Paradise on the Plains, Medicine Lake Wildlife Refuge

March 30

Big Sky Country!  Where horizons and skies meet during the day and become one at sun set.

On the banks of a lazy Gallatin River, my grand nephew, Joey, married Hope, a sweet, lovely woman, whom he had dated since attending Montana State University in Bozeman.  I love weddings.  The air is full of excitement and everyone waits with anticipation for the bride to make her grand entrance.  Hopes’  entrance was grand indeed.

As I am the  relative who lives at a great distance, it is always a delight to reconnect with my nieces and nephews, and get to know them as adults.  I remember them as cute children, but living hundreds of miles from family, it has been more difficult to know them as mature young people.

Even though my time is limited at a wedding, it is packed with laughter over meals, raising a glass or two, and DANCING.  You always know a persons capacity for joy by the way they dance.  Lot’s of joy at this wedding.

Traveling from Bozeman, to Medicine Lake, Montana, felt like the end of the earth, and heaven to me all at the same time.  Mile after mile of alternating fields of grain and pasture, dotted with the occasional herd of cattle and horses, is another part of the American landscape that very few of us are privileged to experience.

I have never known remoteness filled with so much beauty.  I felt so alone, yet so filled with life at the same time.  At times I felt overwhelmed by the endless sea of skies and open range. I felt intimidated, but I noticed I became more alive with every mile I traveled. Driving further and further into the hinterland I could feel myself becoming so expansive my body began to tingle as I drew in short gasps of air. My mind was empty and my soul was filled.

Medicine Lake is where one of my favorite nieces lives.  Actually, all my nieces are my favorites.  Laura inherited the ‘good cook’ gene, the gene that flew right past me, and owns the restaurant in Medicine Lake.

When I arrived she was getting ready for opening day.  Knowing my passion for open spaces and photography she asked me to take a few shots in the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  “Photos of the area to grace my restaurant walls” she said.

I was more than thrilled to accommodate Laura. By 5:00 a.m. I was stepping into Laura’s truck and heading into the Wildlife Refuge. Slowly inching my way on a dirt path in the darkness, I sensed I was going to be in photographers paradise.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Dawn was breaking by the time I reached the half way point around Medicine Lake.  As I stepped out of the truck my nostrils were filled by the most intoxicating smell of sweet wild grasses wet with dew.

Sunrise on Medicine Lake

The sky was on fire long before the sun rose out of the lake. Whopping cranes and ducks were swooping overhead as beaver and muskrats swam amid the tall grasses near waters edge.

Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge is an “oasis in a sea of dry grassy plain,” covering 31,702 acres of land and the lake covering an additional 8,218-acres.  Another 28,438-acres includes 17 smaller lakes.  It is a bird lovers paradise, as over 283 species are at home in the refuge, and I spotted over 50 pelicans wading near one of the islands.

I stood mesmerized as I watched a hungry coyote stalking two lone deer as they drank from the lake.  Luckily the deer out maneuvered them in the nick-of-time.

A family of fox playfully wrestled with one another before trotting off to find breakfast.   As I spotted a mother duck proudly parading her young, I couldn’t help but ooohhh and aaahhh out loud.  I was in paradise on the plains.

Thanks Joey and Hope for inviting me to take part in a memorable wedding.

Thanks Laura for introducing me to Medicine Lake.

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