What could be more American than the wild mustang? There are several bands of horses scattered throughout the middle of the U.S. and though their genetic makeup differs, they are all hardy, healthy, intelligent survivors.
Last week I drove into the Devil's Canyon recreation area, northeast of Lovell, Wyoming and into southern Montana in hopes of a mustang sighting.
I was blown away by the quiet majesty of the painted desert terrain – massive red rocks and a curving cliffs that look down 1,000 feet to Bighorn Lake.
Armani and I went swimming.
I meditated for a minute atop these cliffs, while flying birds and wind swished past my face.
And while I was on my way back from the canyon, I spotted this guy:
Here's how close he was to my van:
Eating locally "hearkens back to some values that Americans have always admired, such as sustainability and ingenuity. I feel like our worship of corporate America has totally distorted that. Entrepreneurship and greed have become synonyms."
— Bozeman area resident and self-proclaimed "local food geek" Cherilyn DeVries at the Sabo Ranch event
In Harrison, near Pony, I attended a free afternoon educational event at a sustainable, grass-fed beef and dairy ranch run by Mark and Jenny Sabo. There were programs on a variety of creative and effective sustainable farming and building practices, as well as ranching in harmony with wildlife, living "off the grid" energy-wise, hunting for herbs and eating fresh year round.
For $8 I also had one of the best meals I've eaten in a while, along with a tall cool glass of raw milk.
"I'm not the type of person who needs a war to be patriotic. I think it (patriotism) is about actual land and people — loving the land and loving its wildlife. I try to define it a little differently."
Carl Esbjornson, Bozeman, at Montana Shakespeare in the Parks presentation of "The Tempest"
"I have lived in big cities,
but I think in cities you're cut off
from the wild springs of nature…
I don't know what it is, it's just something inside me I gained from being near wilderness."
-Chamber of Commerce employee and Bozeman resident Robert Ren Harrison (He's taking a picture of me as I interview him :))
This proud plastic palomino is owned by the American Legion. It rears over downtown Bozeman, Mont., population 35,000. I hear it's mechanized and can rotate, too.
Pony, Montana is considered a ghost town, but people do live here.
I love the anachronism of a reflector on an old hitching post.
Curious that the Bud flag gets to fly so high…
And how ironic I shot this building from the vantage point of the potholed road, since the next several days of my trip exploring the Tobacco Root Mountans were dominated by muddy, potholed roads. I never thought I'd crave a night in the suburbs (just one night to recuperate), but I did!
A turkey vulture flies over Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, near Whitehall, Mont.
The famed Corps of Discovery never found these natural wonders, though. They passed them on their way through the mountains, along the Jefferson River.
Many of the limestone formations inside the caverns have been named clever things by park service guides. You're looking at a stalagmite called "Old Faithful" and in the lower right corner, a broken column dubbed "the Fallen Idol" that is estimated to weigh eight tons.
Cities to me are like people. Each has a complex personality based on its history and geography. Some places take longer than others to "get" and I hate to leave until I do.
Butte, Montana really didn't gel for me until my second afternoon driving through a mostly vacant downtown, under a dense, relentless rain cloud. I stopped around the corner from an old, supposedly haunted brothel with a mannequin in the upstairs window, hit play on my stereo and the Drive By Truckers came on, singing "Where the Devil Don't Stay."
Butte is a manly, miner's town. It's all orange bricks and pot holed roads. There are casinos around nearly every corner. Just standing in the middle of it makes me crave a PBR.
I haven't been to Pittsburgh, yet, but I think it may feel similar.
I spent a few days in this canyon, where members of several Native American tribes used to go (and still go, though it is now frowned upon) for their coming-of-age spiritual journies.
This cave is way way far up a rock wall. Not sure how to get to it, but it looks like someone found a way…