The winter that was.
It’s been a strange winter in north-central Montana – not much snow, lots of wind, and a couple of brutally cold weeks in February. I’ve kept busy through it all, trying to figure out how to teach science to high schoolers online during the lingering pandemic. Dealing with the virus has been challenging for teachers but it’s been especially tough on our students who’ve missed out on so many of the fun things kids normally get to do. For me it’s one messed up year out of forty years of teaching, for them it’s one of their four years of high school.

Charging the batteries.
Exploring the beautiful landscape of the Fort Belknap Reservation has provided a nice contrast to hours spent teaching through a computer screen. Early on, I realized how much “getting out” helped me keep a positive attitude, so I tried to hike every day that the Sun was shining and the wind was tolerable – If you don’t do it in the wind around here, you don’t do it very often! I managed to get out for short hikes after school two to three times per week, and then enjoyed a longer one almost every weekend. As I look back on my list of adventures, it’s clear that the buttes, canyons, and ridges on the reservation have been very good for me this winter – Hopefully I’ve passed some of that positive energy onto my students.

Here are the highlights of my four most memorable hikes on the reservation this winter, listed in order by the quality of the photo tours – best is first.

  1. Mission Canyon overlook – If there’s a more rewarding 2-mile hike in Montana, please tell me about it. The trailhead is only 3 miles from teacher housing, so it’s one that I do often. If you explore one place on the reservation Mission Canyon is the place to see, and if you do one hike this is the one to do. (Photo Tour)
  2. Three Buttes, above the fog – Fog was in the forecast, so I got up early on Saturday January 9th to make the 15-mile drive to Three Buttes where I hiked up the tallest one (Middle Butte) and took some photos with my drone. I made it to the summit in time to witness the sunrise and capture some amazing images! (Photo Tour)
  3. Monument Peak Lookout – It was 10 below zero but there was no wind as I hiked through White Cow Canyon to an abandoned lookout on Super Bowl Sunday, and then came back along a ridge (12 miles round-trip). I used hand-warmers, toe-warmers, ski goggles, wore layers, and had every square inch of skin covered – I was prepared! It was my only real snowshoeing adventure in the Little Rockies this winter, and I made it back in time to watch the game. (Photo Tour)
  4. Mission Ridge – This is another scenic hike that starts at the Hole in the Wall Trailhead in Mission Canyon before veering off and following Jeep trails. It is a 2-mile hike to a location that offers great views of the Little Rockies and the prairie to the west. (Photo Tour)