Facing Main

Terrain of Guidebooks

It’s part of my spring ritual to dream about the days to come when we see how much activity we can squeeze in once the ground thaw

By Maggie Doherty

More predictably than late-season snowpack, this is the time of year that the terrain of my nightstand takes on a new layer: guidebooks. My already book-heavy accumulation stresses the small dresser, but spring marks the daydreams of less-snowy adventures on the horizon. Like any good outdoorsy-slash-bookish type, I simply deposit more books atop the novels and nonfiction tomes that I’ve worked through during the many wintry and dark months. Others may begin starting seeds or sketching plans for gardens, but my mind schemes the rivers to run and the trails to explore now that our youngest has graduated from being carried in a backpack. It’s part of my spring ritual to dream about the days to come when we see how much activity we can squeeze in once the ground thaws, and we no longer can tell our kids that it’s time for bed because it’s dark at 5 p.m. Now that it’s light until almost 8 p.m., and the hours of daylight only gaining strength, I’m part of a family who can’t really stand to be inside for there are bikes to ride, mud pies to serve and trees to climb.

The spring and summer-to-come energy feels like an all-time high this year, particularly because my kids are getting older, and the youngest is shedding the trappings of toddlerhood. No more strollers, gone are the diapers, no more naps. In terms of planning for the summer ahead, not factoring in the afternoon nap gives greater latitude to what we could do, so I’m even more eager to stitch together romps in the woods or multi-day river trips. Planning for campground spots and even access to Glacier National Park has changed due to its popularity, but the necessary changes to how we access one of America’s most grand national parks means we must plan a bit ahead of time and provides an opportunity to explore places just beyond Glacier’s boundaries. 

My list of proposed adventures is a bit grandiose, but isn’t that how it should be? Is there ever enough time to squeeze in all those floats, hikes, campouts, lake days, bike rides, and road trips? Just as I can never have one s’more, the answer is no. How lucky are we: all this access to public lands, to wild spaces, to the many lakes, rivers, and trails. It’s quite dreamy. And yes, there’s no denying that what we see on our hikes or at the lake is very different than say five, 10, or even 20 years ago. I’m not immune to bellyaching about what feels like the whiplash-inducing change to the population in the Flathead and seeing how it also connects to critical concerns like housing insecurity and affordability, impacts on natural resource use (clean up your garbage, people!), and worker shortages. At times, living in one of the fastest growing regions in the West, and especially in Montana, can feel like we’re trapped in a snow globe: shaken at whim and whirled about. But it does settle and the dreamy landscape returns to clarity. 

Then I thumb through yet another guidebook and begin to wildly plan. 

Maggie Doherty is a writer and book reviewer who lives in Kalispell with her family. 

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