Anytime I travel to a new place I always consider the livability factor. I always ask myself, “Could I live here?” I think this may have something to do with living in the same place all my life and trying to find that perfect place to move to. This may also account for my travel obsession; I’m actually just trying to find a new home for us. Most places have more cons than pros and the answer is usually no. With our recent trip to Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana I asked myself the livability question once we got there. And the answer was a surprising yes.
Truthfully, I had not expected to be too excited about Montana. I had heard great things about Glacier National Park, but everything I had imagined for the rest of Montana was cowboys, cows, and cow pastures filled with… cows. But I was surprised to find Northwestern Montana to have the same Pacific Northwest forest that we have in Oregon, but it also had something different. It has the deep U-shaped valleys carved by massive glaciers, whereas in Oregon where there were no glaciers, the valleys are V-shaped and carved by rivers. But what I found to be truly magical about the area was how pristine everything was. It really reminded me of Western Oregon and Washington 30+ years ago before the huge influx of people and strip malls. The people that we met in Montana were down to earth and very friendly and there were still a lot of small mom and pop stores, something that is hard to find in modern America. The big box stores and strip malls could still be found in the town of Kalispell, but the smaller towns in the area still had not been exploited by the big corporations, except for the occasional Subway.
When I was a kid we would watch nature films in grade school. The teacher would load the film reel onto the projector (I just dated myself here) and we would watch exciting films about the beaver, the bear, or the spawning salmon. The forests and streams in those films were pristine and wildlife aplenty. It was the way the Pacific Northwest once was, and sadly, is no more. But as we drove into Northwestern Montana along highway 2 from Idaho, the pristine forests, rivers, and wildlife that I remember from those old films appeared before us. We had found a place where it was still like that.
Besides the natural beauty, Northwestern Montana has something else that hit a weakness of mine. There are massive freshwater lakes with small marinas filled with sailboats. I am a sucker for sailing and sailboat racing and the sailing looked good there. I mean, REALLY good! As we were driving by Flathead Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi and is 200 square miles in size, we noticed a sailboat race underway. I easily pictured myself out there on a boat of our own.
Of course, we were visiting Northwestern Montana during the summer when sailing, hiking, and rafting are easy. But during the winter this part of Montana is covered in deep snow and offers plenty of great skiing and snowmobiling, something else that we really enjoy. And I would love to photograph Glacier National Park in the winter.
While living there now is not really an option as we have committed ourselves to other plans, I could see us living there once we reach retirement age. A cabin on a lake with a sailboat mooring sounds very nice. Let’s just hope the area stays the way it is.