G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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Montana Trip: The Other Rock City

Rock City, Montana
Rock City, Montana

While on a trip to Montana in late May 2014, I had the opportunity to visit a place called Rock City, just north of Valier, Montana. (see my recent post on that trip) In and of itself, Valier is not too exciting of small town but it is scenic as it borders Lake Frances, a great bird estuary.

Welcome to Valier, Montana
Welcome to Valier, Montana
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Sumoflam at Rock City north of Valier, Montana

With my daughter, her husband and my grandchildren in tow, we ventured to Valier on our way to Choteau, Montana in order to take a ride out to “Rock City.” It is about a seven mile drive due north of town.

Map to Rock City, Montana
Map to Rock City, Montana

This is not the same Rock City that is located near Chattanooga, Tennessee and has advertisements on barns all over the southeast as shown below.

Rock City near Chattanooga, TN
Rock City near Chattanooga, TN
Old Rock City Barn in Loretto, KY
Old Rock City Barn in Loretto, KY

Instead, this Rock City is a natural “city” of rock formations that have been eroded away by the Two Medicine River.

Satellite view of Rock City (from Google Maps)
Satellite view of Rock City (from Google Maps)
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana
The Hoodoos of Rock City north of Valier, Montana

To get to Rock City you drive north towards Cut Bank out of Valier on Cut Bank Highway and as the road turns west, you continue north on gravel road (now Rock City Rd.) past Bullhead Rd. and then Dean Rd. and eventually onto a dirt road which eventually comes to a Dead End sign. You can go straight on the dirt, but note that it turns into a little dirt track that’s fairly bumpy and probably more suited to a four-wheel-drive or a large base vehicle.

Rock City Rd. and Bullhead Rd.
Pass Bullhead Road while on Rock City Rd.
Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Rock City Rd. and Dean Rd., north of Valier, MT
Farmland along the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City
A portion of the road to Rock City
A portion of the dirt track to Rock City

On the approach through prairie lands and farmlands, a big valley, indeed a deep chasm opens up in front of you. The Two Medicine River flows down below and it had quite a strong current at the time we visited due to all the glacier runoff from late spring.

Chasm formed by Two Medicine River
Chasm formed by Two Medicine River (Glacier Wind Farm in background)
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana

Hundreds of strange rock formations, called “hoodoos” dot the landscape, creating many eerie features. Hoodoos (mushroom-shaped erosional features in badlands) are caused by water from cloudbursts turning the corner at the brim of the overhang, flowing for a distance upside-down on the underside. This type of upside-down flow is well known as a “teapot effect” because it mimics tea being poured from a pot flowing down the underside of the spout rather than straight on into the cup. Many of the hoodoo formations at Rock City are 12 to 20 feet tall and most have the common “hoodoo” big flat tops on them indicating massive amounts of water and wind erosion over what I would assume is centuries of time. Some of the most famous hoodoo formations are common in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Hoodoos of Rock City
Hoodoos of Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City
Hoodoo buddies at Rock City

For the adventuresome person, hiking down to the river is probably quite possible as there are many locations that are not beholden with cliffs. On this occasion we walked around through many of the formations, but didn’t venture down into the canyon itself.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City formations near Valier, Montana

To me, though much different in appearance, it was not unlike visiting Coal Mine Canyon which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation east of Tuba City, Arizona on AZ Hwy 264 past Moenkopi. As a tour guide I took hundreds of folks down dirt roads (in a van of course) to see the hoodoo-like formations of this place.

Coal Mine Canyon satellite photo from Google Maps
Coal Mine Canyon satellite photo from Google Maps
Coal Mine Canyon, AZ 1983
Coal Mine Canyon, AZ 1983
Coal Mine Canyon Hoodoos, 1983
Coal Mine Canyon Hoodoos, 1983
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in 1990
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in 1990
Another view of Coal Mine Canyon, AZ in 1983
Another view of Coal Mine Canyon, AZ in 1983

Like Coal Mine Canyon, it is an undeveloped geologic location that might otherwise be a National Monument or a State Park. But in both cases neither of these appear to be headed in this direction. Both require going down narrow dirt roads and paths to get to them. Both have unique and otherworldly formations. And both have big chasms with beautiful scenes.

Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT
Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT

Up in northern Montana just south of Sweetgrass, there are some similar formations called Jerusalem Rocks. I visited there in January 2012. These are also hoodoo-like in nature, but the grouping of the formation is not nearly as expansive as Rock City.

Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
A rock window at Jerusalem Rocks
A rock window at Jerusalem Rocks
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Sumoflam at Jerusalem Rocks in December 2012
Jerusalem Rocks, Montana
Jerusalem Rocks, Montana
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana
A giant hoodoo overlooks the prairie valley below at Jerusalem Rocks near Sweetgrass, Montana

I find all of these out of the way, eerie places to be fascinating and fun to visit. And especially so with grandchildren!

My daughter and her family at Rock City
My daughter and her family at Rock City

And just a few more shots of this unique place

More Rock City Formations
More Rock City Formations
Rock City Hoodoos in northern Montana
Rock City Hoodoos in northern Montana
Rock City Trio
Rock City Trio
Overhangs at Rock City
Overhangs at Rock City
Sisters at Rock City
Sisters at Rock City

If you are ever in the Great Falls area and have an extra day, I highly recommend a drive up US 89 north and then a jaunt over to Valier and Rock City.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Montana Trip: US Highway 89 thru Montana – North 89

Glacier National Park
Snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park as seen from US 89 just south of US Route 2 near Browning, MT

As I continued my trip in Montana, I spent some time with my daughter and her children in Shelby.  From there I proceeded to head back to Kentucky the “back roads” way over a number of US Highways and State Highways.

US Route 2 and US Route 89
US Route 2 and US Route 89

My goal was to travel the majority of Montana’s US 89 during this trip.  I did not hit the portion north of Browning to Alberta on this trip, though I have traveled it in the past.  In fact, over the years I have traveled US 89 from the Canadian border all the way to Mexico (back when US 89 went that far). This post will cover the section of US 89 north of Great Falls and I will follow with a second post covering the portion of US 89 in Montana south of Great Falls.

A scene from US Highway 89 in northern Montana
A scene from US Highway 89 in northern Montana

Sometimes called the National Park Highway, U.S. 89 links seven national parks across the Mountain West. In addition, fourteen other national park areas, mostly national monuments are also reachable from this backbone of the Rockies. The highway goes through prairies, mountains and deserts and, in my opinion, is the most scenic US Highway in America.

Sunrise on US 89 near Great Falls, Montana
Sunrise on US 89 near Great Falls, Montana

My wife flew out to Montana so I took her down to Great Falls and spent the night there.  The next morning she had an early flight, so I dropped her off and then headed north on US 89 from Great Falls and would travel all the way to US Highway 2 near Browning and then back to Shelby for one more night with the family.

US Highway 89 west of Vaughn, Montana
US Highway 89 west of Vaughn, Montana

US 89 near Great Falls merges with Interstate 15 until Vaughn, Montana, where it cuts northwest towards Glacier National Park.  In the early morning, this is a fabulously beautiful drive along the eastern edge of Glacier.

Sunrise over the Rockies as seen from US 89 north of Vaughn, Montana
Sunrise over the Rockies as seen from US 89 north of Vaughn, Montana
Morning sky on US 89 south of Fairfield, Montana
Morning sky on US 89 south of Fairfield, Montana

The first town along US 89 north is Fairfield, where the highway continues northward. I pulled into town on an early Monday morning and things were still quiet. Like many small Montana towns, there are old neon signs, old buildings and a unique personality.

Morning in Fairfield, Montana
Morning in Fairfield, Montana
Old Neon Sign, Fairfield, Montana
Old Neon Sign, Fairfield, Montana
Silos against the morning sky in Fairfeld, Montana
Silos against the morning sky in Fairfeld, Montana
Mo Meth Mural in Fairfield, Montana. Murals such as these are common in many small towns in Montana
Mo Meth Mural in Fairfield, Montana. Murals such as these are common in many small towns in Montana

Fairfield is also the southern gateway to Freezeout Lake, which can be seen from US 89. This lake is a spring home to snow geese and swans as they fly north to Canada in the spring. I drove by a bit late to see the swarms of birds, but I did catch a couple of bird shots as I drove by.

Early morning on Freezeout Lake as seen from US 89 north of Fairfield, Montana
Early morning on Freezeout Lake as seen from US 89 north of Fairfield, Montana
Another nice view of Freezeout Lake
Another nice view of Freezeout Lake
A black-necked stilt looks for its morning breakfast at Freezeout Lake
A black-necked stilt looks for its morning breakfast at Freezeout Lake
Geese enjoy an early morning swim in Freezeout Lake
Geese enjoy an early morning swim in Freezeout Lake

Route 89 continues north into beautiful country on the approach to the town of Choteau, which is a southwestern gateway to Glacier (the town refers to itself as “The Front Porch to the Rockies”).

A metal cowboy sculpture on a hill south of Choteau, Montana is silhouetted against the morning sky.
A metal cowboy sculpture on a hill south of Choteau, Montana is silhouetted against the morning sky.
Welcome to Choteau, Montana
Welcome to Choteau, Montana

The town is the northern terminus of US 287 which actually starts in Port Arthur, Texas, about 1,791 miles away.  (I actually drove a good portion of US 287 on a previous trip to Texas from Dalhart through Amarillo and Wichita Falls into the Dallas area.) As I pulled into Choteau from the south I was greeted by two grumpy looking cowboys (in the Ace Hardware parking lot).  I contacted Ace owner Steve Nyland to inquire about the pieces and learned that they were made by Lincoln, Montana born artist Rick Rowley who now runs the Lost Woodsman Studio in Sedona, Arizona (which, by the way is ALSO on US 89 in Arizona) and is world renown for his art.

Big Wooden Cowboy in Choteau, Montana
Big Wooden Cowboy in Choteau, Montana (carved by Rick Rowley)
Grumpy Cowboy in Choteau, Montana
Grumpy Cowboy in Choteau, Montana (carved by Rick Rowley)
Visiting a couple of cranky cowboys in Choteau, Montana
Visiting a couple of cranky cowboys in Choteau, Montana

Choteau is home to a beautiful old courthouse, a 70s style motel and a few other unique things.

Teton County Courthouse, completed in 1906 and designed by Joseph B. Gibson and George H. Shanley
Teton County Courthouse, completed in 1906 and designed by Joseph B. Gibson and George H. Shanley
Old Neon - Big Sky Motel in Choteau, Montana
Old Neon – Big Sky Motel in Choteau, Montana
Welcome to Choteau, Montana sign
Welcome to Choteau, Montana sign
Old covered wagon on a building in Choteau, Montana
Old covered wagon on a building in Choteau, Montana
Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
Choteau, Montana
Choteau, Montana – banner with dinosaurs

It is also home to a unique little museum called the Old Trail Museum, and is one of 14 stops on the Montana Dinosaur Trail. They even have three big dinosaur statues outside of the museum.

Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
A T Rex coming after Sumoflam in Choteau, Montana at the Old Trail Museum
A T Rex coming after Sumoflam in Choteau, Montana at the Old Trail Museum
Grizzly Bear Exhibit at the Old Trail Museum
Grizzly Bear Exhibit at the Old Trail Museum
Bear Trap on display at the Old Trail Museum
Bear Trap on display at the Old Trail Museum

The folks at the Old Trail Museum are ultra friendly and there is a lot to see there including paleontology exhibits, grizzly bear exhibit, an art studio and a luscious ice cream shop!  A great place to bring the kids…and that is why we came with the grand kids.

Some of the Old Trail Museum
Some of the Old Trail Museum (including a dinosaur tail!)
Another dinosaur at the Old trail Museum
Another dinosaur at the Old trail Museum
The third outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum
The third outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum

The next town north of Choteau is Bynum, Montana.  The town is home to yet another dinosaur museum, the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, another Dinosaur Trail stop.  The center includes the world’s longest dinosaur, a skeletal model display of a Seismosaurus, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Other displays include the first baby dinosaur remains found in North America and the actual remains of other new dinosaur species.

Bynum, Montana
Bynum, Montana
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana
Come See the World's Largest Dinosaur in Bynum, Montana
Come See the World’s Largest Dinosaur in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana

This is another one of those very small towns, but it does have a unique character in that it has a dinosaur museum in a giant T Rex that you can see from the highway. Great for a photo opportunity!

Trex Agate Shop and wall mural in Bynum, Montana
Trex Agate Shop and wall mural in Bynum, Montana
Old Purkett's Grocery in Bynum, Montana
Old Purkett’s Grocery and Bus Depot in Bynum, Montana
J.D.'s Wildlife Sanctuary in Bynum. Apparently known for its steaks.
J.D.’s Wildlife Sanctuary in Bynum. Apparently known for its steaks.

Another few miles up the road US 89 meets Montana 219 which leads to Pendroy and then on to Conrad on Interstate 15.  Pendroy, Montana is a sparsely populated little place.

A dilapidated barn near Pendroy, Montana
A dilapidated barn near Pendroy, Montana
An old house in Pendroy, Montana
An old house in Pendroy, Montana

My biggest excitement about Pendroy was the discovery of some unique yard art outside a house there. It included a wind chime made of oxygen tanks, a metal bear sculpture, a metal gal on an old tiller and more.

Metal Gal on Tiller in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Gal on Tiller in Pendroy, Montana
Oxygen Tank Wind Chime in Pendroy, Montana
Oxygen Tank Wind Chime in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Grizzly Bear in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Grizzly Bear in Pendroy, Montana
Old cabin near Pendroy, Montana
Old cabin near Pendroy, Montana

The drive north on US Route 89 really offers some spectacular views of the mountains to the west and they are extra beautiful when the sun is coming up.

Rocky Mountains as seen from US 89 near Pendroy, Montana
Rocky Mountains as seen from US 89 near Pendroy, Montana
US 89 heading north from Pendroy, Montana
US 89 heading north from Pendroy, Montana
Another view of the Rocky Mountains just south of Dupuyer, Montana
Another view of the Rocky Mountains just south of Dupuyer, Montana

The next town on US 89 is the historic town of Dupuyer, Montana.  The sign below says it all, calling is a “colorful cattle town” and the “oldest town between Fort Benton and the Rocky Mountains.”  I found it to still be colorful.

Dupuyer History
Dupuyer History
Welcome to Dupuyer, another unique metal town sign, common in northern Montana
Welcome to Dupuyer, another unique metal town sign, common in northern Montana

While driving into Dupuyer, I noticed a unique cemetery on a hill west of town with the flag flying high and the Rockies in the background.  I decided to veer off the road a bit onto Dupuyer Creek Road and catch some of the scenery and was glad I did.

Dupuyer Cemetery on a hill with a spectacular view of the Rockies
Dupuyer Cemetery on a hill with a spectacular view of the Rockies
Dupuyer Creek Road is a gravel road west out of Dupuyer heading straight to the mountains
Dupuyer Creek Road is a gravel road west out of Dupuyer heading straight to the mountains
A flag flies at the gate to Anderson Ranch, just west of Dupuyer
A flag flies at the gate to Anderson Ranch, just west of Dupuyer

The road was also lined with colorful wildflowers all on bloom on this early morning.

Wildflowers set against the mountains
Wildflowers set against the mountains
Bright yellow wildflowers
Bright yellow wildflowers
Purple Wildflowers
Purple Wildflowers

Then, what struck me as fun was the “Boot Fence.”  I had seen one similar on a highway in Idaho in 2013.  Each post had its own boot on it.  I have also seen it in Texas.  I wondered about the tradition and found a few write-ups about the tradition. A search in Google images shows dozens of photos of boots on fences.

Many ranchers wear cowboy boots and like everything else, they eventually wear out. Ranchers are very resourceful and when this happens — they put the boots on top of the posts to keep them covered and prevent rain water from seeping into the posts and rotting them out.

Boot Post Fence near Dupuyer, Montana
Boot Post Fence near Dupuyer, Montana

Sometimes, a rancher will put boots on the fencepost to honor the passing of a beloved horse, a hired hand or fallen comrade. Also, before telephones were invented, a rancher would indicate he was home and the workday was over by hanging boots on the fence. Whatever the reasons, it is an interesting tradition in the west.

My favorite post
My favorite post

Finally, back on US 89 I was tempted to visit the Dupuyer Cache, but they were still not open when I drove by at 8:45 AM.

Dupuyer Cache sells yarn, honey, books, groceries and more.
Dupuyer Cache sells yarn, honey, books, groceries and more.
An old tractor at rest in Dupuyer, Montana
An old tractor at rest in Dupuyer, Montana

A couple of miles north of Dupuyer on US 89 is a cut off to Valier. In and of itself, Valier is not too exciting of small town but it is scenic as it borders Lake Frances, a great bird estuary.  On the afternoon leg of my trip with my grandchildren we ventured to Valier on our way to Choteau in order to take a ride out to “Rock City.”  It is a six or seven mile drive due north of town.  This is not the same Rock City that is located near Chattanooga, Tennessee and has advertisements on barns all over the southeast.  Rather, this Rock City is a natural “city” of rock formations that have been eroded away by the Two Medicine River. (See my detailed post about here)

Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana

To get to Rock City you drive north towards Cut Bank out of Valier on Cut Bank Highway and as the road turns west, you continue north on a dirt road which eventually turns into a little path that’s kind of bumpy and probably more suited to a four-wheel-drive or a large base vehicle.

A portion of the road to Rock City
A portion of the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City

On the approach through prairie lands and farmlands, a big Valley, a chasm opens up in front of you. The Two Medicine River flows down below and it was quite a strong current at the time we visited due to all the glacier runoff as spring had gotten started.

Chasm formed by Two Medicine River
Chasm formed by Two Medicine River (Glacier Wind Farm in background)
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana

Hundreds of strange rock formations dot the landscape, creating many eerie features.  Many of the formations are 12 to 20 feet tall and many have big flat tops on them indicating massive amounts of water in wind erosion over but I would assume is centuries of time.

Hoodoos of Rock City
Hoodoos of Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City

For the adventuresome person, hiking down to the river is probably quite possible as there are many locations that are not beholden with cliffs. On this occasion we walked around through many of the formations, but didn’t venture down into the canyon itself.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City formations near Valier, Montana

To me, though much different in appearance, it was not unlike Coal Mine Canyon which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation east of Tuba City, Arizona. Like Coal Mine Canyon, it is an undeveloped geologic location that might otherwise be a National Monument or a State Park. But in both cases neither of these appear to be headed in this direction. Both require going down narrow dirt roads and paths to get to them. Both have unique and otherworldly formations. And both have big chasms with beautiful scenes.

Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT
Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT

Up in northern Montana near Sweet Grass, there are some similar formations known as the Jerusalem Rocks. But the Rock City formations are much larger and much more expansive. (See my detailed post about Rock City here)

More Rock City Formations
More Rock City Formations

Continuing north on US 89 I entered the Blackfeet Reservation at its southern entrance. And, similar to the East Entrance in Cut Bank (see photos in THIS POST),  there are two scrap metal Indian Chiefs that greeted me. The same artist, Jay Polite Laber has put these sculptures at all four directional entrances to the reservation.

Sumoflam with Blackfeet Chiefs at south entrance to Blackfeet Reservation south of Browning, MT
Sumoflam with Blackfeet Chiefs at south entrance to Blackfeet Reservation south of Browning, MT.  These were made by Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber
South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation
South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation – artwork by Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber
Blackfeet Chief by Jay Polite Laber
Blackfeet Chief by Jay Polite Laber

From this location looking west, one can see the grandeur of the massive snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park.

Heading north on US Route 89
Heading north on US Route 89
Horses graze on Blackfeet land as seen from US 89 southeast of Browning, MT
A horse grazes on Blackfeet land as seen from US 89 southeast of Browning, MT
Approaching Browning, MT just south of the Junction with US Route 2
Approaching Browning, MT just south of the Junction with US Route 2

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