• Pigs are fed whey from the cheesemaking process. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    Eating, food series made with beautiful photos and great writing

    Have you seen the first installment of our 2015 series “The Last Best Plates,” when we help readers explore the Amaltheia Organic Dairy? 

    It’s a place where piglets and baby goats frolic together - oh and they make amazing cheese

    They have 17 varieties ranging from plain goat cheese and ricotta to flavor infused chevres, such as roasted garlic, sundried tomato and spiced pepper. Their products are distributed to grocery stores on both coasts, in places like Trader Joe’s and Wild Oats, and for sale through their website.

    “People say you can taste the mountains in our cheese,” Sue said. “It tastes fresh, creamy and clean, and it’s just one farms milk going into it which makes a difference.”

    We’re very excited to be able to bring readers glimpses of the wonderful eats and treats around the Big Sky State thanks to Lynn Donaldson and Corinne Garcia. 

    Donaldson founded The Last Best Plates blog. It’s pretty cool (one feature is all about the origin of the pasty.) Last Best Plates is sharing special Montana food stories with us inside each issue of Montana Magazine

    Next, for the Montana Magazine series, Donaldson and Garcia let us in on a few secrets to planning the best post-branding picnic party around. We’ll have a recipe for a Huckleberry Bar dessert, as well as beautiful images from an amazing Paradise Valley ranch where the picnic takes place. 

    Here’s a couple preview images to give you a taste of the second Last Best Plates installment: 

    West Creek Ranch owner Elizabeth Webb on branding day. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    West Creek Ranch owner Elizabeth Webb on branding day. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    The branding picnic boasts delicious food like grilled meats, baked beans and coleslaw. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    The branding picnic boasts delicious food like grilled meats, baked beans and coleslaw. Photo by Lynn Donaldson

    We’ll have to full Last Best Plates story up this week. Check back soon. 

    In the meantime, don’t miss a Montana moment. Subscribe today!


  • The Rocky Mountain Front glows in sunset light west of Great Falls. Photo by Tom Bauer

    What’s so great about Great Falls? And other Montana G towns

    For starters, more than a couple Montana greats came from Great Falls, including quarterback Dave Dickenson, artist Charlie Russell and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader and Ambassador Mike Mansfield.

    Want more reasons Great Falls is great? Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin and photographer Tom Bauer have the answers. They found out that for a city that hasn’t seen much growth in the past years, there’s big things happening in Great Falls.

    Since 2009, the 6 1/2-acre site has welcomed a four-story, 113-suite hotel (Staybridge Suites), a spectacular new $16.4 million federal courthouse (named after the Missouri River), a Japanese seafood and steakhouse (Kobe’s), and a brew pub Ziegler is part of called The Front and the attached Faster Basset coffee and sandwich shop.

    Their motto, says owner Brandon Cartwright: “Come for the coffee. Stay for the beer.”

    The hotel, restaurants, brew pub and courthouse are the first phase of development. Next door, old grain silos will eventually be moved to make room for phase two.

    “I really feel Great Falls is coming out of the creative business rut it was in,” Cartwright says. “That’s nothing against the businesses that paved the way, but developments like West Bank One and Two are giving people a lot more choices.”

    Charles M. Russell's painting "The Exalted Ruler" became part of the C.M. Russell Museum's permanent collection when a statewide campaign bought it from the Elks Lodge in Great Falls. Photo by Tom Bauer

    Charles M. Russell’s painting “The Exalted Ruler” became part of the C.M. Russell Museum’s permanent collection when a statewide campaign bought it from the Elks Lodge in Great Falls. Photo by Tom Bauer

    There’s also wonderful things like the C.M. Russell Museum and the Sip N Dip in Great Falls. Bauer and Devlin visited both during their visit.

    Tons of more facts about Great Falls – courtesy of Devlin and Bauer – are here.

    And here’s a link to a photo gallery by Bauer, including some beauties of the Rocky Mountain Front.

    Want to learn more about other G towns around Montana? Try Glasgow.

    Want more of Montana delivered to your mail box? Subscribe to Montana Magazine today.


  • A whitetail deer stands in the snowy road inside Glacier in December. Much of the snow has melted with warm temperatures. Photo by Bill Hayden

    Beautiful signs of spring already blooming in Glacier

    There’s an unusual feeling in the air lately around Montana – and the people who live and work in Glacier National Park have been feeling it too. Even though it’s only February, the snow cover that the deer in the middle of the road was enjoying in December and January – is melting.

    The unusually warm spring-like temperatures have prompted a flurry of Facebook posts by the park, noting that things are blooming and animals are waking up as the snow melts.

    A post on Feb. 11 noted that pussy willow buds look ready to bud.

    “This is most unusual and way too early as we still have a lot of winter to come in northern Montana. Buds on many cottonwoods also very swollen and looking ready to leaf out. Chickadees singing their “spring song.” And people out riding bicycles and flying kites. Feels a bit like the twilight zone.”

    Another post of showed the browning meadows of Two Dog Flats near St. Mary Lake, an important winter habitat for elk.

    The brown meadows across St. Mary Lake are called Two Dog Flats and they are important winter habitat for the park's elk herds. Photo by "mw," courtesy of the GNP Facebook page

    The brown meadows across St. Mary Lake are called Two Dog Flats and they are important winter habitat for the park’s elk herds. Photo by “mw,” courtesy of the GNP Facebook page

    If you haven’t already, be sure to follow Glacier National Park on Facebook for more updates and gorgeous photos from around the park. Also, check out GNP’s Flickr stream for some great images of a wolverine.

    We’re proud of the Glacier photography we’ve featured, too. Check some out here.

    And our readers have taken some great Glacier shots as well.

    Want even more? Subscribe today!


  • An airway beacon on the top of MacDonald Pass. Courtesy photo

    Montana’s mountaintop beacons remain lit

    Our “Antique Beacons” story in the Jan/Feb issue brought you a look at the 17 airway beacons that guide pilots through mountainous areas of the state. Montana is one of the few places where the beacons – once a part of a transcontinental system – remain lit.

    So who makes sure they’re in working order? Meet Mike Rogan.

    Rogan, aviation support officer for the Montana Department of Transportation, has worked for more than three decades to ensure Montana’s 17 transcontinental airway beacons stay lit. It’s an unusual job that takes him to the tips of the towers atop the some of the state’s highest mountain passes.


    Mike Rogan. Courtesy photo

    How do you explain the beacon maintenance portion of your job to people?

    The beacons are set up on a schedule to receive maintenance every four months. Ken Wilhelm, who works for me, and I take care of all 17 beacons in the state.

    We use a 4×4 truck, four wheelers, snowmobiles, snow shoes, and of course, our feet to gain access to the beacon sites.

    There are three lamps in each beacon that we need to check and replace as needed. There are brass slip rings and carbon brushes that supply the power to the main lamp. These need to be cleaned and adjusted. There are bearings that need to be greased and motors that need to be oiled. The parts for these beacons are very hard to find but I maintain a supply of old parts that we use to keep them running. I handle everything from greasing the bearings on the beacons to removing dead trees from power lines to ordering replacement parts to negotiating new land site leases.

    What’s the most challenging beacon to maintain?

    Homestake beacon on Homestake Pass east of Butte on Interstate 90 in my opinion is the most challenging beacon to maintain. It is only accessible by foot. A person can drive a four-wheeler part of the way up a trail but must walk the rest of the trail to the top.

    During the winter, we need to use a combination of 4×4 truck, snowmobiles, four wheelers and snow shoes. Everything that needs to be replaced or upgraded must be packed in and out on your back.

    What kind of light bulbs do you use in the beacons?

    The original lamps were a 500 watt incandescent lamp that was made specifically for the airway beacons. They even were labeled “Airway Beacon 500 Watt Base Down.” We upgraded the entire system to a 250 watt metal-halide lamp back in the mid 1980s. The red course lamps were upgraded from the 500 watt incandescent lamp to a 500 watt quartz lamp about 5 to 6 years ago.

    What’s the best wildlife sighting you’ve had while working on the beacons?

    The first time I ever saw a wolf was driving up Nine Mile Road to service the Alberton beacon, which was pretty cool. I have also seen big horn sheep at the base of Hardy beacon and a moose driving up to the Lookout Pass beacon.

    Why are the beacons important to Montana’s flying community?

    Visual Flight Rules, or VFR, pilots can fly at night but must stay clear of clouds and terrain. The beacons are another tool pilots can use to navigate at night. A distant beacon light can be a welcome friend to a pilot flying on a pitch black night in the mountains of Montana. The beacons provide a measure of confidence to positively identify the relative distance and elevation of a mountain along a pilot’s route. The beacons can also help determine the visual conditions ahead of the aircraft when low clouds prevent the pilot from flying over the mountains at night. Only 17 beacons remain of the original 84 and all are located in the mountainous portions of Montana. We will never really know how many lives these beacons may have saved over the years.

  • Walter greets visitors with a zebra stuffed animal at his home in Billings. Photo by Casey Page

    Walter the St. Bernard: Top (Montana) dog

    Walter the St. Bernard left Billings for the Big Apple and got some time to shine this week at the Westminster dog show.

    The 178-pound Walter is from Billings – but judging from the Instagram photos gathered by the Billings Gazette, he did just fine as a city dog.

    During the show, he earned an award of merit.

    Walter the St. Bernard on Instagram. Courtesy photo

    Walter the St. Bernard on Instagram. Courtesy photo

    When he wasn’t in the arena, the 7-year-old male, owned by Mary Jo Burkholder, stopped by the office of the comedy website Funny Or Die for a little work.

    “Giving him an Award of Merit, it’s the judges’ way of saying, you’re not the best of breed today, but you’re a worthy competitor here,” Burkholder said.

    “He definitely knows what shows are about. He does this classic thing. When the judge walks by, just as he walks by, Walter turns his head and gives him a wink and a smile.”

    A few shows ago, Walter won best in show at a specialty event featuring more than 90 St. Bernards. The win boosted the dog’s arena credit to another level.

    See more photos of Walter here.

    – Jenna

  • YNP posted this photo of a scavenging grizzly on its Facebook page, giving photo credit to Angela Trinka.

    Nap time is over: Grizzlies emerging from dens around Montana

    It’s been an unseasonably warm February in many parts of Montana, and while it’s not yet spring, signs of spring are beginning to pop up around the state.

    Or, should we say, wake up.

    Grizzly bears must’ve felt the warmth lately, as bears have been spotted wide awake and wondering around places like Yellowstone National Park. As the Billings Gazette reported last week:

    With grizzly bears emerging from hibernation, hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. Courtesy of the Billings Gazette

    With grizzly bears emerging from hibernation, hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. Courtesy of the Billings Gazette

    The first confirmed report of grizzly bear activity in Yellowstone occurred on Monday. A grizzly bear was observed late in the afternoon, scavenging on a bison carcass in the central portion of the park.

    With bears emerging from hibernation, hikers, skiers and snowshoers are advised to stay in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. The same advice goes for those taking guided snowmobile trips in Yellowstone.

    Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

    That point was proven with the above photo from Yellowstone of a big bear feeding a bison carcass. Yellowstone National Park posted the photo on its Facebook page, crediting Angela Trinka for the photo.

    Park officials noted the warm weather in a press release about the grizzlies. The release shared safety rules about watching bears in the park and noted that anyone who spots a bear should alert park officials ASAP.


  • Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle. AP photo

    Two Griz greats set to meet for an out-of-state, on-court battle

    They’re two names Montana sports fans know well: Wayne Tinkle and Larry Krystkowiak .

    As Missoulian sports editor Bob Meseroll writes, their relationship has been evolved in plenty of ways in the past years as they’ve made their mark on men’s basketball program at the University of Montana.

    To that list describing the relationship between Wayne Tinkle and Larry Krystkowiak add this: adversaries.

    That will be the nature of their relationship for at least 40 minutes Thursday night when the former Montana Griz players and coaches will face each other from opposite benches for the first time – Tinkle as coach of the Oregon State Beavers and Krystkowiak as the head man of the ninth-ranked Runnin’ Utes of Utah.

    Both coaches told Meseroll about the mutual respect they have for each other and the programs they run. Thursday will be the only time the two meet on the court this regular season.

    Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. AP photo

    Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. AP photo

    Utah and Oregon State will play just once in the regular season in the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule. This year Tinkle gets the Utes in Corvallis, where the Beavers have yet to lose.

    Both insist it will not be awkward. Each has had prior experience with the dynamic, Tinkle when he faced former colleague and good friend Brad Huse, who coached Montana State for eight seasons, and Krysko when he squared off with his college coach Montgomery at Cal.

    “There’s this time of the week when you might have to do an interview or two and there’s a little additional storyline before the game starts, but after that it’s normal stuff,” Krystkowiak said.

    “With Larry, I have such a deeper history,” Tinkle said. “We played together, we were friends and I wouldn’t say combatants, but we were playing the same position. Shoot, I had a lot of lessons to learn and he was more than willing to hand out the lessons. We went at each other a lot. He taught me a lot about what it took to be a successful Division I player, the toughness and work ethic.

    Best of luck to both Montana greats!


  • A sculpture of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea stands next to the Missouri River on the trail system between Black Eagle Falls and Giant Springs State Park.  Photo by Tom Bauer

    Montana to play large role in HBO series on Lewis & Clark

    It’s been in the works for awhile, and filming for the HBO miniseries about the the famous duo’s journey across the country – much of which took place in Montana – is just about to begin.

    However, as Missoulian reporter Kim Briggeman found out, although much of the story take place in Montana, there won’t be much filming going on under Big Sky Country.

    A Calgary Herald report in January quoted a source close to the production who said the project will be primarily shot in southern Alberta, with pre-production beginning in mid-February and production set to start this summer.

    “Thanks for checking in. We have no new information to share at this time,” an HBO spokeswoman said by email Friday.

    Casey Affleck. Photo courtesy of IMBD

    Casey Affleck. Photo courtesy of IMBD

    The series will star some big names, including Casey Affleck, and is being produced by some even heavier Hollywood hitters like Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks.

    Although much of filming will take place in Canada, there’s still a lot of Montana to the story.

    “We’ve been dealing with this for seven years,” said Deny Staggs, film commissioner for the Montana Film Office in Helena. “They’ve been talking about Oregon, Michigan, Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Atlanta …

    “At this point we don’t know where exactly the primary principal photography will take place. What we do know is that they’ll be shooting a significant amount of second-unit and plate shots in the state of Montana, so Montana will be on the screen in the miniseries.”

    Staggs said his office is discussing with the state’s Office of Tourism ways to capitalize on “Lewis and Clark,” no matter where it’s shot.

    “Nobody’s going to Canada to see the Lewis and Clark trail,” he said. “We feel real strongly that with our knowledge and with the growth of marketing through digital and social platforms that we’ll be able to leverage the Lewis and Clark trail whether it’s shot in Montana or in Canada.”

    There’s also a chance some Montanans will be cast to play parts in the series.

    The series is based on the book “Undaunted Courage” and is set to air on HBO in 2016.


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