Google Maps has made a huge difference in how I pick places to photograph. In the 22 years I lived in Montana as a kid, I never knew Benton Lake Wildlife Refuge existed. Maybe it didn’t back then, I’m not sure. But since I moved back, I’ve been scouring the satellite view of Google Maps looking for places that seem interesting.
Side-note: Lost Lake is another place I didn’t know existed until Google Maps. And I used to live 15 minutes from it. That place is amazing.
Back to Benton Lake… I picked up a new 100-400mm lens, and wanted to test it out. My favorite step-mom is an avid bird photographer, so she suggested Benton Lake.
It was a little late in the season, so the bird selection was somewhat limited, but it was still a great place to try out the new lens.
I can’t wait to go back when the birds come back next year.
These, and all future photos of Benton Lake Wildlife Refuge will live in the project gallery, linked below.
The contractor had just finished building Dad’s new house (for the most part–that story should be part of a different post.) What’s the first thing you do when you finish a new house? Fill it up with rocks!
Wait, what? That’s not the first thing everyone does? Weird.
At any rate, that’s the first thing my dad does. So he wanted to run up to Bynum to check out the rock shop.
When I was growing up, I never really explored north of Great Falls. I stuck to the areas between Great Falls and Missoula. Google Maps wasn’t a thing back then, so I really didn’t know what I was missing. For example: I didn’t know Lost Lake existed. And I lived 20 minutes from it at one point.
There’s a little tiny town just north of Choteau called Bynum, and Bynum has a rock shop. The Trex Agate Shop is not just any rock shop, it a seriously cool rock shop. The building itself is… Rustic. The people are awesomely friendly. And the prices are fair. If you’re good, you might even be able to haggle a bit.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. On the way up to Bynum, we stopped for lunch in Choteau. We were craving burgers, so we swung into John Henry’s. For those of you who haven’t lived in Montana, there’s this spice called Alpine Touch.
It’s made in Choteau, and John Henry’s is proud of it. Almost everything on the menu includes the seasoning. This is a good thing. Alpine Touch is like crack. Growing up, I put it on everything from popcorn to trout. If Alpine Touch made a perfume, I’d have dated any woman wearing it. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed lunch.
Fat and happy, we left Choteau and headed north to the rock shop.
Dad and I spent at least an hour looking at rocks, and chatting with the owner. He bought some thunder eggs for his bookshelves, and I picked up a cool sandstone thing.
We decided not to take the same route back, so we ended up driving through Pendroy. There’s an awesome old school there.
Eventually, we cruised through Conrad to see if the hospital had a sign with the logo I designed, but they didn’t appear to. Guess that just gives me another reason to head back up that way.
Everybody seems to love the western part of Montana, but I’ll take plains, farmland, and high desert over mountains any day. My uncle said the same thing to me once–he liked being able to see for miles, and being stuck in the mountains made him feel trapped.