Tripping thru Shonkin on The 4th of July

I did not expect to see many critters mid day like this but we seen quite a few including twin fawns. Photos coming up.

If you have read my “Tripping thru the Highwood Mountains” post then you will have a general idea of the route we take with this Shonkin drive. We turn off the highway a few miles before getting to the town of Highwood. As the crow flies you might say the drive runs somewhat parallel but lower as it’s the foothills of the Highwood mountains.

The first few miles are lower farm land with a nice view of the Highwood mountains off on the right.

Shonkin – AKA – the Shonkin Sag is more of an area and not a town. And just another of the beautiful and scenic places in central Montana where we live. Actually, where we live is more north central in the state.

The Shonkin Sag is a prehistoric fluvioglacial landform located along the edge of the Highwood mountains. It is one of the most famous prehistoric meltwater channels in the world. If your interested in learning more about Fluvioglacial landform you can go to this LINK


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I read it was on the north side of the Highwood mountains and also read it was on the east side. It is mostly on the north side with one end of it that is kind of on the northeast side. I kinda laughed at the little information I was finding as some of it was quite off and iffy.

There are some farm and ranches dotted thru the area and even a small community center. And I do mean small. Come Christmas time they have a get together. This LINK provides an interesting little article with a few photos from the Central Montana website..

Other than what I have written there is not a lot of information about the area. Most of the links I found focus more on Lost Lake which is in the area but that is a whole photo tour in itself and maybe for another post at some point.

I have to say it was a spectacular day for most of the trip. Some dark clouds rolled thru now and then but it was mostly sunny and a pleasant temperature that was in the 60s until we got back down in farm country and then it warmed up into the 70s. A little cool for this time of year but we have had some crazy weather. I was glad it was cooler since the old Suburban had been having issues with the AC working right. Us nor the dogs would have been the least bit happy with 80s temps and no AC.

Have you ever wondered what those plants were that look like dandelions on steroids?

I was testing out a new camera with a 50mm lens so I had to stop by the side of the road and take a shot. They’re called Tragapogon, also known as Goatsbeard or Salsify. They’re a naturalized non-native flower in the Aster family.

Right before we start to climb we go down into a dip where there is an old farmstead near the road followed by a big field of bright yellow canola that has been planted by a area farmer. I generally take a photo or two of this old farmstead every year when we make this drive, and every year more of the old buildings around it have fallen down. This was also the first year we saw Canola growing up here. We have seen a lot more canola and chickpeas growing all over the country this year thou.

I love this time of year when the cattle have had their calves and are all out to pasture. It’s just nice to see them grazing and taking life easy in the green pastures. Soon enough it will be weaning and shipping for the calves.

D’fly Photoz copyright

Shonkin creek runs thru most of the trip. I caught this little doe standing in the middle of it. Water must taste pretty good. Looks like she is licking her lips.


Some of the views are beautiful, especially this time of year when they are so green. Actually they stayed green longer this year due to all the moisture we have had thru the early summer. We made this trip a little later than we usually do and missed the Arrowroot Balsamleaf that generally carpets the hillsides thru this area.


Balsamleaf – stock photo

We wander by the little community center I spoke of earlier. A couple ranches also pop up along the road. It’s getting to be mid day and we are hungry. Up the road a little bit further is a fork. To the left takes us the way we will go home and going straight goes up thru an area with a few cabins and small campgrounds. We continue straight for now.

Driving by – we were kinda surprised not to see more campers being the 4th of July. Maybe more would come for the weekend and maybe they did not want to drive all those miles of gravel road, some of it really rough, to get up there. Hard to say. We drove on up to the end of the road. Well, actually its not the end but the road turns into more of a trail than a road and looks to go into someone’s ranch land. We stopped to have lunch here and let the dogs out for a run around.

Even thou we missed out on the Balsamleaf there were still a lot of other wildflowers to be found. Many of them growing right where we stopped to have lunch. All photos copyright of D’fly Photoz

After a little lunch we stretched our legs a bit and the dogs did as well. Then we headed back down. I love seeing the old buildings and always wonder about who lived there so many years ago. And this longhorn cow. She seems to be bagged up (full of milk) but we did not see a calf anywhere.

We took the turn that heads back down. Right after that is a spot that I always grab a photo or two. Today the clouds rolled thru the forefront while the sun was striking the peak in the back.

We will soon be on and pass thru the huge SAG ranch and then down to Geraldine. It’s a slow decent and we see a lot more of the unusual rock formations.

Spotted this doe and her twin fawns just below one of these rock formations. Actually I spotted the doe and while taking her photo my husband spotted the twins just left and back of her along the bottom of the rocky ledge. It took me a minute to find them with the camera. I figured she had a baby or two nearby since she didn’t flee as soon as we stopped. She were probably a hundred yards or so off and the babies a bit further which was a real stretch for my little camera. The quality always suffers at these distances (note: long lens for the new camera coming next week.) However, for a point and shoot camera it has a 65x zoom and has really done pretty darn well. Photos are copyright of D’fly Photoz

As we dropped a bit lower in elevation we spotted this Antelope with her baby up on a point. Nearby the rolling hills were a bright yellow as far as the eye can see. We had so much moisture this year that the wild mustard has went crazy. I do not remember ever seeing so much of it before. Another deer was standing in the tall grass and flowers above the road giving us the evil eye. I am sure she had a baby tucked away back there as well. We did not dwell on her.. I snapped a quick one and we were on our way.

We eased back down out of the rolling hills and back to farm country all around with a nice view of Square Butte on our right.

Soon enough we could see the fun little town of Geraldine coming into view. I have a fondness for Geraldine. Back a few years when we still lived way out of town, our grandson came to live with us. I believe he was 15. We enrolled him in high school in Geraldine. It was 25 miles of gravel and dirt roads from our house to Geraldine. Even if he wanted to ride the bus to school he would have to drive 12 miles to get on it. He played sports so the bus was out anyway. I will not even go into the number of miles and the beating his vehicle took over the next couple of years. Nor the number of miles and the beating WE took chasing him around to every little town within a 100 miles or so to all his football and basketball games. It was quite a couple of years for us at our age but it was also some of the best times ever and I would not trade it for anything.

There is more to the Grandson -living with us in the country- story. Especially when he came from 30 or 40 in his class to 11 in his class school.. I am laughing remembering the look on his face when he first saw that school.. To much to add here.


Linda Carlson


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Thanks for Riding Along

4 thoughts on “Tripping thru Shonkin on The 4th of July

  1. Beautiful pictures again! I love the ones of the fawns, they’re so cute! And that balsamleaf is beautiful, it looks like little sunflowers, and in case you hadn’t noticed, I like sunflowers! 🙂

  2. What beautiful pictures! Montana is a place I have always wanted to visit, now you made it worse. Thanks!

  3. Shonkin Sag…what a neat name! It looks like a beautiful area and I love the pictures as well. Montana is now definitely on my list of places to visit!

  4. What a beautiful trip! Thanks for taking me along. I feel like I was riding right beside you.
    🙂 gwingal

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