• Chester’s welcome sign offers a tip of the hat to the anchors of its economy with a unique creative flair. Photo by Darrin Schreder

    Tiny Chester fosters big time creativity

    Writer Carol Bradley emailed me earlier this year asking if we’d like  to run a story on Chester, Montana.

    “For its size and location,” Carol wrote, “it’s a surprisingly sophisticated little town, and not just because Grammy winner Philip Aaberg operates a bed and breakfast/recording studio there. They have a terrific little art museum and even an Ikebana club – Japanese flower arranging.”

    It was an easy yes.

    Fast forward about nine months when our Oct/Nov 2014 issue comes out featuring Carol’s story is our Ready, Set, Go! piece. We really do think you should get to Chester if you can.

    Philip Aaberg. Photo by Kelly Gorham

    Philip Aaberg. Photo by Kelly Gorham

    Carol explains in the story:

    At the east end of town, a sparkling new swimming pool beckoned. The local arts center offers a 7-foot-long Yamaha piano if anyone cares to practice in style, and should any of the Jamison kids decide to take dancing, Catalina Carlon teaches classes. Her students are no slouches: come December, a group from Chester and Havre will head to San Diego to perform at the Holiday Bowl and march in a parade.

    Despite a population of just 850 or so and a setting that feels light years from city life – on U.S. Highway 2 along the Hi-Line, halfway between Havre and Shelby  – Chester is a magnet for music and art.

    It’s first and foremost an agricultural town; an imposing silver grain elevator anchors the north end of First Street, Chester’s commercial hub. And it’s isolating. The nearest airport of any size is 100 miles south, in Great Falls. There’s no gourmet grocery, and dining-out options are limited to Spud’s Café for breakfast and lunch, and the Grand Bar for dinner. (The Inverness Bar and Supper Club is another 15 miles east).

    But the tradeoff for residents is a creative clarity that seems to emanate from the scarcity of choices coupled with the anything’s-possible embrace of the sweeping, sand-colored prairie.

     That’s not it. We put the entire story about Chester online so you can learn a little more. And maybe plan a trip?

    - Jenna  

     

  • The Wilderness Act at 50: A lot of wild

    A hunter walks through the mist inside the Absarokee-Beartoth Wilderness. Photo by Jack Ballard

    A hunter walks through the mist inside the Absarokee-Beartoth Wilderness. Photo by Jack Ballard

    Wilderness. It’s a big word with a lot of meaning in Montana.

    However you define wilderness, the federal government created an official definition when it  designated portions of land across the U.S. into official wilderness areas 50 years ago when the Wilderness Act was passed.

    We celebrated the anniversary in several ways inside our Sept/Oct issue. Our Portfolio paid tribute to Sen. Lee Metcalf, who helped pass the act.

    We also had a story, Call of the Wild by Jack Ballard, that showed how Montana businesses near wilderness areas benefit from the thousands of visitors that come to explore the areas each year.

    In Montana, there’s a lot of wilderness to explore. Of the 2.5 million acres designated as wild in 1964, 30 percent were inside Montana. Today, there are close to 3.5 million acres of wilderness land inside 16 wilderness areas across Montana.

    Here’s a challenge for you: Can you name all of Montana’s wilderness areas?

    No? Here’s some help.

    Montana Wilderness Facts

    Montana landbase: 94,109,542 acres
    Total Wilderness: 3,443,038 acres
    Percent of land base: 3.7 percent
    Total number of Wilderness areas: 15

    Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

    Location: In the Custer and Gallatin National Forests between Billings and Yellowstone National Park.
    Size: 920,343 acres

    Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness

    Location: In the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Bitterroot National Forests southwest of Butte.
    Size: 158,615 acres

    Bob Marshall Wilderness

    Location: In the Flathead and Lewis and Clark National Forests west of Great Falls.
    Size: 1,009,356

    Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

    Location: In the Kootenai National Forest, about 15 miles southwest of Libby.
    Size: 94,272 acres

    Gates of the Mountains Wilderness

    Location: In the Helena National Forest.
    Size: 28,562 acres

    Great Bear Wilderness

    Location: In the Flathead National Forest south of Glacier National Park.
    Size: 286,700 acres

    Lee Metcalf Wilderness

    Location: In the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Gallatin National Forests southwest of Bozeman
    Size: 254,288 acres

    Medicine Lake Wilderness

    Location: Between Sidney and Plentywood managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is within Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
    Size: 11,366 acres

    Mission Mountains Wilderness

    Location: In the Flathead National Forest north of Missoula.
    Size: 73,877 acres

    Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness

    Location: On the Flathead Reservation southeast of Polson.
    Size: 89,500 acres

    Rattlesnake Wilderness

    Location: in the Lolo National Forest located only four miles north of Missoula
    Size: 32,976 acres

    Red Rock Lakes Wilderness

    Location: In the wide-open Centennial Valley and within the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
    Size: 32,350 acres

    Scapegoat Wilderness

    Location: In the Helena, Lewis and Clark and Lolo National Forests southeast of Great Falls.
    Size: 239,936 acres

    Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

    Location: In the Bitterroot, Clearwater, Nezperce, and Lolo National Forests west of Hamilton
    Size: 251,443 acres

    UL Bend Wilderness

    Location: Between Lewistown and Glasgow.
    Size: 20,819 acres.

    Welcome Creek Wilderness

    Location: In the Lolo National Forest southwest of Missoula.
    Size: 28,135 acres

    -Courtesy of Montana Wilderness Association at wildmontana.org

  • Montana breweries take home gold at national competition

    Photo by Jackie Jensen

    Photo by Jackie Jensen

    Montana made beer had a good weekend last week when five Montana breweries were awarded gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival. 

    Billings Gazette reporter Zach Benoit had the story about the winnings, which included a best small brewery award for Missoula’s Draught Works brewery.

    Missoula’s Draught Works brought home the most hardware, earning very small brewery company and very small brewing company brewer of the year honors, as well as a gold medal in the American-style strong pale ale category for its Scepter Head IPA.

    “We’re super proud of our whole team here and all the brewers we have,” said Jeff Grant, who owns the brewery with Paul Marshall.

    We love telling you about the spirits and beer made in Big Sky Country. Here’s our story on the boom of homebrewing around the state, no doubt inspired by delicious beer made in breweries.

    And, of course, there isn’t any shortage of good places around Montana to drink beer. Like the Montana Bar in Miles City.

    In our March/April issue, we introduced you to cousins who are doing their part to make great Montana drinks. Cousing Ryan Montgomery and Evan Bowser opened Montgomery Distillery (Missoula) and Bowser Brewing (Great Falls) in honor of their grandfather.

    In all, Montana has won 40 medals GABF medals, as Benoit found out.

    The state’s first GABF medal came in 1987 when the Kessler Brewing Co. won a silver in the bocks/doppelbocks category for its Kessler Bock.

    Since then, Montana breweries have won a total of 40 medals at the competition, with the Montana Brewing Co. leading the way with 15.

    According to the competition website, there were 39 craft breweries in Montana in 2013, giving it 5.3 breweries for every 100,000 adults of legal drinking age, or the third highest per capita in the nation.

    - Jenna 

     

  • Meet Yellowstone’s ‘fatalistic’ butterfly

    Hayden's ringlet. Photo courtesy of George Bumann

    Hayden’s ringlet. Photo courtesy of George Bumann

    Yellowstone National Park is awesome for a lot of reasons.

    One that you might not have heard about: Butterflies.

    Along with bison and wolves, Yellowstone is home to 134 known species of the beautiful bug. George Bumann is the park’s unofficial butterfly expert who leads visitors on butterfly counts yearly and educational outings to help more people learn about the bounty of butteflies in Yellowstone.

    We featured Bumman in our Sept/Oct 2014 issue.

    “In Yellowstone, people get attached to those mega animals: the elk, bears and wolves,” Bumann said. “But what’s really amazing about this place is the tie between geology, plants and animals as they relate to each other; it’s a very tight-knit system.”

    All the butterflies are important to the park. But what is Bumman’s favorite Yellowstone butterfly?

    It’s Hayden’s ringlet. A butterfly with a “fatalistic” flying pattern and “eyes” on its wings. Why is it Bumann’s favorite? Click here to find out.

    - Jenna

  • Stevensville’s Founders Day celebrates Montana’s beginnings

    The St. Mary’s Missions is the place where Montana began. That notable marker was celebrated fully last weekend in Stevensville.

    Dillon Kato, a reporter for our partner the Missoulian, was at the event along with photographer James Riggs, who made some wonderful images of the celebration.

    Here’s the full story from Dillon:

    A special event at St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville celebrated the history of the place where Montana began.

    The Founders Day celebration, which includes reenactments of the historic start to the town, has been an annual event at the end of September in Stevensville since 2009.

    Colleen Meyer, executive director of the nonprofit Historic St. Mary’s Mission, said the mission’s roots started with Iroquois tribal members, who had come to the region with the Hudson’s Bay Company, integrating and intermarrying with the Salish people in the area.

    “They also brought and spread the ideas and traditions of Christianity with the local tribe, which were similar to many of the local Native Americans own traditions, like having one wife and the burying of the dead,” she said.

    The Salish were intrigued and wanted the Jesuit priests, who they called the blackrobes after the garb they wore, to come and teach them in person. Meyer said four trips were made to St. Louis before missionaries were brought back to the area, led by Pierre DeSmet, who founded the mission on Sept. 24, 1841, marking the first permanent settlement in what would eventually become Montana. DeSmet was represented in the reenactment by Mark Brown.

    “All of us involved have struggled and suffered and some of your tribesmen have died to make this happen,” he said.

    The village that was built around the mission area was called St. Mary’s, before later becoming known as Fort Owen and then Stevensville. Meyer said the current chapel that sits at the mission is actually the fourth one built, with construction starting in 1866.

    Dale Burk wrote the reenactment and acted as the narrator. He said the Founders Day celebration was commemorating four important events in Montana history. The first was the 173rd anniversary of the St. Mary’s Mission and the founding of the community that would become Stevensville. The second was the sale of the mission grounds and buildings to John Owen on Nov. 5, 1850.

    Father Michael Drury of St. Anthorys Church in Missoula is lead in to the reenactment by Bernie Rubio. Drury was acting as Father Ravalli and Rubio as Angus McDonald, who guided Father Ravalli to the valley in 1845. Photo by James Riggs

    Father Michael Drury of St. Anthorys Church in Missoula is lead in to the reenactment by Bernie Rubio. Drury was acting as Father Ravalli and Rubio as Angus McDonald, who guided Father Ravalli to the valley in 1845. Photo by James Riggs

    This year is also the 150th anniversary of the start of the Montana Territory, and the time when the town of Stevensville was platted.

    “Like most achievements of mankind, it came to be because somebody wanted it to happen and other people helped to make it happen,” Burk said.

    For the reenactment, the role of Owen was played by Mike Yalon. He said this is his third year taking part in the event, and that he did his own research on Owen leading up to playing the role, including using some of Owen’s own writing.

    “The mission actually has John Owen’s journals I was able to read through,” he said.

    One of the day’s reenactments included Owen’s purchase of the missionary land and buildings. Nine years after founding the mission, the blackrobe missionaries were forced to leave because of trouble with the Salish’s rival Blackfoot tribe. Owen, a former Army sutler, bought the land for $250, the first written bill of sale in the region.

    “He was highly respected by the Native Americans, and became the de facto Indian agent for the region,” Yalon said.

    Although he was never in the military, Owen adopted the title of major when he opened a trading post named after himself on the former mission’s property. The missionaries would return and reopen St. Mary’s 16 years later.

    Rev. Michael Drury, who played Father Anthony Ravalli in the reenactment on Sunday, played the role of overseeing the sale to Owen. Drury also carved the cross used in the reenactment of the founding of the mission.

    The character of Salish Chief Victor, who had been a friend of both Ravalli and Owen, said he hoped that everyone would one day soon be able to return to the region. He was played by Victor Charlo, a descendent of both Chief Victor and Chief Charlo.

    As part of the reenactment, Yalon, as Owen, thanked the two missionaries for the work they had done “that brought civilization to an otherwise wild land.”

  • The Yellowstone supervolcano’s seismic threat

    Courtesy of the USGS

    Courtesy of the USGS

    The supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park was in the news quite a bit last spring. New findings coupled with a string of small earthquakes fueled some wild rumors of its impending explosion.

    But what really is the risk?

    Writer Jack Ballard explored that question in our feature in the Sept/Oct issue. Scientists inside the park of been studying the volcano for decades. And, as Jack found out, better technology means better knowledge about the beast.

    They say it’s unlikely the volcano will erupt anytime. More likely: Earthquakes.

    In a 2009 paper in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Smith and a team researchers concluded that the Yellowstone-Teton region represents the area of greatest seismic hazard in the western United States. The project also analyzed earthquake risk in relation to the various fault lines radiating from the caldera of Yellowstone’s most recent, albeit very ancient, super-volcano. Of those, the team concluded major quake activity was most likely to occur on the Teton Fault which extends from the southern boundary of Yellowstone National Park into the Jackson Hole Valley in Wyoming.

    The USGS has a ton of information about the likelihood of any major disaster caused by the supervolcano. The Q&A is particularly interesting.

    Like Jack found out from the scientists who know the supervolcano best, it’s likely that the more you know, the less you’ll have to fear.

    - Jenna 

    • 1q

      Jeff Nelson: One of my favorite views from the Deck of my wife's family cabin on Crystal Lake near Happy's Inn.

    • 2web

      Molly Tomlinson: Square Butte views. Anywhere I can get them!

    • 4

      Dale Savell: The Madison River near Ennis..

    • 7

      Ken Stolz: Missoula from the "M" Trail.

    • 8

      Dana York: My favorite view is of the Pintlers towering over the Big Hole River. Best fishing around.

    • 9

      Erin Morin Braaten: A Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park.

    • 10

      Mark Edward LaRowe: Soda Butte Blues.

    Slideshow: The best views in Montana

    What’s your favorite Montana view?

    Our latest slideshow is the result of our most recent fan Facebook question, which our friends answered with both stories and photos of their favorite Big Sky views.

    Included are views of the Beartooths and Pintlers and Missoula from the “M” trail.

    A few other nominations from our Facebook friends: The first glimpse of the Sweet Grass Hills over the never-ending fields between Conrad and Shelby. Top of Polson Hill heading north on Highway 93.

    So, what’s your favorite? Let us know on Facebook at fb.com/montanamagazine. Or send us your answer to editor@montanamagazine.com.

    Enjoy!

    - Jenna 

     

     

  • Greg Fullerton inspects a frame from one of the Glacier County Honey Company’s boxes. Photo by Jessica Lowry

    Dance of the Glacier County Honey bees

    The folks at Glacier County Honey, as you might imagine, know a lot about bees.

    Afterall, the bees make the business. Our feature on the up-and-coming business that is flourishing near the northern Montana town of Babb showed just how much knowledge it takes to keep happy bees that produce their sweet honey.

    The bees are transported from Montana to California and back again each year to ensure they’re happy.

    When it comes time to make honey, millions of bees buzz through fields in Babb  collecting pollen to bring back to the hives. In fact, when they find a good source, worker bees do a dance to show other workers where to find it.

    Read the full story in our Sept/Oct issue.

    In the meantime, here’s a little more about the Glacier  County Honey bees (including more about the dance of the honey bees) courtesy of owners Courtney and Greg Fullerton.

    What kind of bees do you keep at Glacier County Honey?

    Carniolan bees.

    What is the lifespan of a bee?

    Lifespan of a bee depends on the time of year – in summer, they’re working so hard some literally fly their wings off, and can expect to live about 3 weeks. But once the queen shuts down production in preparation for winter, they’ll live through the winter.

    How many bees help make Glacier County Honey? 

    In the summer months, about 90 million bees at any given time help make Glacier County (and Chief Mountain) honey.

    What is your favorite fact about bees that many people don’t know?

    Bees communicate with each other by dancing.

    There are lots of different types of dances, but our favorite is the Waggle Dance – when a worker bee finds a good nectar source, like a field of alfalfa, she comes back to the hive and does a dance, using the sun as a compass, and tells the other bees where to find this nectar. All worker bees are female. The males are really only around for mating purposes, they don’t even have a stinger, and when they become a burden to the hive – in the winter – the workers kick them out of the hive to die.

    Also, bees don’t gather honey, bees make honey. They bring nectar back to the hive in a special honey stomach (they also bring back pollen in “chaps” or pockets on their legs) and they add some special enzymes and fan the nectar down to make honey in the honeycomb that they build in their hive (they have wax secreting glands on their backs).

    Bees make honey to eat honey (that’s what they live on), but given the right amount of space and forage and weather, they’ll make more than they could ever need to survive, hence, the possibility of commercial beekeeping.

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