Montana isn't called big sky country for nothing, and in order to have those big skies, the landscape needs to be pretty open. Back on the road with only the hint of mountains in the distance, mostly obscured by smoke.
There had been smokey haze in the distance since South Dakota, but once I left Billings, the smoke from wildfires became so thick that it obscured the mountain ranges I was so longing to see. If you click for larger pics you may be able to make out the mountains in the one above.
I stopped in Belgrade for lunch - I'd been driving with the air circulation feature running and the smoke just seemed to get thicker the farther I went. No sitting out in a nice park to enjoy my lunch.
I found this hard to believe and it was really getting to me. I started thinking about studies in monochromatics. I later found out that most of the smoke was due to a fire in Idaho and another one in Montana.
I was headed up and over the continental divide, but there was no relief there either. The smoke simply hung along the slopes making picture taking challenging. I love the rock formations going through this area but there really aren't many places to pull off and get shots of them. Again, it is the lure of granite slabs turned up on end that attracts me.
And of course, the occasional flash of turning leaves.
Down out of the mountains I came - will this smoke never end? No, it won't. I learned that the visibility along this whole stretch of interstate was 4-5 miles. I knew this leg of the trip would be basically powering through a long mostly boring stretch of Montana (which goes on forever btw) but this was ridiculous.
I stopped at a rest stop near Anaconda and discovered that there was a scenic loop road if I was willing to put on a few extra miles.
|Looking towards Anaconda|
I studied the map and could see a pass, decided this had to be better than staying on the interstate in this pall. If you click on the pic above, you can see a smokestack that marks the town of Anaconda. Maybe I'd get out of the smoke, maybe not, but maybe there'd be something truly scenic worth the drive up into those mountains. And there was...