Montana is beautiful but strange. We knew we crossed into the US because we pulled into the first gas station and found the pump covered with “I did that” stickers. Of course Joe Biden is not the president of Canada, where gas prices are higher. Then we go inside to hear a guy literally shouting, “Let’s go Brandon.” Back in the states, where the same group who cries about safe spaces and political correctness need a cadre of their own flags modified to fit their specific beliefs. I just wanted to head into the landscape, away from the madness, see the parts of the world that I love. We headed into the National Forest, which has been converted into a logging operation.
The dispersed camping we sought out is now a long and very dusty road through a swath of dirt and bark chips. We turned and headed regretfully to a National Forest campground. Which was next door to yet another legging operation that fired up around 3:30 a.m. Go out and visit the Montana National Forests now folks; if you miss it, you can buy a piece of it in the stationary section at Target soon.
But Glacier awaited. There’s a few National Parks that I have longed to see—Crater Lake, Sequoia, and Glacier. Where Crater Lake and Sequoia were more than I could imagine and more than I could comprehend, Glacier was a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong—it’s stunning scenery and the beauty is marvelous. But the namesake is nearly gone. Less than 100 years ago there were 100 glaciers in the park. Now only 26 shrunken glaciers remain. Add in wall-to-wall people who need to race up the Highway to the Sun and it is little more than a grand tourist trap. (Like most parks, I believe the way to experience it would probably be best if you are on foot, in the backcountry, and distanced from the crowds.)
We headed south, away from the touristy areas and past a wildfire. If Montana conjures up the idea of rustic ranches and salt-of-the-earth cowboys, you should recalibrate your expectations. This is the Miami of the north—lots of money and little sense behind the wheel. Big houses. Island mansions. Expensive RV parks.
I was beginning to get depressed. Montana was sprawling in all the wrong ways. But, as always, Miracle found the hidden gems. A park of 1,000 Buddhas, a mountaintop campsite far away from anyone else and all the big sky stars people talk about, a night in a casino parking lot (which was—not kidding—one of the best free stays we’ve ever had). We grabbed an expertly-crafted showstopper cocktail in Missoula—though only one because Montana has some strict liquor laws. Then we trundled into Dillon and Virginia City, which were thankfully less touristy this year due to the flooding which closed North Yellowstone. We caught a comedy show by the Brewery Follies and watched a “Let’s Go Brandon” family storm out during a song about abortion. I guess they were heading into their safe space. From here, we were heading to Idaho.