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Summer Vacation in Montana!
Summer Vacation in my home state Montana
Around the end of May in Montana, Winter has finally released its icy grip (yes, May! We had a snowstorm the week before school let out for the summer on May 28th!). I've lived in the northeastern part of the state most of my life, also teaching here for more than 20 years. Every year, I've taken my children on fantastic vacations, mostly out of state. But one of the best vacations I ever had with them was an impromptu camping trip around Montana.
As we traveled, our destination vaguely "west" -- I purchased items along the way -- tents, sleeping bags, hatchet, lantern, etc. It was the best trip, and totally unplanned. Our dog came along, then just a puppy. One day, as I was washing clothes and the kids were swimming (did I mention I am a KOA camper? Must have my shower!)....our dog P.J. was tied to a tree near our tent. When we got back to the tent, he had torn out a panel and was lying comfortably and happily on one of the sleeping bags. We couldn't get too mad at him; he was lonesome and wanted to be near us somehow, even if it was at the expense of the rest of our trip! We stayed that night at a hotel, and it felt so stuffy and hot! I loved sleeping outside. We even felt sorry for those "campers" who parked their RV's near our tents and didn't fully experience the camping adventure.
That camping trip was about 15 years ago and my children are now 24 and 25, still with great memories of our annual summer trek to wherever we wanted to go. Now I have a 7 year old and have taken her on great vacations as well. Last year, we had an absolutely perfect trip to the west coast - Portland to see my older daughter (now 25) and Seattle to visit family as well, including a trip to the ocean. Kristyn has also been to Minnesota where my son (now 24) lives, so we've had fun at the Mall of America, stood under Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, along with the world's largest buffalo in Jamestown, ND. Great memories, great vacations.
This summer, I had planned to go to Disneyland with her but my budget isn't going to stretch that far this year. Our Montana winter got the best of my house, with a power outage for four days that caused a lot of damage when water pipes burst in the wall. To make a long story short, insurance covered about half of what the expenses were -- thus, the budget changes! However, that will not stop me from taking a fantastic vacation -- right here in Montana!
I need to reinvest in a good tent and sleeping bags, but still have my hatchet and lantern. Kristyn is being very grown-up about the change in plans for Disneyland and is excited for this adventure. And she loves it that our dog (Maya -- much better behaved than little PJ was) gets to travel with us!
My trip will start in the far northeastern corner of Montana, where we live. It's over 600 miles across our state and my first destination will be Glacier Park at the far northwest corner. Majestic, snow-covered mountains, crystal clear lakes, and the Going To The Sun Highway -- where at the summit, we can frolick in the snow and watch the mountain goats balancing on the high precipices as graceful as ballerinas. I have a little aside story about the mountain goats there. On a trip with my older children, we parked the car on the Going to the Sun Highway and took a little walk down a path -- about 100 yards away from the car. Lots of other cars stopped there as well. As we got close to one of the cliffs, we heard a rustling in the bushes. My first thought was "BEAR!" and I realized we were in a bad situation (cliff on one side, bear on the other). Instead, however, it was a little mountain goat, running down HIS path (the one we were trespassing on), planning to take a little trip down the cliff. He stopped short when he saw that we were in the way --- then seemed to shake his head in disgust at our presence, and headed straight down the cliff a few feet away from us. It was awesome!
After Glacier Park, we will enjoy the beautiful drive down the western part of the state, including Paradise Valley -- so aptly named. For me, I can't go further until I have stopped and camped along the Flathead Lake, eaten Flathead cherries and huckleberries, and shopped in the quaint little town of Big Fork, known by a number of names such as the "Village by the Bay" and "One of the 100 Best Small Art Towns of the Nation". I've always told my older kids, when they make their fortunes they can buy me a cabin by Flathead Lake (or the Ocean, I'm not particular!!).
So many great places to stop and camp -- but before we get to Yellowstone Park, I must take Kristyn to the Virginia City summer theatre. The last time I was there, it was SO much fun! We all laughed until tears ran down our cheeks! Virginia City was once a Montana capitol city, also a gold mining town -- which most of them were in that area. Bannack is another definite stop as we tour Montana. I was there once during Bannack Days, and it was a fantastic day! People were dressed in period-style of the gold rush days (when Bannack was also a capitol of Montana once upon a time). They tell of the haunted Meade Hotel, where a little girl who drowned in Grasshopper Creek haunts the building; also the Bessette House where children were quaranteened and many died -- their cries still echoing in the darkness. Besides the haunted stories, it was so much fun watching the re-enactments, eating true Kettle Corn, celebrating a town that was once booming from gold fever.
On another trip, I took my older kids to Crystal Park, in the vicinity of Anaconda/Dillon (southwest MT). For no charge, we were allowed to dig for crystals....just needed a screen, a little trowel, and lots of patience. Friends of mine found beautiful amethysts, and we found some very cool crystals ourselves. For rockhounds like us, it was awesome!
I hope to recreate and improvise on another trek around Montana with my little girl, building memories and celebrating this big beautiful state of ours. We'll end the vacation with Yellowstone Park, stopping to walk and enjoy the breathtaking views from the tops of waterfalls, watch Old Faithful erupt, marvel at the beauty of the ever-changing scenery caused by the geysers. And of course, the wildlife there (buffalo, elk, etc.) and all around Montana - are a good reason to drive slowly and enjoy what nature has given us.
The month of June is busy with preparations for our annual variety show and special Pioneer Days at our museum in Scobey. I've worked there for 20 summers -- just for two weeks each year -- booking tickets for our "internationally famous" Dirty Shame Show! Then we HIT the ROAD! I might add, the Pristine Road -- no sad oil spills, no polluted skies or waters, just the Open Road and anticipation of a wonderful vacation in my home state --Montana!