Monday, October 11, 2010

Sacred Ground!!!

For the past 4 months I've been running though the mountains of Montana like a wild indian on a war path, complete with face paint and a terrorizing war cry. Up until a few days back I even had a bow and arrow, but it was confiscated by the local law enforcement after a few misfired flaming arrows were shot down the streets of down town Missoula after a poker game that didn't go my way! After escaping that incident I decided it was best to get out of town and lay low for a bit to gather my thoughts and come up with a plan to get my bow back from the law. So a good friend of mine who we'll call Woody and I decided to hit the road and head into the southeast territory of the state. The plan was to soak in some hot springs, enjoy a few Montana brewed cold beers, and to formulate a new plan to take over the world. Seeing how the last one didn't work so well! I'm not going to go into much detail but it was good attempt and we almost got the plane off the ground on the second try.

On the way to the hot springs we turned off the main road to a place I've been wanting to visit for a while. It's where in 1877 the landmark Battle of the Big Hole between the US Military and a large camp of Nez Perec Indians who were on the run went down. This part of Montana is a very special place there's no doubt about it! A man can set out in any direction and explore here and indulge himself with good hunting, spectacular fishing, fantastic camping, and the 360 degree view of the landscape is definitely worth writing back home to Mom about!!!

The weather on this day was as perfect as perfect can get! A cool crisp 70 degree day with a slight breeze that was fluttering the freshly changing fall leaves on the trees under neath a beautiful Montana blue sky. I think we commented on how gorgeous the weather was at least 100 times between the two of us.
After packing up the camera gear we left the Jeep behind and headed down a trail that lead to the area where the battle took place. Walking down the path Woody started telling me how he was 3 percent Cherokee Indian, and also added that the first 4 years of his life he was raised by wild wolves in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I don't think they have wolves in North Carolina I told him, they must have been coyotes! He smiled and agreed with me on the coyotes and added that they were the wildest, meanest, and biggest damn coyotes anyone had ever seen in those parts!

Looking up from the trail I glanced over to read a sign that read " You are now walking on Sacred Ground"! Chills instantly ran all the way down my spin and the ground beneath my feet took on a whole new meaning. I've been to several old unmarked Indian burial grounds back home, and I've experienced a mixture of different feelings when standing in the middle of them! This place was different though, it had a whole different touch and feel to it. A feeling of uneasy peace!

Rounding a left hand bend in the trail all the sudden we stopped dead in our tracks when we first laid eyes on the camp. There were up to 30 or 40 erected tepees with no skins on them that in a way resembled old skeletons to me. We made the observation that we were the only ones there and then proceeded to enter into this sacred place quietly and respectfully. Walking to the center of the camp, we found different tepees and began to photograph. After a while we then decided to lay back on the ground in the tepees close our eyes for a while and see how it felt.
Call it Visions, call it Dreaming, call it Spiritual, call it Bullshit if you want, doesn't make a shit to me! But whatever it was, it could be felt, heard, and envisioned all around!

After getting up and shaking it off I walked over to the creek that ran behind the camp to see how cold the water felt. While splashing water on my face I had to rub my eyes when looking up to see what I though was an Indian standing in the middle of the creek. Focusing my eyes I saw that it indeed was an Indian! A 3 percent Cherokee Indian that was raised by coyotes and goes by the name Woody!!!

I'd like to take the time to acknowledge and thank a few friends of mine. I've had the pleasure over the pass few months to hang out with these guys to talk shop about photography, take photos, and just sit around and bullshit. Their all good people and very talented photographers who I'll always admire. Thanks for everything!!!

Forest Woodward "Woody"
Athena Lonsdale
Nicole Wickens "Green Door Photography"
Tim Cooper
Doug Ness

Monday, September 13, 2010

Last of the Summer Wine!!!

It's hard to beat a cold Montana river on a hot summer day, especially when you throw a few good friends and some cold beers in the equation. From buildin secret beaches, swimmin, fishin, raftin, and tubin. I spent a good bit of time this summer on the rivers soaking up as much of the Montana sun as possible, and I have the tan line to prove it. But, within the pass 2 weeks the days have turned from no shirt weather to flannel shirt weather. Hard to believe the days of summer have come and gone so quickly. It's been a wild ride and I'm not sure if I'm ready to put the brakes on yet!!! So does anybody have a set of snow skies for sale???

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bonjour Canada...

The weather wasn't at it's best when I decided to head out of Missoula, but hey that's Montana for ya. Just hang out and wait a bit and it'll change, hopefully for the better. On this day it didn't though, the cloudy rainy conditions stuck with me from Missoula all the way to my camp spot 15 miles from the Canadian boarder. Pulling over earlier that day to fuel up at a service station I overheard an older man going on and on about a meteor shower that was going to take place that night. That would be cool to see I thought to myself, but these clouds aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Finally pulling into camp later that night in the wind and rain I set up the tent to bed down for the night. Walking over to grab a cold beer out of the cooler I looked up and seen the sky was starting to clear. Kicking back against my jeep and watching the sky for a bit the clouds started spreading apart giving me a nice window to look though to see the night sky that reveled billions of stars. Way more than what I'm use to seeing when I look up at the night sky back home. Keep in mind folks that I'm camped out in the middle of No Where, Montana- just me, some beers and bears!!! Being a long ways from any town there was no light pollution to cripple the view of the sky.
When I seen the first meteor shoot across the sky I was impressed with how long it took it to burn out streaking across the sky... Which was from one end of the sky to the other!!! Within 30 minutes one was shooting across the sky every 3 seconds. It was wild, I couldn't move, I just stood there with my eyes tranced on the sky watching this amazing meteor shower. Finally my neck started hurting and I saw that the clouds were moving back in. It took just a few minutes and the wind had blown the cloud curtains closed and the show was over. It all happened so fast I didn't even get to try and photograph it. I was kicking myself in the ass for not taking photos but, Hell, I didn't know it was only going to last 30 minutes.
I finished off my beer and crawled into bed, but not before I pulled off my final trick of the night and ran over my trusty water bottle that has been with me for over a year now. I'm not going to go into detail how it happened, it just happened!!! Bad thing is, it doesn't hold as much water as it use to... Good thing is, it fits in my back pocket very nicely now...

The bad weather passed over during the night and there was nothing but blue sky and sunshine the next day. Heading toward the border I felt a little funny knowing I was about to cross over into another country for the first time. After waiting in line for an hour I made it to the check point. Handing the guard my passport he kept asking me about Texas and looking at me like I had a horn growing out the side of my head. He then told me to pull around into the detaining parking and wait for him to get there. Shit, this is great I thought to myself... He came over and said the reason he was holding me was because I had something illegal in my jeep!!! Horseshit, I don't have anything, I replied!!! Laughing he pointed at the firewood that was in the back of the jeep and said you can't take that over the boarder with you. No worries, what you want me to do with it? Just grab it and set it over there by the dog pen, that happened to have a nice looking German Shepard in it!!! Good doggy I whispered leaning down to drop off the wood that got me in this mess. As I stood up and turned around the guard was right there with my passport in his hand staring me down with his big mirrored shades.

Enjoy Canada Mr. Hancock, everything checked out and your free to be on your way...
Thanks I said, with a big grin on my face...

The Canadian Rockies are a real work of art. Traveling along the 150 mile Icefields Parkway you're surrounded in all directions by 9000 and 10000 ft peaks that all seem to have their own personality and attitude. Glaciers and glacier fed lakes with their magical blue color are hiding around almost every bend. Wildflowers grow in abundance and a variety too and add a splash of color to every view you take in. While the freezing cold rivers cut and carve though the landscape with raging raw power like I've never seen before. Being out in this wild place I couldn't help but feel small and vulnerable. I also couldn't stop myself from wanting to go for a swim in one of these beautiful lakes. Maybe I should say I went for a dip because there wasn't a lot of swimming going on, I promise ya the water is as cold as it looks.
The Canadian people were very nice, and seemed to really get a kick out of my Southern accent. It's funny how I can only say two words and people know I'm a long ways from home. One thing that caught me off guard here was the high cost of living. A regular ole cheeseburger and fries 12 bucks, a 12 pack of beer 25 bucks, a camping spot in the park for a tent 27 bucks, a gallon of gas 4 bucks, but the view from my jeep along the Icefields Parkway priceless... It all adds up and adds up fast, especially when your traveling alone and having to flip the full bill... Other than the cost, the Canadian Mountains are an incredible place to see and explore...
I'll also add that being a man that lives on cheeseburgers, the cheeseburgers in Canada taste way different than American ones do. Don't know what the hell they do different but it's something I never did adjust to.

The top priority of my mission to Canada was to walk on the Columbia Icefield Glacier. It's a huge glacier that you can pretty much drive all the way up to, take a short hike and you're at the foot of it. Walking up to it I was blown away by its size and how fast it's melting. There were signs everywhere reading "Extreme Danger!!! Don't Walk on the Glacier!!! Not being one to always follow the rules I couldn't help but want to walk on it. Jumping the rope a few of us ran across a melting ice bride over a freezing icy river at the foot of the glacier. Once across it was pretty scary walking on this thing, it was wet and slick with deep crevasses everywhere. After taking a couple of photos I decided to get the hell off of it and get back on steady ground. Back on firm ground I hung for several hours exploring and taking photos, it was like walking on the moon. On a search for cool rocks to take back home I made a breaking discover when I ran across a prehistoric cave man shoe. Funny how it looks like the shoes we have today!!!

After 5 days in this wild place I noticed that the sky was getting really hazy making it hard to see the far off mountains. Talking to a man from Denmark at a roadside lunch break, he told me there were several wildfires burning on the other side of the mountain range. Come to find out some were burning in the area that I was about to be heading into next. Hearing that I headed to the nearest Information Center and talked to some Rangers to see what they had to say. After talking to them I decided to abort the plan and head back to Montana.
This time I left my firewood behind at camp and had no problems getting back to the States.

I wasn't quite ready to head back into Missoula yet so I found a nice town tucked away in Northwest Montana and camped out on the out skirts of it. There was plenty of hiking, fishing, photography, and night life to explore so I held up there for 3 days. I've chosen to keep this place a secret, can't let you know where all my hideouts are!!! Camping there by the lake I set up a make shift office on a picnic table and went to work on photos and this Blog. It was a nice change of pace and was a good place to slow down for a bit.

On the way back to Missoula I stopped by the Flathead Lake Brewery. Whenever passing though this area it's a stop that must be made. The beer here is some of my favorite and what better of a place to enjoy a cold beer. Grabbing a drink I walked outside and found some big red chairs to hang out in at the end of a nice long dock over the lake. Sitting there I just reflected back on the past week and what all I'd seen and done. It was a lot to think about because I had to go back and get another round. Canada is one wild place and I can't wait to get back up there and see more of it.
Which hopefully will be early next summer!!!

I met and hung out with some very good people and seen some amazing land along my travels up there and back. I feel very lucky to be able to travel the way I have and it's nice to be able to share it with everyone...

Oh yea, The Icefield Parkway... No doubt, it's the Most Beautiful Road in the World...

Thanks for looking and reading...