I recently went to Montana on a family vacation in honor of my nephew’s graduation. My family has a long history of summer rafting trips, and I thought it would be fun to continue the tradition with my brother and his family, including my three awesome nephews.
Kevin, my raft trip guide
My nephews are Boy Scouts and outdoors types, so we picked a full day rafting whitewater rafting adventure through the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork River near Missoula.
Kevin in action on the Clark Fork River
The trip was a good combination of gorgeous scenery, peaceful floating, and class III+ rapids.
A day on the Clark Fork River
Raft technology has improved greatly since the summers of my youth when you had to manually bail out the rafts. Now they are smaller, more mobile and self-draining. This made the whole experience pleasant.
Montana’s Big Skies
About halfway through our trip, we stopped at Split Rock Beach for a nice lunch spread set up by our guides, Kevin and Jake.
Scenic smooth water on Montana’s Clark Fork River
My brother and I shared a raft, just like old times
Split Rock Beach: A lovely spot for lunch
Human mountain goats
Record warm temps made the Clark Fork River perfect for swimming. We spent a bit of time jumping off this this rock into the river.
Rock climbing in the Alberton Gorge GIF.
Left: Kevin led the way up the rocks Right: My nephew jumping into the Clark Fork River
My nephew Reese has mad rock building skills
Rockitecture on the Clark Fork River
Paddling a raft while photographing can be challenging. Fortunately, Mike Malament of Montana River Photo has a set up to photograph some of the best rapids of the day.
Awesome rapid splashiness (photo credit: Mike Malament/Montana River Photo)
Our whitewater rafting trip ending mid-afternoon, just as temperatures were getting uncomfortably hot. We were craving a beer. Our trusty river guides Kevin and Jake suggested we stop at Big Sky Brewing Company‘s Tasting Room, which had free samples.
Missoula’s Big Dipper Ice Cream made for the perfect ending to the day
Jake suggested we stop at Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula before heading back to Paws Up. After a cold adult beverage, ice cream was a good call for the kids.
My Clark Fork Raft Trip was arranged by the concierge staff at Paws Up.
Montana’s best known treasures are it’s two National Parks, Glacier and Yellowstone. But the well-preserved ghost town of Garnet, Montana is one of the state’s biggest lesser-known gems.
Tall grass in front of one of Garnet’s outhouses
Located in Granite County, Garnet is beautiful and not overrun with tourists. Unlike so many tourist attractions in the United States where rooms are often kept pristine behind plexiglass and rope, Garnet Ghost Town allows visitors to walk in into it’s abandoned buildings and wander pretty freely. The rooms that are unaccessible are cordoned off for obvious safety concerns.
Garnet was built as a mining town in the 1890s
A thousand people once called Garnet home during the heyday of mining in the 1898. But the mining bubble burst and less than 200 people remained in Garnet in 1905.
Left: Garnet’s old jail Right: a vista of Garnet’s historic district
You can still get a sense of what life was like by visiting the over 30 preserved buildings including the Wells Hotel, Kelly’s Bar, Davey’s General Store and the Blacksmith’s Shop.
A vista spot near Garnet in the Lubrecht Experimental Forest
Garnet Ghost Town is a great place to discover the beauty of abandoned places. It’s accessible by car from late April until January. The gravel road and scenic ride to Garnet is also a big draw for ATVs, and mountain bikers.
Left: Vintage bottles in Davey’s General Store Right: the former reception desk at Wells Hotel
In the winter, Garnet Ghost Town is a popular destination for snowmobilers and cross country skiers.
Nothing feels more old timey than Prince Albert in a can
Left: Ghost Town Kitchen Still Life Right: Vintage wooden skis in Davey’s General Store
One of the decaying rooms in Well’s Hotel
Left: A Victrola and peeling wallpaper at Wells Hotel Right: this chair was probably the epitome of comfort in the 1890’s
Earlier this month I visited Montana with my family. In honor of my nephew’s graduation, we spent a few days at The Resort at Paws Up.
This summer has been very dry. The state banned fireworks on the 4th of July and wildfires were burning in Glacier National Park, which made Montana’s sunsets a bit less vivid than usual. The clouds, however, were fantastic!
Cloud Lapse at The Resort at Paws Up (shot on iPhone 6)
Summer sunsets in Montana are late. It was around 9:30 pm the evening I shot this one. I set up this time lapse on my iPhone 6 using the time time-lapse feature on the native camera. I clamped my iPhone to a fence behind the Pomp Restaurant using my In-Your-Face Viewbase and let the camera run while we were eating dinner.
I hope you enjoy the resulting cloud lapse. It’s a brief digital visit to my favorite resort in Big Sky Country.
One of the luxury tented accommodations at Longitude 131
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been on my list of places to visit for years. Last month I finally got my chance to visit Australia’s Red Centre, with a few nights at Longitude 131. With a reputation for being the finest accommodations in Outback glamping, Longitude 131 doesn’t come cheap. My husband and I tried to maximize our bang for the buck by staying one less than the recommended three nights/four full days, and attempting to see as much as we could during our time.
First glimpse of Uluru HyperLapse (shot on iPhone 6)
The cranked up pace was a bit too crammed for me. While I totally enjoyed my time, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so hurried. I also had a difficult time with jet lag on this trip, which did not help the situation.
Some of the stunning scenery seen on excursions from Longitude 131
My hotel review posts usually feature lots of images of hotel room interiors and bathroom amenities, but photographing the room did not happen during my brief stay at Longitude 131.
Fortunately Longitude 131’s own website photos are very realistic. The tents are glamorous and comfortable, but we did not spend much time there other than to sleep or change clothes. The bulk of your day at Longitude 131 is spent exploring nearby Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which was the point of the whole trip anyway!
My first glimpse of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock
We had about 35 minutes from the time we arrived at the Longitude 131 until we headed out for our first excursion, the Mala Walk around the base of Uluru, followed by a sundowner and light bites in the Kantu Gorge.
The guides at Longitude 131 are friendly and great and I felt that I learned a ton on this excursion. The couple I met from Sydney who were staying the recommended three days seemed more relaxed than I was (and less jet lagged).
Left: sunrise at a viewing area in Kata Tjuta National Park Right: My room at Longitude 131
Both my husband and I were tired when we returned from this excursion, so we skipped the formal dinner service and headed straight to our tent.
I fell asleep immediately and woke up in time for a quick bite before heading out for our next excursion, headed to a sunrise view point in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Kata Tjuta range (also known as the Olgas) domes are visually interesting, and the sky and scrubby landscape looked gorgeous in the soft morning light.
Gorgeous desert landscape and clouds at Kata Tjuta
After admiring the sunrise at Kata Tjutas we headed out on the lovely Valley of Winds hike , which can range 6-10 km around a sacred Anangu men’s site in the domes of Kata Tjuta. We finished our hike just before the day got too hot. The only thing missing was a cold beer before we headed to the Cultural Centre in the park for a visit. Then we got back to Longitude 131 in time for lunch.
A view of the Kata Tjutas at sunrise
Our day finished with the Uluru sunset excursion (again complete with cocktails and nibbles). It was a delightful day. Dinner that evening was served at outdoors under the star filled skies at Table 131 set up outside. Once again, jet lag made me decide to skip the main course and get as much sleep as I could.
A vibrant sunset view of Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Your days are paced similarly to those on safari at Longitude 131– most activities happen around sunrise and sunset leaving the hottest hours in the middle of the day free for you to enjoy the resorts lovely pool, the nearby Cultural Centre in the park or even arrange a camel ride or motorcycle ride. Unlike being on safari, you come to Longitude 131 for the landscape and outdoor activities, not for the wildlife. You might see some wild camels or feral cats, but this is not the place for those who want a game viewing experience.
Yummy steak for lunch at Longitude 131
All the food and beverages at Longitude 131 were excellent.
Left: Pasta with shrimp for lunch Right: a colorful salad with edible flower at Longitude 131
While I did not eat every dinner I was totally satisfied by the appetizers served during the sundown excursions and did not feel I needed much more.
Glacial toothfish and broccolini for lunch at Longitude 131
A stunning sunset view of Longitude 131 Resort
Rainbows in the bathroom at Longitude 131
My Longitude 131 experience was very good. I made the decision to do a shorter, more concentrated trip and I’m not sure I’d recommend that unless you are 100% over jet lag or the sort of person who loves having every minute scheduled.
I was impressed with my experience enough that I am now curious about other Baillie Lodges and am considering a visit to Kangaroo Island on my next trip down under.
The ride in the R44 Raven II helicopter was smooth. I liked this little helicopter!
Taking off from Longitude 131 in a helicopter for my scenic ride
The photographer in me always likes to get shots from different vantage points, so I booked the 30 minute scenic flight over Uluru & Kata Tjuta to Ayers Rock Airport instead of taking the car transfer. I’m glad I did. The bird’s eye view from the R44 Raven II helicopter gave me a great perspective of the vastness of the desert and stunning views of Uluru and the 36 domes (not all visible by ground) of the Kata Tjuta range (formerly known as the Olgas).
A nice view of Uluru from a helicopter
The helicopter ride was smooth and 30 minutes long and took me over both Uluru as well as the Kata Tjuta ranges before heading to the Ayers Rock Airport.
Approaching Ayer’s Rock Airport
Seeing the scrubby dotted landscape below also made me appreciate the tribal prints of the native Aboriginal people, the Anangu. You can buy their prints at the cultural center.
Different domes of the Kata Tjutas are visible from the ground
Left: Approaching Uluru Right: Uluru/Ayers Rock is more solid than nearby Kata Tjuta
I shot some video on my iPhone 6 during my helicopter ride. Check it out:
Flying over Uluru (Ayers Rock) in a R44 Raven II helicopter
A view of The Kata Tjutas (formerly known as The Olgas) as seen from helicopter
The domes of Kata Tjuta are visually more interesting that Uluru
While I went to Longitude 131 intent on seeing Uluru, The Kata Tjutas were far more visually interesting for me.
Obligatory helicopter selfie
The 30 minute scenic helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta from Longitude 131 to Ayers Rock Airport costs Australian $570 for two people and can be arranged directly from the resort. It’s great for both photographers and aviation geeks. Since I am both, to me it was totally worth the money.