The nearest Walmart from our home is about 70 miles away. We try to make the trip at least once per month, as the prices of food are substantially lower than they are in town. Walmart is able to buy in bulk, while the local store can’t. We took a trip to Walmart last week to go grocery shopping.
People might get the notion that we go to Walmart just so I can take pictures, though. That is because I do the ‘tourist thing’ and often take pictures along the way. I never tire of looking at and enjoying the scenery. It is also never quite the same from one trip to the next.
The recent trip was no exception. The following pictures were taken with my Kindle rather than with my camera and they were taken while the car was moving, sometimes at 70 mph. Under those conditions, the pictures turned out good, I think.
On the way to Walmart, which is in Polson, Montana, we cross the flathead river about 10 miles south of home. The river that flows by town is the Clark Fork River, which is the river we normally fish in. However, the Flathead River is a major tributary of the Clark Fork and this picture is taken a few hundred yards from the confluence of the two rivers. This image is facing upstream, away from where the rivers meet.
A highway, not in this image, borders the flathead and winds through the draw that can be seen in the distance. That is one of the main passes in our area and Idaho is on the other side of the pass.
The haze that can be seen is smoke from forest fires. Since this picture was taken at the end of August, the smoke is normally far greater, but this hasn't been a bad fire year.
About 15 miles from the last picture, we turn eastward and go beyond the National Bison Range. This picture is taken just beyond the NBR, facing east. These are a branch of the Rocky Mountains called the Mission Mountains. The valley the view looks over is large and was once under the water of Lake Missoula, which existed during the last ice age.
The mountains rise about 3,000 feet above the valley and though this picture was taken in late August, there is still some snow in those mountains. It is in the form of glaciers that never totally melt off. One of those glaciers is just visible in the picture, to the right of center. It isn't easy to see because of the distance and the smoke in the air.
This valley is strongly agricultural and wheat, alfalfa, and cattle are raised here.
this is several miles down the road and it is a slightly better picture of one of the glaciers, roughly in the middle of the frame. There is still haze from the smoke, but the patches of snow can be seen. The snow is still there, even after several weeks of our normal late-summer heat, with temperatures reaching into the 90's and triple digits daily. Because of the terrain of the mountains and their altitude, the ice only melts very slowly. By January, most of these mountains will be snow-covered.
Here is a zoomed in picture of the glacier. The full extent of the glacier can't be seen because of the 1,000-foot hill that lays in front of it. The glacier actually extends quite a way down the mountain. It is a beautiful area, despite the smoke and haze, but it is incredibly rugged and the only way to get to the glacier is by climbing or with the use of a helicopter.
One thing that is neat about this picture is that you can clearly see the U shape of the mountain, caused by the glacier carrying rocks and dirt downhill. What is harder to see is that this valley isn't flat. It consists of a number of gently rolling hills that are actually deposits from the glaciers in the distant past, called terminal moraines. As glaciers melt over time, they leave behind a huge amount of rock and dirt they were carrying. Most of the hills in this valley were deposited roughly 10,000 years ago.
To get a notion of what the same mountains look like in late spring, here is an image that was taken this past May, just to the east of the NBR. The snows in the lower area have already started melting even though we had a cooler and wetter spring than normal. The clouds show that more snow is likely to fall when this picture was taken. In fact, it did.
This image is only a few miles outside of Polson, Montana. The strip of blue that can be seen at the base of the mountains in the distance is Flathead Lake; the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Polson is located at the southern end of the lake and Kalispell is located on the northern end. We get to Walmart before we reach the main part of Polson.
There really isn't anything that is noteworthy about this picture except to show that we did reach our destination so we could do a bunch of grocery shopping. This is a Walmart Supercenter, but all we shopped for on this trip was food, so we could stock our pantry prior to our son's visit this week.
This is looking in the opposite direction from the second image and it was taken on our way back home. The mountains in the far distance give a good idea of just how big this valley is. Our local valley is small and is beyond the 'foothills' in this image. While our local valley was formed and shaped by the Clark Fork River, this entire valley was made by the glacial lake that once covered this entire area.
On our way back home and only about 15 miles from here, we saw this relatively rare sight; a very large patch of fireweed in bloom. It isn't common to see fireweed growing in profusion. Normally, there might be two or three plants close together, but this patch covered close to an acre.
Fireweed has a beautiful pinkish-purple blossom and the plant is both edible and medicinal.
When we saw the big patch of fireweed, we had to stop and pick some, so I took the opportunity to get a picture a little closer up. Each of these flower spikes is about five feet tall and there are numerous blossoms on each spike. This patch was being pollinated by gobs of wasps, but the wasps were thankfully unconcerned about us and left us alone.