Savoring Summer: Our pick-your-own picks
Story and photos by Jessica Lowry
It is a luminous, neon-blue June morning as sunlight spills across the low rows of strawberries at Red Hen Farm. Marked by a large red barn, these 10 lush acres at the edge of Missoula in Western Montana has become a produce-picking destination for families, cooks and fruit-lovers alike.
Visitors to the farm won’t find anything particularly fancy.
On one side of the two-lane road leading to the farm is an open field for public picking. On the other side sits the family residence and a table with a small, metal scale where you can pay for your handpicked treasure by the pound.
What sends droves of locals and tourists to visit each summer?
That first, exquisite bite of freshly picked fruit.
At Red Hen Farm there are 18 different kinds of strawberries to keep you hunting for just the right one.
Greg Peters, 42, and his wife Julie Engh Peters, 37, have run the pick-your-own portion of their farm for the past four years.
“Our typical year produces 8,000 pounds of strawberries,” Greg said.
With Lolo Peak as a backdrop, it doesn’t get much more picturesque.
To read the full story on Montana pick-your-own farms, subscribe today!
Glacier’s longest-running hiking crew forms close bond with park
Story and photos by Becky Lomax
On a gray drippy day, a group of 16 Flathead Valley hikers, ages 60 to mid-80, eyeball the pouring rain.
Inside their restaurant meeting place on the west side of Glacier National Park, no one looks at a menu to order breakfast.
The waitress, greeting the regulars by name, asks, “You want the usual?”
One member quips, “With the rain, maybe we should stick around for lunch.”
But weather does not deter these weekly hikers. Not rain, snow or single-digit temperatures.
Every Thursday, nearly year round, the Over the Hill Gang meets at the Glacier Grill in Coram.
After breakfast, they depart to multiple trailheads – some to lung-busting, seldom-visited peaks, and others to worn paths where every red mudstone and gnarled sub-alpine fir is a familiar friend.
It was 1976 when five men in their 60s launched the Over the Hill Gang.
Since then, the gang has grown, evolved with new faces, and garnered the reputation as the longest running hiking group in Glacier. The big adventurers have climbed to hidden lakes, bushwhacked cross-country routes, and summited crags, often returning after dark.
For hikers that could have bragging rights as giant as the roster of peaks they’ve climbed, they ditched egos years ago behind some clump of beargrass in favor of camaraderie.
Glacier’s Over the Hill Gang
Year Established: 1976
Headquarters: Glacier Grill, Coram
Membership dues: $0
Hiking day: every Thursday, year-round
Attendance: approximately 30, for peak summer hikes
To read the full story on the Over the Hill Gang, subscribe today!
Treasure State Hidden Gem: Malmstrom Air Force Base Museum
By Vince Devlin
Photos by Tom Bauer
It would take more than a day to hit all the museums in Great Falls, but it would be time well spent.
No visit to the Electric City, of course, is complete without taking in the C.M. Russell Museum, where you can explore the paintings, sketches and sculptures by one of Montana’s favorite sons and one of America’s greatest Western artists, and visit Charlie Russell’s home and log-cabin studio as well.
There is also the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, considered one of the finest of its kind in the nation by many Lewis and Clark buffs. The Great Falls Museums Consortium can also direct you to the Montana Museum of Railroad History, the Children’s Museum of Montana or the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, to name just half of the consortium members.
- Read more about the Electric City here
In all the varied choices, don’t let this one escape your attention: It’s the Malmstrom Air Force Base Museum and Air Park.
It’s really quite fascinating, especially if you let a museum staff member show you around.
Malmstrom is a U.S. Air Force base without an airplane, control tower or flying mission. There are, however, helicopters at the base that patrol almost 14,000 square miles of the central Montana prairie.
That’s where 150 Minuteman III missiles and their nuclear warheads, capable of traveling 15,000 mph, are buried. Malmstrom is home to the 341st Missile Wing of the Air Force Global Strike Command.
At the museum you’ll learn all about the missiles and the Cold War that brought them to Montana. The original concept, interestingly, was to place the missiles on train cars, not underground, and have them constantly on the move. The idea was that a moving target would be a more difficult target for America’s enemies.
Malmstrom may lack airplanes today, but that wasn’t always the case.
Established during World War II, the base helped shuttle almost 8,000 aircraft to Fairbanks, Alaska, from 1942-45. Sometimes they carried supplies, and other times it was the planes themselves that were bound for our WWII ally, the Soviet Union.
- See more photos from across Great Falls here
At the air park outside the museum you can see several of the planes that did call Malmstrom home when the base had flying missions during its first half-century, including a KC-97 stratotanker, an F-84F Thunderstreak fighter bomber, an EB-47B Canberra tactical bomber used for electronic reconnaissance and radar-jamming, not to mention an LGM-30G Minuteman Missile that gives the base its purpose today.
Malmstrom Museum Tip Sheet
Anyone with an interest in military history in general, and the U.S. Air Force in particular, will enjoy the Malmstrom Museum. But an interest in history or technology, period, will make it a worthwhile stop, and kids will like both the roomful of shelves filled with models of aircraft the U.S. military has used – from WWI biplanes to the stealth bomber and Air Force One – to the real things outside the museum in the air park.
How to see it
You’re free to wander the museum on your own and read about the exhibits. But we highly recommend asking if a museum staffer is available to give you a tour. You’ll learn lots more than is printed on the displays, and find your visit is far more informative and interesting.
Seeing the museum won’t cost you any money, just a little time – there’ll be some paperwork involved, seeing as you’re being admitted onto an active military base. They’ll help you at the Malmstrom Visitor Center at the 2nd Avenue North gate.
The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have questions, call 731-2705.
Vince Devlin is a frequent Montana Magazine contributor. He writes from Polson.
It’s movie star season in Montana
Missoulians – especially those at the MADE Fair in downtown Caras Park – were excited by a couple of mega movie star sightings last weekend when Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire were spotted shopping at the craft fair and buying coffee at a local shop.
The Missoulian’s David Erickson has the story:
Chase Taylor might be one of the only people in the world who has talked with Leonardo DiCaprio – arguably one of the most famous celebrities on the planet – without having any idea who he was.
Taylor spent Sunday at Caras Park helping his wife Paisley with her baby clothing business, Paisley Designs, at the Missoula MADE Fair, an alternative arts and crafts market featuring local artists.
A bearded man walked by, and Taylor did what any good salesman would do. He called him over to check out the baby clothes.
“My wife was out of the booth breast-feeding our son,” Taylor recalled. “Leo wasn’t interested in buying my wife’s clothes, but I pulled him in and talked to him. I was one of the very few people that got him to go into a booth. He was a very nice guy. It was a very brief conversation, and I gave him my business card and then he left. And then the lady next to me told me who he was. I had no idea.”
The man was DiCaprio, a five-time Academy Award nominee who probably doesn’t enter into many conversations with people who don’t recognize him.
“He looked like a normal Missoulian,” Taylor said. “He fit in very well. It was kind of cool to see someone that famous here on a very hot day.”
Read the rest of the story here.
Hit the road for this beautiful celebration
We’re quickly approaching a summer holiday weekend, and this year the Fourth of July falls on Saturday. Do you have plans?
Care if we make a suggestion?
How about the Arlee Celebration. Take a look:
Wherever you are along the Western Montana corridor this summer, you don’t have to go far to find our one-of-a-kind Road Trip for June.
That’s a good thing, because the Arlee Celebration is something everyone should experience.
The Celebration powwow, including several days of traditional dancing and a host of other events, celebrates its 117th anniversary this year.
- For the full Arlee Celebration schedule, click here.
The Arlee Celebration runs July 1-5 in Arlee. The powwow grounds are located just east of Arlee, roughly 20 miles north of Missoula on Highway 93. Signs from the road will help guide you in.
Last summer, up to 400 dancers participated in the West’s oldest continuous powwow.
It’s a powwow rooted in deep tradition and founded when Indian dances were illegal under Bureau of Indian Affairs rules.
However, according to the Arlee Celebration website, the BIA and Indian police didn’t find it illegal to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Read more here.
We’ve got a ton more summertime stories in our upcoming July/August issue. Want to take a look? Subscribe today!
Northern Lights wow sky watchers across Montana
The Northern Lights made a stunning appearance throughout the western skies earlier this week, including a rare appearance in the southern portions of Montana and down into South Dakota.
Luckily for all of us who slept through the show, a handful of Montana Magazine readers snapped photos and sent them in.
Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:
At 97, Montana war hero and artist gathering quite a fan base
If you’re unfamiliar with Ben Steele’s story, it’s almost unbelievable. Certainly one of the most inspiring you’ll ever come across.
The WWII veteran who was born in Roundup and survived the Baatan Death march and lived to become one of the Big Sky state’s greatest artists, is still making art at 97.
As Jaci Webb of the Billings Gazette found out, his spirit (and work) means his fan base is still gaining followers as well.
Lexi Winkelfoos traveled more than 1,000 miles to hear Ben Steele’s laugh.
Winkelfoos, 18, of Mount Gilead, Ohio, said reading about the horrors that Steele endured on the Bataan Death March left her with one desire — to hear Steele laugh and know that he found happiness.
Winkelfoos is one of a growing legion of the Billings artist’s fans. Those fans include actress Loretta Swit, who played “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the TV show “M.A.S.H.,” actor Alec Baldwin, who narrated a film about Steele and other POWs, and filmmaker Jan Thompson.
Winkelfoos discovered Steele when she read Michael and Elizabeth Norman’s 2009 book “Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath,” and wrote a book report on it for her sophomore history class. Her teacher mailed that paper to Steele, 97, and a friendship was born, although the two are almost 80 years apart.
On Thursday at a Billings assisted living facility where Steele lives, Steele kept chiding Winkelfoos, who is on her second trip to Billings to see Steele. He told her to watch out that she doesn’t fall off a horse and land in a yucca patch out at his daughter Julie Jorgenson’s Musselshell County ranch. Wilkelfoos teases him right back about his own riding days when he used to jump the fence to get to Will James’ place.
“I don’t jump fences, or anything else, these days,” Steele said.
Winkelfoos knows right where Steele keeps his latest sketch book and retrieves it when visitors come around. Steele’s eyes shine when Winkelfoos tells their story.
Read the full story here.
Top reader photos: First-day-of-summer edition
It’s that time again: Time to highlight some of the best Reader Photos we’ve gotten in the past weeks.
This edition brings more than a hint of summer – which is appropriate because today marks the first official day of summer. We’ve got summer skies and summer wildflowers
Enjoy! And if you have summer photos from around Montana you’d like to share, email email@example.com.
Thanks to all who shared images. Happy Summer!