevators and it was worth the encounter with the high winds. I don't know how anything stands up to those high winds they get out there on the plains.

Photo 16 - Taking the Backroad. Leaving the Canadian border at Sweetgrass I decided to give the Little Jerusalem rocks a go. To find them that is. After all, it was in the same direction I was headed, albeit, in a round about fashion. Making sure I was on the right road, where all roads look alike, and none are marked, I headed into the backroads of Montana. What did I find? More roads. Nice wide gravel roads with scarcely a reason for a nice wide road. The Loop road leads back to Sunburst, Montana and unless I was on the wrong road I found about a conglomeration of approximately six hoodoos. Otherwise I saw none. I did see a deep ravine that most likely had some formations in it, but it was inaccessible. Thankful I had visited the Writing on Stone Park, I just enjoyed the long road back into Sunburst.

Photo 17 - Hello Bison. I'm always thrilled when I get to come out of Browning and see the Bison on the range. It's quite exciting to see them and this time I captured a bird that was having a face to face with one.

Photo 18 - Mountains of Fall is the finally to the trip, ending with the mountains of Glacier National Park.