Two lives

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I wanted to go through my archives and post some of the stuff I’ve worked on in the past…so eventually I’ll catch up to now and get more of my work out there. This was a travel project I worked on last year focusing on Sandpoint, Idaho. It reminded me that things do indeed change and I hope the economy was just at the low point in the up and down cycle for Sandpoint, just like it has been for so many other resort towns.

Sandpoint, Idaho is a city with two lives. One of a resort town, complete with a winery and a downtown beach on the southwestern shores of Lake Pend d’Oreille. The other of a town struggling to survive, complete with empty storefronts and winter streets with no one on them.

Four years ago I came across the town of Sandpoint while passing through on my way to Spokane, Washington. Idaho Highway 200 takes the traveler on a scenic route through downtown. I stopped and ate dinner at a place that now only exists as an empty restaurant.

I went back later that year and participated in a wine shop tasting, the business is no longer there and in its place there is a high-end art studio.

Those visits cemented Sandpoint in my mind as a chic little town in the Idaho Panhandle, surrounded by water and mountains, that I wanted to visit again.

What has replaced that vision is now a town that has been hit hard by economic times, a town with at least three empty storefronts on every block.

Mat Schiel, a bartender at Mick Duff’s brewery in downtown, said he’s seen many storefronts open and close in the two years he’s been in Sandpoint.

“Two people own all of the buildings in downtown and they don’t seem to care if they’re full or not,” he said. “Rent is expensive.”

A by-pass is currently in the works alongside the rail tracks and Sandpoint’s historic train station that could take the Idaho Highway 200 traveler business away from downtown.

But Sandpoint still maintains a part of its destination-town history.

On the weekends you are almost guaranteed to find music somewhere downtown. Stumble into the Pend d’Oreille winery on a given weekend and you could find a barrel tasting and live music.

Stay at the Best Western Edgewater Resort and book a room with a lakefront view. Step out onto the beach for a seven a.m. sunrise or a walk on city beach.

The Panida Theatre is in the process of being restored to its original glory with the help of some persistent town folk, the Pend d’Oreille winery is still kicking after 16 years, and a slew of lakefront condos were installed within walking distance from city beach.


Disneyland or National Park?

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Photo captions: Saint Mary Falls and Virginia Falls in Glacier National Park

I can’t even begin to tell you the fantasies I have about going to Glacier National Park and just letting all the nagging worries in life melt into the forested backdrop of natural beauty. As someone who lives in the Flathead, but hasn’t had the chance to visit the park this summer, I can tell you those dreams are all-inclusive.

No people, no cell phone, no dog, just me, nature, the sound of water and wild animals left and right.

Sunday was going to be that day. It was the last day of the season Going-to-the-Sun Road was open from the west side

of the pass. My friend and I hopped in her car and headed past Lake McDonald for Logan Pass.

The leaves are starting to change. Red, yellow and orange merge with green on the pass’s mountainsides. Water has stopped flowing in many of the falls and creeks that run underneath the road but as usual, the park’s visitors chug up the mountain in spurts and fits at 0-10 mph.

I guess after six summer seasons of visiting Glacier I should know better than to think the trip will be stress free and full of cherry blossoms, sunshine and rainbows. Don’t get me wrong, just for the pure scenic value of it, a trip to Glacier is always worth the agony of slow vehicles, traffic jams, construction, picture takers and numbskulls who let their kids jump around on the edges of the slippery cliffs that water runs off of.


Let me put it this way, we didn’t have to worry about missing the views on Going-to-the-Sun road or running into bears on the hike. Maybe this is horrible to say, I feel almost wrong saying it, because I do in fact enjoy my time in the Glacier, but the more time we spent in the park on Sunday, the more it felt like I was at an amusement park.

Long lines, screaming children, photo ops that stop traffic, the only difference is hikers don’t have to give any tickets as they hit the trail. Bathroom lines, lines to take pictures of waterfalls and bighorn sheep, and people are everywhere. Waiting in cars, crawling on rocks, walking the trails, taking pictures, waiting for nature to work it’s miracle magic. It’s crazy. I always forget how packed the park gets in the summer, until I visit.

Tourist numbers for the park were stellar this season. A press release GNP sent out on Sept. 11 said that more than 1.7 million people visited Glacier between January and August this year. That is an increase of about 13.5 percent over last year, 630,000 people visited the park in July alone.

I would love to know how many people visited the park on the last day the west side was open. It was a beautiful day, the smoky haze that hung over the Flathead Valley stayed outside the West Glacier entrance for most of the day. The line of cars was just as long as it normally is and if other park visitors were like us, they just wanted to see a little outdoor action before the clouds take all the warmth out of fall.

And that meant a nice short hike, because by the time we got to our destination planned hike, it was too late to do anything major. Especially because the shuttles aren’t running anymore. Who wants to get stuck on Going-to-the-Sun road after the sun sets, shivering and waiting for a nice someone to offer you a ride.

We went to Saint Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. It was a wide trailed 3-mile (there and back) jaunt mostly on level terrain with a little up and down action. And the endpoints were, of course, beautiful and completely worth battling people and traffic to see. And as usual, we were disappointed in ourselves for not doing something more strenuous or filling up on Glacier National Park a little more.

But, it was Sunday and we had another two hour drive ahead of us just to get back to West Glacier. So we took our fill and left with the vision of coming back soon, only this time from the east side. Who knows what will come of those visions, but the fantasies of another beautiful, stress free day in Glacier National Park have already begun again.

Red with a hint of smoke

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The subdued red of the Blasdel Barn has soaked into the more than 100-year-old timber that still holds it up. Bits and pieces of siding and fascia litter the ground around it, pigeons and pack rats have taken the place of stock and it’s all that’s left of the Blasdel farm. The barn was built in 1909 and is in the National Registry of Historic places as well as part of a Wildlife Management Area often used for hunting birds.

I took these pictures today on a little side trip down Somers Rd. before shooting the Lighthouse Christian Home’s Harvest Festival for work. It was so smoky it was hard to get a great picture of the barn. But it’s a pretty cool and gigantic structure. No one is allowed to enter the barn, but every artist in the Flathead has probably photographed or tried to paint the now faded red outside.

I ran into our tech guy and his wife while I was out there. They came down to get some photos of birds and the barn. He made a comment about the barn, saying at some point in the future, if the roof didn’t get reinforced, the building would eventually give into water damage and cave in on itself like so many other old barns have in this valley.

He said he likes to come out to the property to hunt pheasant and has for years. Sometimes he sees ATV tracks out in the fields, which he said almost inevitably lead to pieces of deer laying out in the field from poachers who just pack out the good stuff, leaving things like the head, if it’s a doe, behind.

All I know is that I want to come back.

Smoky blue

Once fire season starts in the Northwest it seems like it never ends. Even if you are hundreds of miles away, it finds a way to get into your lungs, filling your nostrils with the incredible scent of a campfire even if you are driving down the freeway in your car.

It hangs over the Flathead Valley like a blanket of toxious gray, obscuring views in every direction, turning the whites of eyes red and blocking nasal passages with ash. But, it’s worse in Missoula. At least in the Flathead it goes away at night and in the morning although you can see it coming, it’s not here yet.

Even at night in Missoula last year, I could smell the ash from burned trees in Idaho and eastern Montana.

Fires have been bad (or more toward average) this year. The Bob Marshall has perpetually burned since the end of June, Glacier caught on fire two weeks ago and closer to home, Condon will be on fire until well past October.

Back when the fires first started and the temperature and winds were high, the haze was occasional. But now that it’s mid-September and the temperature is beginning it’s slow climb toward winter, the haze seems to be a daily thing. It gets thicker toward Whitefish in the evenings as the wind continues to push the pollution northwest.

In the photo up above, I’m standing at the top of a fire lookout up the North Fork west of Glacier in mid-August. The haze from fires burning south and east of this northwestern corner of Montana is visible as the sun sets. I can see the blue of the sky and the outlined mountain tops directly in front of me, clear and sharp. Below the haze line things get a little blurry. You look up and see outlines of mountains, not separated in contrast to the haze, but part of it. You breath in and feel a little oxygen deprived, if only because half of the smell that comes in is charred earth.


Hungry for some color

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Some things were just meant to be eaten, but they also look good on a light table…a food photo project gone raw.


Colors, flavor and nutrition.

These are the gifts a serious-trip to the grocery-store produce section can bring if you look carefully at how you stock your fridge, your body and your plate.

For nutritionists, food comes in serving sizes. Most recommend a daily-intake of nine servings, or five cups, of fruits and veggies a day. Not just in a salad of leafy greens or an apple.

The Center for Disease Control said for the healthiest diet, those servings need to range the gamut of the color wheel.

For some people, food is an afterthought. It’s just something that keeps the body energized—feeding it nutrition so the human-form can get from point A to point B.

Orange, purple red, green and yellow are the colors sustenance comes in.

For the self-proclaimed “foodie,” food has become a revolution in cuisine. They like it to taste fantastic and it better look good too.

Oranges, cabbage, tomatoes, artichokes, and bananas are some of the fruits and vegetables that make delicious different. They can make a brown plate of steak and potatoes look good.

But not all reds have the same hue. Tomatoes are red and raspberries are a mixture of pink and red. And sometimes names can be misleading. Red onions and red cabbage are actually purple in color

Green colors don’t just mean leafy vegetables that are high in fiber. Artichokes have more anti-oxidants than any fruit or vegetable and fennel can help aid digestion and alleviate stomach cramps.

And not all orange fruits and veggies taste the same. Compare the spice of a habanero pepper and the sweet, tangy juice found in the pulp of an orange.

Each is as unique as the seeds on its inside or the texture of its skin.

As tribute to the rainbow of forms that live to be consumed, from farm to plate and from hand to mouth, here’s a collection of colors and textures found only in the produce section.

A little light work…

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Halloween is already being celebrated in storefront windows around town in Bigfork, and it got me thinking about last year. In my lovely Rugged photo archives from my last semester of classes at UM I had a reminder of a fun school project I did on Fashion photography. For those of you who know that I am what they call a “journalist” photos like these are a little out of the ordinary. But it was super fun!

And here’s my sales pitch.

Halloween isn’t just about costumes. It’s about fun. And what better way to have fun than with tutus, tights, and a little bit of hauntingly stylish night-time dress up. Ghosts and ghouls have there place, but a well placed bit of black and a dash of color add some pop to an otherwise drab fashion statement. Flashy and posh all at the same time, this dress-up game should be for all seasons of the year.