• A summer virga over the Little Belt Mountains and Middle Fork Judith River WSA.

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Photo by Patrick Colleran
Upper Layout Creek in the Pryor Mountains (photo by Zack Porter)

Upper Layout Creek in the Pryor Mountains (photo by Zack Porter)

There’s still snow covering Montana’s high country, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of places to get out on the trail. 

View from Ross Creek Cedars trail (photo by Sandii Mellen)

View from Ross Creek Cedars trail (photo by Sandii Mellen)

This time of the year offers unique opportunities to explore our public lands. 

On a quest for standing petrified trees (photo by Roger Jenkins)

On a quest for standing petrified trees (photo by Roger Jenkins)

A “quest.” This is what my friend Mike called our first hike in search of some standing petrified trees in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.

Backpacking along Pitamakan Pass in Glacier N.P. (photo by Kerry Neils)

Backpacking along Pitamakan Pass in Glacier N.P. (photo by Kerry Neils)

The idea was to take my sister on her very first backpacking trip. Incidentally, this would also be her first time sleeping outside, her first time hiking in the Pacific Northwest, and her first time putting on shoes intended for dirt and rock and rain.

Indian paint brush and backpackers in the Crazies (photo by Roger Jenkins)

Indian paint brush and backpackers in the Crazies (photo by Roger Jenkins)

First came black skies, then thunder, and then lightning bolts less than a half-mile away, reverberating in the cirque in which we were camped. Next came wind, driving rain, a bit of hail, and finally sleet. Lots of it. 

Looking out over Frenchman Breaks (photo by Tyler Courville)

Looking out over Frenchman Breaks (photo by Tyler Courville)

The prairie reveals its startling beauty to those who go in search of it.