Friday, February 26, 2010

The Difference of a Few Feet

People reading my posts and looking at my pictures have a tendency to assume that all of Montana--or at least the northern tier--is a snow bound tundra. This is not actually the case. The average snowfall changes dramatically when you leave our ranch and head downhill, which is every direction but west. Driving home from work last night (It was still daylight! Yay!) I took a few pictures to show what happens as you make the gradual climb, a gain of about eight hundred feet in altitude.

This is just outside of town, looking east. Notice there's almost no snow in the road ditches.

Halfway home you pass what was once a prehistoric island, back in the glacial lake days at the end of the last ice age. You can still find small mussel shells on the slopes of Chalk Butte and in the nearby clump of badlands, and the area has yielded some interesting fossils. Only ten miles down the road from the first picture and already there is a lot more snow.

Six miles from home, looking south across the valley formed by the south fork of the Milk River. Between here and our ranch you cross a large plateau that stretches north and south for a fair distance.

Dropping off the west side of the plateau, into the basin at the foot of the Rockies. Notice the amount of snow in the ditches? It isn't uncommon for us to get several inches of snow, while back up the road where the last photo was taken they barely get a dusting. As annoying as the snow can be, we get our payback in grass and water come summer.

All together, I traveled about forty-five miles as the crow flies between the first picture and the last. What a difference a few feet makes.


Anonymous said...

That first photo is absolutely stunning. Such a huge expanse of land and blue sky and I keep going back to look at it because there's just something about it.

But where are all of the trees???

Kari Lynn Dell said...

The trees are in the mountains, which have almost no foothills on the east slope of the Rockies. You're either in the mountains and the forest or you're on the plains, with a few clusters of brush and willows in the coulees.

Stan Grace said...

"Summers Blooming", is a great example of the grass payback. When you mentioned "grass and water" above I had to go back and fid one of my favorite picture of your horse standing deep in what appears to be smooth brome grass. That is a picture to warm every old ranchands heart.

Jenny said...


Loved the photos! I haven't ventured up your way much, but have plans to this summer. Bit of a different landscape than Helena, and the base of the mountains and forests.

The above post, by Stan Grace, makes me wonder if that isn't my granpa's brother in law?

Stan said...

Ubetcha Jenny, and your great uncle as well!

Anita said...

Makes me wonder if I'll ever see Montana...I hope so. :)