Who amongst us doesn’t daydream, especially during those seemingly never ending February days of blasting winds and subzero temperatures, of Montana summers? Seemingly never ending daylight come June, the mountains and rivers beckoning us for adventures that don’t require snowsuits and layers of expedition weight clothes are the images that kept me somewhat sane when this winter forced us inside, huddling for warmth and sanity. And now, with the approach of summer at our doorsteps, we can finally rejoice. We made it through the winter, and the season that makes all of us feel like royalty has arrived.
I must confess that being a “local” of the Flathead Valley makes me feel like a queen, especially when I pull off on the river and see tourists sampling our majesty on a guided raft trip. I can’t help but gloat to my friends who do not live in Montana with spring photos of biking up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Oh this? Oh this is just something we do each spring. It’s no big deal, I text. Some of them haven’t visited us yet and when I send these photos, bragging that my kid thinks of Glacier National Park as his own personal extended backyard, my smugness is hardly disguised. Millions of people plan their once-and-a-lifetime trip to this place, and yeah, it’s just a normal weekend for us to bike up the famed road or take our raft down the free-flowing rivers, seeing bears amble along the mountainsides. It’s totally normal that my 3-year-old son logged more ski days, including one mini “ski-mountaineering” adventure, than I did.
My friends have endured this barrage of brag from me for more than 15 years now. They’ve gotten used to it, and some have traveled west for a visit and ask me where my crown resides when I’m shuffling down a trail, giant smile on my face, and making them stop and pause and learn all about the different blooms that explode in the alpine country. Once they’ve visited they can understand why I fled the Midwest after graduating college, at a time when it would have made sense to find a job. Job? Not so much. Montana? Call that a win, and just ignore that crippling student load debt.
We’re on the brink of another summer, one that is already full of plans, like they always are. Anyone who comes to visit us not only has to deal with my exaggerated sense of awesomeness, directly linked to winning the geographical jackpot of living in Montana but also may find themselves stuck in Polebridge for three days instead of the one afternoon that I promised would be a fun, day trip to the North Fork. Who needs camping gear when the back of your car will do and it’s light out until 11 p.m.? Plus we can subside on pastries!
It’s these same friends and family who have put up with my obnoxiousness and have also come to learn after this decade plus that they too can have a taste of this grandeur that infects me and tends to make me a better human being when connecting with mountains and rivers as opposed to anything digital. Come prepared with camping gear for when my royal whim takes hold and a day trip extends into hikes, floats and merriment.
After all, I have many long, cold wintery nights to plot and polish my crown.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.