The First 15 Miles of a Journey in Montana

During the last couple of days and nights, we’ve received the first noticeable snowfall of the year. Yesterday, November 8, 2018, we made an 80-mile trip from home to the town of Polson, Montana, to do a little shopping. Since everything looks far different when there is now on the ground, I took quite a few pictures to share, during the trip to Polson.

The following are just the pictures from the first 15 miles of the journey. This is the same route my daughter makes every day when she goes to work at St. Luke’s Hospital in Ronan, Montana. Ronan is about 15-20 miles from Polson. 

Unlike most of the pictures I’ve shared of this area, there aren’t any pictures of the mountain tops because they are shrouded in low snow clouds. In fact, during part of the trip, we were actually traveling through the clouds, which reached the ground in places. Snow clouds at ground level amount to ice fog, but it is a totally different experience as compared to making the same trip during the spring or summer.

Still, there is a different sort of awesome beauty when there is snow on the landscape and these are views that visitors to Montana rarely see unless they make the trip in the winter months. You have the advantage of seeing all of this without making a trip in the snow and cold.

Just out of town

As we left town, the clouds were only about 500 feet above the valley floor. The river in the foreground is the Clark Fork River, which flows past town. About a third of the trip follows the river. Incidentally, one thing that makes the river unusual is that a lot of its course is northward rather than southward. Southward-flowing rivers are much more common in the US.

Straight ahead toward Paradise

In the distance, almost in the middle of this picture, is the town of Paradise, Montana. Paradise is about eight miles from home and it is even a smaller town than our town is. Roughly 200 people live in this little town, but there isn't much there. It has a post office, a second-hand store, railroad line shacks, a post office, and a church, but there aren't many other businesses except for cattle, crops, and seasonal businesses like canoe rentals.

The clouds in this picture form sort of a cap over the whole valley. This is facing south and the clouds are a bit lighter in the far distance, straight ahead. 

On the other side of Paradise

This is taken just beyond Paradise, from the bridge that crosses the Clark Fork River. Right in this area, the cloud deck was about 1,000 feet above the ground, so there is good visibility. This is a little more than 8 miles from home.

Four miles out of town

This is facing the other side of the road, away from the river. The low clouds aren't quite as noticeable. This area is prime country for deer, elk, and bighorns, though on this trip, we only saw a few deer, a coyote, some bald eagles, a hawk, geese, and a few swans. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the animals. By the time we saw them, it was too late to get good pictures of them.

Six miles and counting

Six miles out of town, again facing toward the river, the clouds are again very noticeable. The row of fir trees just below the middle of the picture is on the banks of the river. Although it is hard to see unless you know what you are looking at, the picture is actually looking over the train tracks. The tracks are hiding the view of the farmland just beyond. This small river valley is the next valley from the one we live in, north of this picture.

The other side of the road

This is the same area as the last image, but looking at the other side of the road. There are some holes in the clouds that can be seen as the storm has mostly moved through and isn't solid. This strip of land is agricultural, though, and it reaches about 500 yards from the side of the road to the base of the hills. This year, grass hay was grown in this particular field.

At about 10 miles

Again facing the right side of the car, this is about 10 miles from home. It shows how the clouds are hugging the terrain. The clouds seem to be lower in the gully in the center of the image, but this is an optical illusion. The clouds are all the same height, but since they are hugging the ground, they appear to dip down in the middle.

I love how the snow has frosted the fir trees and the bushes in this picture.

Clark Fork again

This is again the Clark Fork River. Opposite of this picture, in the opposite direction, is the spot where the Clark Fork River and Flathead River combine. In other words, it is the confluence. The gully that can be seen in the distance follows the Clark Fork up through the town of Ravalli, Montana. That isn't the direction we are going, but it is a beautiful and scenic drive.

15 miles from town

This is right at 15 miles from town, in a place nicknamed the "Perma Curves". The river to the left is Flathead River and straight ahead through several more of these curves is a log cabin that we lived in for a while. This is one of the most dangerous stretches of road on this route to Polson, particularly in the winter. The curves are much more severe than they appear to be and when there are snow and ice on the road, a driver can easily lose control of their vehicle. The road isn't particularly wide and there is next to no shoulder alongside the road. This is not a place a person wants to have an accident or to break down.

As a point of interest, most of the hillside directly ahead in this image is slate and shale rock. That was originally at the bottom of the vast inland sea that once covered most of the US, before the Rockies were formed by uplift.


What do you think?

Written by Rex Trulove