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2020 was “the lost year” for our family, since I was simply working constantly through it. I declared that 2021 would be “The year we get it all back.” And it has been quite a whirlwind of a year, just like 2020 was… but for some fantastic reasons. One of those reasons is a little more photo time, even though I haven’t posted much of anything.

I couldn’t wait to post this one, however. My travels took me past the little hamlet of Heimdal (that should get the attention of you Thor fans) yesterday, and I had to do a U-turn to come back and actually enter the town. The reason: this flag. Simple yet elegant. I love small towns, especially those in North Dakota.

Not only is a flag placed upon this sign, but it’s also been dressed. It hangs perfectly I wish I’d taken a photo of the back of the sign now, because it was as perfectly placed from that angle as it was from this one. All too often I get home and think, “I should have taken one more photo!” Well, this was one of those times. I’m so glad, though, that this caught my eye as I whizzed down the highway so I could get the photos I needed to show you my discovery.

Thank you, Heimdal.

You’ve Got Mail – and lots of available space

This mailbox is many, many miles from…well, anywhere. But I’m sure it makes rural deliveries possible for plenty of folks ranching or farming in the area! It sits just south of our border with South Dakota, and naturally it caught my eye as unusual.

I don’t know if it’s been repurposed by the nearest resident or if it serves as a distribution point, but it sure looks cool, standing in isolation out along a vast stretch of the CanAm Highway!

If ya gotta go, ya better go now

As a dad, I’ve said that phrase innumerable times. In this case, I don’t think anyone wanted to go. It was below zero. I was returning from a trip to Fargo and decided to take a detour through Fort Ransom for a short – but necessary – hike. That gave me the opportunity to stop for some photos here and there, including this one. You may recognize it, as it sits atop a hill just north of Kathryn.

Prospecting at 10,000 feet

As crazy as it sounds, I did get a few days in the middle of 2020 to bolt to Montana and roam my old stompin’ grounds. I had *one* tiny window of opportunity amid a year of non-stop work, and it happened to coincide with the date during which I had my buddy’s lake condo at Big Sky. After clearing it with my boss, I took it. And I didn’t come back empty-handed.

 

While roaming the top of Lone Peak (solo – my family wanted to do more kayaking, and I wanted to do both) I found two quarters in separate locations. Since there really isn’t much of – well, anything in the places where I was, I surmised that these may have been lying there for quite some time. They may have been dropped in the snow, then settled into the meadow with a spring thaw. Or they may have been dropped by hikers like me. Either way, the odds of my stumbling (figuratively) upon both of them probably weren’t very high.

I took a ton of photos and video, but that time in June was the last time I took off until Christmas. I haven’t had much time for photo editing, either, and what time I have had lately has been consumed with frost (okay, Rime Ice) photos. But sometime I hope to get to those pictures, too.

Stickin’ it to Red Lodge

This was the view coming back down the hill at Red Lodge last weekend. Some buddies and I rented a nice house with a hot tub and a view of the mountain and headed out for a quick ski/snowboard trip.

 

Not only was I the only cool kid (snowboarder) in our group of eight, I was the oldest. Proof: I choose to ride in old-skewl style. This is the Avalanche Bumps Pro Mogul snowboard I bought brand new in 1989 when I lived at a resort in the Rockies, and I’m rocking an Aunt Mable’s dino hat (with tail) from the early 1990s. Good luck finding evidence that either of these things ever existed, even on the Google.

 

If you’ve ever visited a ski resort, much less lived at and worked at one, you know that stickers abound. Naturally it’s tempting to mark your presence by affixing stickers to the nearest lift tower, and there’s plenty of that at Red Lodge.

 

I spotted a couple of Huff Hills stickers among the pile plastered to one of the towers, so it’s obvious a few of our locals have made their mark in Montana…

 

But I would love to hear the story behind this one. I’m not sure of its origin, and once again Googling the visible text on it gets me nowhere. But I imagine the story behind it must be a real knee-slapper.

The plan was to bolt down Thursday, shred the gnar Friday, hit the hot tub and grill some monster steaks Friday night, and bolt back Saturday. Perfect plan, perfectly executed. And I managed to get some photos and video to scratch that photography itch, too…while getting a few laughs thanks to the sticker-slapping folks whose handiwork will live in infamy…at least until the towers get a fresh coat of paint, anyway.

Red cross surprise

I was blazing up Highway 281 in “Other Dakota” when I saw a brilliant red cross off to the right. I was on a mission, so I didn’t really have any photography in mind on this particular date and hadn’t done any research to see if there were any prairie churches along the designated route. But I couldn’t pass this up.

No, it ain’t lit, and no, I didn’t play with the brightness or saturation of the red in the cross. It really was that bold. I believe it had a lot to do with the blue light of the overcast sky. We’d encountered fog and wet roads all along this leg of our route, and that can actually do some pretty cool things to items like this red cross. It seemed absolutely brilliant, and I’m glad I got to stop in for a quick shot.

Right place, right time

I visited Yellowstone earlier this year, and it was simply the perfect time to do so. I got this amazing shot thanks to two people: a friend who pastors a church in Cody, who told me of the vantage point far away from where all the congestion of the usual tourists, and my wife, who dialed in the best location with regard to the trees in the foreground.

When I say it was the perfect time to visit Yellowstone, I wasn’t kidding. While Yellowstone is normally intolerable because of the sheer number of people everywhere, this time was the complete opposite. There was hardly anyone there.

This is the parking lot at Old Faithful. It’s statistically empty by normal standards. We walked right up to the geyser, stood front and center while it did its thing, and hopped back into the car…all in a matter of minutes.

I hadn’t expected to even get a vacation this year, but thankfully it worked out. I’d booked everything in advance and planned it since 2019, so any cancellation would have been an enormous disappointment. But I was able to squeak it in – important items at work which I simply couldn’t work around were cancelled or moved, my schedule opened up for the entire ten days, and my boss gave his blessing. So my family and I got to enjoy some much needed rest!

Naturally I have a ton of photos from this trip, but now I’m too busy again. So it’ll be a while till I post them.

Happy to be a barn

I spotted this cheerful red barn on a trip southwest of town. It brought a smile to my face, even as I caught a fleeting glimpse through a row of trees and made haste to turn around for a quick photo.

The shape of the face reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books: The Little Red Caboose, which was a Little Golden Book:

The idea of a building with a smile, however, reminded me of another favorite from my childhood: The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton:

Either way, I’m glad I spotted this, and I’m glad someone took the time to add a friendly smile to their barn for passers-by to enjoy.

Nestled in plain sight

After several grueling months, I did something I haven’t done in a long, long time: take a vacation. Along the way, I spotted this wonderful old barn along the highway. I couldn’t help myself: I had to pull off to the side of the road and snap a few shots. What a great start to what has been a fantastic vacation.