In Montana, a three-day weekend at the start of a long awaited (long awaited) summer is the most coveted time to get outside. But not the kind of outside where you grab your sunscreen and head to a lawn chair. A long weekend here is grounds for serious adventure, western-style.
We leave town on Friday night after work. We don’t wait around for Saturday mornings in this neck of the woods. And we plan our travel to bisect the paths of any of the myriad small-town breweries making incredibly good beer, which are on the way to anywhere we’re going because they’re literally everywhere, in barns and sheds and wood-frame buildings.
Sometimes we don’t even camp in actual campsites—and that’s the best camping. (We are religious practitioners of Leave No Trace, and no one would guess we had ever been there.) We drive the truck (the signature Tacoma, of course) up dubious dirt roads to camp in fields of wildflowers right at the trailhead, spilling as many dogs as people out of the vehicle.
We bring chainsaws and cut down whole trees for firewood, choosing dead trees for landscape-scale ecosystem restoration, because we tend to have several decades worth of combined higher education and professional experience in forestry, wildland firefighting, and environmental stewardship between us in any given company.
We experiment with things like Norwegian candles when we have advanced sawyers and foresters in the mix.
We don’t just “go for a hike.” We hike for miles and thousands of feet of elevation with our skis and boots on our backs, skirting swamps and splashing through mud, just to take 20 turns in the spring snow at the top of the mountain.
We make long dinners on tiny campstoves and sit by raging campfires in these evenings that are arctic in length a la Norman Maclean, passing the whiskey and alternating between James McMurtry and Tom Waits on the little speakers perched precariously in the cupholder of someone’s folding chair. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to pass around a guitar or a ukulele, or any other number of instruments that show up.
When we find our favorite small-town hot springs closed, we pull out the map and drive beautiful obscure roads to get to any of three more hot springs within a 50-mile radius, the detour to eventually get home well worth the delay.
And of course, we round out the weekend with a brewery stop or two.
All the legends are true. We live in a corner of paradise, and we enjoy every last minute of it.