because montana



Since May 4th, I have logged roughly 2,854 miles of solo-road-tripping to and from Montana. 

I can't say this was always the reasonable choice to make when it came to deciding what to do with myself when I had a handful of days off, but I can promise you these trips were the best decisions I've made in a long time.

The trip to Red Lodge was obvious. And long overdue at that. 

But going to Libby, Montana was, in so many ways, a journey that I think was planned for me long before I had ever even heard of that sleepy little mountain town. It was an adventure toward a friendship that has been three years (or, honestly, a lifetime) in the making.

Three years ago when I met Dani, neither one of us were in a very good place to be honest. We were two girls kind of messed up in our own spectacular ways, each dealing with heartbreak, loneliness and insecurities for a whole circus of reasons. Strangely, I don't think either of us would go back and undo any of it, knowing as we do now that those trials got us to the people we've become, but still... We were pretty raw back then.

And to an extent, I don't know that I'd have imagined we'd keep each other after all was said and done.

But we did. And only partially because few other people care to deal with our bizarre personalities.



Even as relationships changed and the summer of The Camaraderie came to an end, we stayed in touch, checking in every so often and catching up over too much food at Tasty N Sons.

When I told my mom I was going back to Montana her response was,

"Wait, now how do you know Dani?"

The short answer? She dated Shamoo and then we kept her.

The long answer, I'd come to discover after spending four days crawling through the mountains and eating all of the foods and drinking all of the beers, was that Someone up there had this one planned a long, long time ago... It just took a while for us to catch up with ourselves...

My first night in town, after mowing down on the insane homemade pizzas her fella Grant (new brewmaster at the soon-to-open Cabinet Mountain Brewing), Dani and I grabbed a bottle of wine and  down by the Kootenai River to talk about life and solve all the world's problems. And what was amazing was that it was like meeting for the first time. We traded life stories and got ourselves up to speed on so much of what the other's life had been up to that point, and between the sounds of the river and that bottle of cabernet we realized that the next few days were going to be more than just a mini-vacation... They were going to be game-changers. 

Like I said - this was a journey that found me. Not the other way around.










Saturday morning, after waking up with the sun pouring in through the window of a room I'm still dreaming about, we munched on the homemade granola with homemade almond milk (Dani, teach me your ways!) and drank coffee in their sun soaked living room while we planned our route into the mountains for the day. 

Our original plan was to camp out but we decided that coming home to Grant's "pork-fat burgers" sounded like a much better idea.

But first - adventure!





Yeah, so Dani and I were in old mining country, but also bear country.

Bear poop everywhere.

And we were the geniuses that went out with little-to-no protection that included my knife and our girlish screams if it had come down to it.

Call me crazy, but if I'm gonna face down a grizzly bear I will require more than just bear spray.

Next time I'm bringing a gun. 

Moving on!










So this hike… Let me tell you about these here backwoods…

The hike up to Granite Lake it littered with steep inclines, barely-there-trails, avalanche paths, spectacular viewpoints, crossing back and forth over rivers (maybe the same river? probably the same river), log bridges, fording steams, bear poop, snow… Six or seven miles up into the mountains and you're going to be blown away by just about everything.

I want to live there.



By the way, there was new life coming up through the impossible-to-imagine-anything-surviving avalanche trail… I'll be honest, I almost started crying it was so beautiful in its own sweet little way.



See that up there? Avalanches.

That'll remind you how wonderfully magnificent the world around you is.


 

And then we got here. 

By our estimates, we couldn't have been more than 10 minutes from the lake. The tree lines, the way the mountains were cratering… We could practically smell it.

The photo above was just as we were crossing over the river one more time… The greenery on the right hand side of the photo was what we were crawling through when two things happened:

1) I smacked my knee on a tree stump that I couldn't see due to the thick shrubbery (there's a good Monty Python joke in there somewhere) and smacked it so hard that I'm not sure what what louder, the "thunk" sound it made or the string of eloquently screamed obscenities I emitted. Either way, there was a second there where I legitimately thought I'd dislocated my knee and as a result I spent the rest of the trip with what appeared to be a kneecap on my kneecap. And...

2) WE SAW A MOOSE. And you know what? 6+ miles up a mountain, hot and sweaty and tired and hungry, the back end of a bull moose - all rounded and brown and fluffy like - looks an awful lot like the back end of a grizzly, all rounded and brown and fluffy like. Until you see it's antlers. And it moves. And starts trotting off toward the lake.

Dani and I both froze. I mean, we froze. I think it took almost a full minute for us to process what had just happened. We basically stood there holding onto each other trying to snap back out of it. It was surreal. 

Have you ever seen a moose?

THEY ARE HUGE.

And prone to tweak out and mow you down for no reason.

So long story short, we decided not to be heroes and started back down the mountain. 

"Death by moose" was not quite what either of us had in mind. I mean, maybe that's cool for some - pretty cool epitaph I guess - but eh, you know, not for me. I'm good for now.

So yeah… Back over the river and through the wood.

We propped up back down by the river a couple miles back down and scarfed down the meat and cheese we'd brought with us (and my traditional nip of whiskey) and, now deeply paranoid by the fact that WE SAW A MOOSE, sat looking over our shoulders every five seconds like escaped convicts. 




Worth it.

Dani summed it up better than I can though:

"Hiked up to Granite Lake with Lauren Morton-Farmer today. Gorgeous! We saw a moose. A MOOSE. I don't remember anything else. I saw a moose. My life is complete."





Oh, and then there was that time we stopped in the middle of an avalanche to take a self-timed photo and both inexplicably struck a jazz-hands pose.

That's really the only reason we're friends, folks.





The rest of the trip can pretty much be summed up with food, beer and walking like an idiot because we thought it was a good idea to climb mountains.

It's our own damn fault.

But seriously you guys, these burgers.

Grant does this thing where he grinds up bacon in the food processor and mashes it into the ground beef.

And then my head explodes because WHY DID I NEVER THINK TO DO THAT?

And Dani cooked up kale and asparagus and you guys, I can't even tell you how well and happily we ate in those few days I was there.

Food, beer, mountains and friends. 

God, I can't explain how happy.





Also, see above… That's what 11pm looks like there on the longest day of the year.


OH OH! And did I mention that we were really close to Canada? Apparently AT&T thought we crossed the border and I then I panicked momentarily because my passport needs to be renewed and Grant gently reminded me that I'd have probably noticed a border crossing.

Clearly, this was the first time he'd met me and would be surprised to see how occasionally oblivious I can be when I'm too busy looking out the window hoping to see a rogue ram or other cliff-dwelling animals in the wild.

But we did see that moose so… Where was I?




We splashed around in Grave Creek for a while to kill time while we waited for Homestead Ales to open up.

OK, let's talk about this place now… Grant and Dani had discovered it about a week earlier.

It's in the middle of nowhere just outside the little main street through Eureka, MT. It opens at 3pm and while we were the first ones there, the locals started showing up not long after.

Big trucks and quads, gators and assorted dirt-covered vehicles. Because that's just how they roll.

I love Montana. 

Anyway, yes, beer… They take your name down as soon as you order because you're not getting more than three pints which I think is actually pretty awesome. They want you to stay safe - I love Montana. Montana looks out for you.

So we sat for a few hours, sucked down some IPAs and continued to fall all over ourselves with how incredibly blessed we were to be right there, living a life so beautiful it was almost too much to take it.

I still can't wrap my head around it.





By the time I had to leave Monday morning, I had rooted myself firmly in denial that the weekend was already over. But, for all that, I also determined that I'd be back.

And soon.

And by soon I mean like, August. Because Dani invited me and I'm crazy enough to do it.

Because Montana.



Oh, I also got a moose antler. It seemed appropriate. 

And the cute little mountain man I bought it from made my day. 

So yeah… I'll be back, Libby. I'll definitely be back.



Final thought: I found out I know the guy whose cousin owns this shop. Small world, eh?



3 comments:

  1. You had me at...Montana!

    Love,
    Dad

    ReplyDelete
  2. GORGEOUS. And a moose?!?!?! I cannot even imagine. Steve wants to go to/live in Montana. Or Wyoming. Because nature, that's why.

    (Bacon in the burger- I'm storing that one up in the memory banks. That is pure genius.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. My sweet sweet girl - I just read this. That trip was so incredible and so bonding. I couldn't have asked for one thing more. I love you and I love how ugly we are. So excited for many, many, many more adventures with you! This made my night. <3 Miss you. -Dani

    ReplyDelete

 

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