Driving with My Camera: Mission Mountains in Northwest Montana

In late November I was driving south on Highway 93 near Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. The edges and lines in the Mission Mountain range compelled me to stop the car and take a quick photograph. I had a small camera so I couldn’t get all of the detail I wanted but even so, you can see the forces that created these mountains tell their stories by the marks they have left. I am curious about the physical response I have to these marks.

I believe part of why I feel a physical reaction to these massive mountains is related to the evidence of their dynamic ancient history drawn on the stone and framed by the sky, the light and a dusting of snow. The scale, power and time frame of this process is almost unfathomable to me. For millions of years sediment collected in the Belt basin 1.4 – 1.47 million years ago and then was eventually buried. About 80 million years ago the collision of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates forced this really old rock (Belt Supergroup) back to the surface. “About 66 million years ago, this process of uplift began to slow.” 40 millions years ago or so, vertical cracks formed later leading to collapse of the rock in some areas creating valleys. From 2-3 million years ago up to 10,000 years ago glaciers, (in some places the ice was over 4000 feet thick), along with rain, snow, and water flow shaped the rocks into the peaks we see today.

My camera is a way for me to acknowledge what I love and what asks for my attention. It is an opportunity to remember the relationships that shape this planet we get to call home. We humans are also shaping and interacting with the earth and we all have a responsibility to protect the soil, air, water and biodiversity that makes it possible for an equitable healthy environment. In 2020 may each of us do whatever we can to make this world a better place. May our actions support life. Happy New Year.

References: and Northwest Exposures: A Geologic Story of the Northwest by David Alt and Donald W. Hyndman