Over Memorial Day weekend, five of my high school friends piled into a minivan and came to the Flathead. It was a surprise trip for one of them, a monumental birthday we had been planning for months. Still, looking back, it’s a wonder how we were able to pull it off.
While I attended high school in Spokane, Washington, many of us spread out after graduation. Three are still in that region, another lives near Portland, Oregon, the birthday boy married a Canadian and now lives on Vancouver Island, B.C., and I settled down in Montana.
The logistics of planning a trip where we can all be together is complicated. In other words, you better want to see each other to make it work. Luckily, we all do, and we take long drives and (sometimes) flights every couple years to be together. And when the six of us arrive somewhere, the most frequent comment is, “I can’t believe you still have so many friends from high school.” I can’t either.
This was a special gathering for me because I played host. And Montana, which can be temperamental this time of year, delivered the goods.
The day they arrived, Glacier National Park announced it had opened Going-to-the-Sun Road on the west side to Avalanche. The first day was spent hiking to Avalanche Lake in overcast, albeit surprisingly dry, weather. The spring runoff was raging to the point that when we arrived to our destination, the rushing waterfalls could be heard from across the lake. It was at that time one of my friends turned to me and asked, “You actually live here?” I do, and the hikes deeper in the park only get better.
From there, we explored the canyon area on our way back home. When cell service became available, I had a text from a friend who invited us all over for dinner. “You know, there’s six of us?” I wrote back. She knew, and volunteered to feed us all.
The next day was much like the first, except the sun was out. We began with a hike on the new section of Whitefish Trail in the Haskill Basin area. We ate lunch at a local brewery. We grilled that evening with some local friends — this time, at my house.
You see, Montana delivered the goods in more that just scenery, but also its locals’ hospitality and curiosity. One day we wore matching T-shirts to commemorate the weekend, which led to plenty of questions, which then again led to more comments about how lucky we are to still be friends more than two decades after high school graduation. We seem to know that more as we age.
We once were only able to get together — at least the whole group — every four years or so. Now it’s becoming an annual occurrence. Last year we camped out, with everyone’s families in tow, on the St. Joe River in Idaho. We plan to do the same next year.
It’s much easier to lose touch with friends than maintain friendships that are spread out over hundreds of miles. It’s easier to point to work obligations and travel time as a reason not to plan a trip together. But what this weekend proved, as ones like it always do, is that it’s always worth it. This time, however, Montana made it even better.