Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest

Macrophotography Adventure Along Skalkaho Road

South of Hamilton, Montana there’s a left turn onto a road near a powder coating and manufacturing shop with a small gravel parking lot on the right hand side of the road before you cross over the railroad tracks. That turn takes you onto Montana Highway 38 – Skalkaho Road or Skalkaho Highway. (All pictures used are taken by me. The gif from the Disney movie Mulan is from WordPress’s gif plugin)

Built in 1924, this winding drive through the Sapphire Mountains is inconsistently paved for approximately 50 miles. This is not unusual for many state roads in Montana – it’s expensive to maintain road surfaces through freeze-thaw conditions. The most harrowing portion of the road, a 15 mile section from Daly Creek to a little past Gem Mountain is closed late November through Memorial Day as it is inaccessible to snow plows and rescue workers.

Speaking of…

Through this stretch signs specifically state no vehicles towing trailers are allowed on this road. This is because rescue vehicles won’t be able to get to you, or your horses (or snowmobiles, or whatever other tomfoolery you get up to). Even so, I still encountered someone torturing a pair of terrified quarter horses in a cramped single horse trailer as they were speeding through a pot hole ridden muddy narrow back switching little more than a single lane with blind corners mountain road that, again, specifically states towing trailers is specifically prohibited. I should emphasize that, having driven this road in its entirety, this individual behaved in a way that was not in the best interest of themselves, rescue workers, or their horses. For Shame. There are pull off areas for parking your toy trailers and horse trailers and disembarking on your trip prior to entering this more intense part of the roadway. The only reason someone would take this reckless behavior is to try and use this road as a shortcut between Philipsburg / Anaconda and Hamilton. Given that you could kill your horse, yourself, and others on the road doing this, please don’t. I was not amused by almost being run off the road down a sheer cliff with no guard rail.

I beg anyone that decides to explore this beautiful part of Montana to please GO AROUND to Route 43 or to I-90 to Route 93 with your horses for their safety unless you’re trying to run up a very large equine vet bill at the least. Listen, it’s only a problem for you and your family if you die from your behavior, but it’s a problem my family has to deal with if your recklessness kills me. Got it?

Now that’s out of the way.

I look forward to sharing the scenic drives of Montana with readers. Route 38 is a special one. I was able to capture some of the color changes and this is an early sample of some of the photographs.

We begin this journey forking away from Sleeping Child Rd.

Hang on little dude! I found multiple species of lichens in the forest.

On Instagram I went on a rant about plastic disposal and microplastics. I was a little sad to find plastic on the forest floor in the middle of nowhere.

I found an old coffee can that seemed to have been lit on fire during a wild and crazy camping trip. I wish I had been there. I bet it was a great time when this happened years ago.

Practicing with the new macro lens I zoomed in on bark and explored the secret language of trees.

I also discovered a lichen forest inside a little cavern hidden within the trunk of an ancient tree at least 200 years old based on the trunk diameter (though a coring sample is the better way to determine its actual age).

This picture was fun. I got bits of spider web and my brain fills in the image of a skull in the tree bark, do you see it too? I tried to add it at an angle.

Not to get too sappy, but I’ve needed to get out on an adventure, and even though I may have worsened my tendon injury during this exploration session, I managed to find all kinds of beauty. I also collected a lot of animal bones for some future art projects!

On the left side of the road is Skalkaho Falls. It’s a lovely waterfall with a roaring chill soaking your senses through.

I pulled off at the Fuse Lake trailhead for dinner. Here, after reading some and preparing to embark toward Fuse Lake for sunset I realized my right leg was… not going to cooperate.

So I got back on the road and found that the weather system that moved through downed some tree limbs. If you see this, please pull over and take a moment to move the limb out of the road. As previously mentioned, services don’t get to this road very often, so you’ll be helping protect the safety of your fellow humans.

This branch was easy to drag to the side of the road. It’s never a bad idea to keep a hatchet or saw with your camping supplies for larger branches and fully downed trees on these backcountry roads. There is no cell service here, so don’t expect anyone to come along and help you.

The sunset on the eastern side of the Sapphire range was worth it. The saturated colors as the sun brushed over the mountain tops to the west created cotton candy lemonade and blue raspberry hues. It looked like a landscape scene from James Twitty.

As the sun finally set behind me I reached Potter’s Corner. From there I turned left (North) on MT Route 1 and proceeded to Philipsburg and then to I-90 back home.

I hope you enjoyed this photo adventure! You can follow more of my photography over on Instagram. If you would like to see more write ups of my photo adventures with early previews into the photo sets, please like, comment, and share this post. I would love feedback on my photography.

If you see these photos posted elsewhere, please let me know. At this time they are only posted on my instagram or on this page. I am still developing a unique watermark. If you would like to use any of my photos:

  • For unpaid projects, simply credit me and link back to this website.
  • For paid projects please send me an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.

Things That Influence My Writing: Montana Cow Mutilations

Newspaper clipping from the Billings Gazette, October 10, 1975

**Content Warning: This post discusses the killing and mutilation of animals by unknown perpetrator(s) over the past 50+ years in the United States. As a non-beef eater myself, reader discretion is advised**

While the world is caught up with everything that is 2020 (do you have your apocalypse bingo card yet?) I’d like to visit an ongoing state and national news story that captured my attention when I first moved to Montana in 2013. In October, 2019, new developments arose. I think it’s time to share this news with readers for the purpose of distraction. So, I’ll compile some basic information here. While I have some thoughts on what the possible explanations could be, I will save those for the end.

Cow Mutilations

From the GIPHY keyboard

On October 2, 2019 the Billings Gazette reported a new report of 5 dead cattle being found in Salem, Oregon. While tragic, the random death of cattle in the Pacific Northwest would not turn heads under normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances. Instead, this was the newest report in an ongoing series of documented cow mutilations throughout the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, with the majority of documented cases in Montana, dating back to the 1970s.

According to the original newspaper clipping from the Billings Gazette on October 10, 1975 (shown above) about 175 reports of mutilations were gathered from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho in addition to Montana at that time. At that time, given the cost of the equipment necessary to cause the types of mutilations and damages found, the issue stumped authorities, leading to the concern of a cult traveling throughout the country traveling “by helicopter”. Reasonably so, this was thought to be ridiculous.

There is a Wikipedia page on Cattle Mutilation as a general concept, but it is important to note that this page includes international and domestic horse, goat, and other unidentified livestock incidents. These non-bovine and international incidents have mutilation patterns not matching those specifically found in the mutilated cattle of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. That said, they may still be worth discussing for contrasting purposes.

The Investigation

From the GIPHY keyboard

The common pattern with these mutilations is that the sex organs and tongues are removed with all blood drained from the corpse. An investigative report mentioned in a 2001 article in the New York Times mentioned that a group that researches these incidents, The National Institute for Discovery Science, did find one interesting variation in a case in Utah where there was a hole in the head of one of the cattle with both BHT and Formaldehyde present, indicating that an embalming/preservation process took place. This group is/was funded by Robert Bigelow – a man that became obsessed with aliens and the Skinwalker Ranch – a place so notorious even the History Channel has added it to their questionable line up.

As their website is now defunct and it is hard to find information on anything other than his alien focused ventures, I am not going to spend much time focusing on this aspect for now.

I used the Wayback Machine to look up their website and I have to admit it’s hard to take this seriously. Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20071009234743/http://www.nidsci.org/

Another common element between all of these cases? They remain unsolved. To give readers an idea of how extensive and compelling these reports are, there is an open case file with the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the recurring ritualistic serial mutilation of cattle. At this time, the FBI only investigates mutilations that occur on tribal land and all have been closed unsolved according to the Billings Gazette.

Private and public reward monies for information regarding cattle mutilations continue to accumulate, including a $25,000 reward for the recent mutilation in Oregon.

My Interest And Thoughts On These Events

From the GIPHY keyboard

Shortly before moving to Montana, on March 1, 2013, a rancher found more mutilated cows approximately 5 miles outside of Browning. Given how current it was in the news, this provided the opportunity for me to learn more about these incidents and start compiling information on this truly bizarre fascination.

Spoiler Alert: I don’t think this has anything to do with aliens. While I do not dismiss the possibility of life in this universe more intelligent than humans, I don’t think it is coming to Earth and messing with our cows.

I have 7 years of research and thoughts on these events and there are a few options regarding what I can do with this information. The option currently in the lead:

  • Start An Investigative Podcast/YouTube Series With A Funny Name

I would present each individual documented event in chronological order, the information available that I’ve been able to gather, any additional leads people are able to provide, and similarities between the events that I’ve been able to observe. This would then include leads from listeners that have been followed up on in later episodes.

The reasoning behind presenting the same information in two formats is because I want to be inclusive of non-auditory individuals, and those needing closed captioning and/or lip reading to assist with auditory processing. For more information on auditory processing disorders you can visit that website or read the Wikipedia page here.

Possible Explanations

From the GIPHY keyboard – credit to Trey Parker and Matt Stone

The big rule here driving my investigation: It’s Not Aliens. The perpetrators could be many things, but the response of “aliens” has become the standard cop-out. There is a lot of additional evidence, even from those that do believe aliens visit earth, to suggest these mutilations are not being performed by aliens.

I mentioned before that I have thoughts on alternative explanations. I don’t think these cases are going to be a “one explanation fits all” kind of thing. These potential explanations include: insurance fraud, publicity, public diversion from other questionable activities, ritualistic or cult activity, and intimidation. That said, I absolutely expect that there are potential explanations that I have not yet thought of. Who knows – maybe I will be proven wrong and there are aliens. I have to be open to that possibility, no matter how skeptical I am and how little I think it makes sense.

TL;DR

If you are interested in this kind of investigative podcast about the unsolved mysterious cow mutilations that have been ongoing throughout the United States for at least the past 50 years, please like this post and/or comment your suggestion for title of the series, what excites you the most, or if you have any thoughts you would like to contribute. If you think a friend would like to listen to this podcast or would have anything to contribute, please share this.

I’m excited to have as much input as possible in this 100% bizarre side project, even if you disagree with me and want to tell me you think I’m wrong; even if you insist that it’s aliens.

If this gains enough interest (100 likes) I will launch the first episode of the podcast.

Until then, I will continue to focus my efforts on reviews, my book becoming available for pre-order later this summer, “A Hundred Different Skies”, and my short story collection coming out early next year.

As always, thank you for reading. Without you, this post would have been meaningless electrons sent out into the void.