One of the things I love about travel is that it challenges the way you think about things and opens up whole new ways of looking at places and people. Driving through Montana did that for me.
When I thought of Montana, I thought of cowboys, cattle, fly fishing and wide open spaces and I am sorry to say not much else (well maybe Brad Pitt fly fishing…..) It has all of that, but so much more.
I loved Bozeman, Montana, the red brick downtown area had such a great feel, coffee shops with character, great restaurants, hip, athletic kids hanging out. We had lunch at La Tinga, and I ordered the chicken potato tacos, the woman warned me they were spicy, but I thought they were “gringo not from California spicy”. They were delicious and so spicy that when I went to get coffee 10 minutes later down the street the barista saw me sweating and said “you ate the chicken tacos at La Tinga didn’t you…..” she gave me a free glass of milk.
We also loved Missoula, Montana, where Sam’s aunt teaches at the university. We walked down to the river near downtown and there was a huge famers market, a large micro brew festival and bands playing. It was great, and again not what I expected. After buying pig jowl bacon from a stand at the market (the farmer told us it was the new rage with chefs and after eating it I know why, OMG!) we watched young guys surfing in the river. I loved that I was so surprised by these towns and also sort of pissed at myself for being surprised. I have traveled so much, I should know better by now.
One thing I did learn about Montana is the ecological and economic price that is paid from copper mining. Driving by some of the old copper boom towns and seeing the decimated mountains and ghost towns reminded me of the huge cost for our natural resources.
As far as camping goes, after our busy time in Yellowstone, Sam and I wanted a mellow campground away from crowds for a few days and we found Lost Creek State Park. It was almost vacant, far from everything, and beautiful. We hiked up a lush river to old miner cabins holding our bear spray, (there was bear poop and scratched trees everywhere). I am still a little terrified about the prospect of meeting one of these huge creatures on a hiking trail. Sam and I take turns yelling every few minutes (or singing songs), letting the bears know we are near. It seems to have worked so far =).
After Lost Creek we headed up for my favorite part of the trip so far, Montana’s crown jewel, Glacier National Park!