Thursday, April 26, 2012

Your Own Little Known, Seldom Visited

      Montana has some of the most scenic, recognizable destinations in the world. At one point or another, every Montanan should make a trip to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, or the Rocky Mountain Front. We've all seen the post cards of the The White Cliffs of the Missouri, or the Sleeping Giant. Symbols of Montana.  And though all are beautiful and unique, they aren't the places that aggregate into what I think of when I visualize what Montana is to me.
     Significant inquiry into the process of how a space becomes a place has been trending in the fields of Geography and Sociology. Of course things like recognition, nicknames, and accessibility, all factor in to how a space becomes a place, and gains meaning to social groups. But one of the great things about Montana is that we needn't recycle the same old places that have held meaning to the past or the masses. It can be far more personal. The amount of "places" in Montana can increase exponentially, and no one will ever know, because nearly anywhere in Montana can become a place of significance to you.
      The places of Montana to me, are that miserable, brush covered side of Bonner Mountain that was stripped of timber twenty years ago. It's Buffalo Wallow, northeast of Roy, Montana. Where solitude unmatched by any location in the western half of the state can be found 9 months out of the year. Or the Boulder Cutoff Road, where a trip from Boulder, Montana to Bozeman can either be fifteen minutes shorter, or an hour longer, or a long damn walk, depending the disposition of that day's gumbo. There is a hill at 8,000 ft. ASL, near Clancy, Montana, and on a clear night with little moon, you have a panorama of light reflections of Helena, Great Falls, Butte, and Bozeman, illuminating the atmospheric ether of one third of the entire state. 
      Surely you all have them. What I am saying is you can have more. Take a space and bring into being, a place. Pick an obscure spot on the map and go for it. You may as well stop for a beer in that seedy, small town bar. Get your rig stuck in the hills with someone you love, and walk for a day and a half before being delivered from isolation. Climb a nameless mountain in a nameless range. 
      The country is big, the people are few, and though the map may look complete, this is only superficial. The claims to "place" on the form of Montana, will be perpetually incomplete. Take advantage while your here.



  1. A few thoughts.

    My wife and I love and adore the Boulder cutoff road. At any given time in the growing season, a variety of wildflowers grow in abundance. Though I probably shouldn't admit this, some of them now adorn the rock garden above our pond's waterfall.

    My brother and I both feel a true affinity for Kootenai canyon, between St. Mary's and St. Joseph's mountains in the Bitterroot, outside of Stevensville. I'm not talking about the canyon mouth, where the MTNG and U of M climbers get their exercise. I'm talking about the Elvin stone in the creek about a quarter mile up, the dusky Murkwood about 2 miles up (though sadly devastated by beetle kill), the moss of the Velvet Terrace (where I want my ashes scattered) shortly into the wilderness and the Slow Slough where the creek becomes a lodge pole trunk covered lake about 6 miles up.

    My beloved has taught me a great deal about 'place', as she is a native of Dillon, Montana. We have explored the odd ends of Bloody Dick creek, and Skinner Meadows.

    Strangely enough, here in Bozeman, I have a 'place'. My default drive to work is up South Church street, from Main to Kagy. It is my calming drive through the woods. I'm constantly on the lookout for deer, I've had to dodge foxes and had my windshield buzzed by the owls who nest in the cemetery over Pete's Hill.

    This is one of the coolest, neatest posts I've read in the Montana online in years.

    1. Rob,
      It's not often I encounter someone who knows where the Boulder Cutoff Road is. Or even knows where Boulder, Montana is. When I tell a person that I went to High School in Boulder, they usually start talking to me about their own experiences in Colorado.

      I lived near the Bitterroot wall for quite a few years and regret not doing more exploring. The Bloody Dick country is some of my favorite in Montana, and from what I have heard it is excellent Brook Trout fishing as well.

      Thanks for the comments. They are much appreciated.

  2. I have echo my brother's sentiments about Kootenai. If I have a single place on this planet that holds a special place in my heart, it is Kootenai. We used to hike it constantly when we were growing up and while I have done many of the other hikes in the Bitterroot, Kootenai remains my "home".

    Now that I live in Dillon, I have been exploring many of the hiking areas around here. I spent a LOT of time up Birch Creek and have actually hiked all 30+ miles of back trails up there. In fact, I use Birch Creek to teach backpacking and hiking to other members of my family (first my daughter, Sacha, now my wife Brittany). If they can do Birch Creek Hill, they can do most of the hikes I know about save maybe the continental divide (a hike I desperately want to do...)

    If I had the means, I would spend most of my summers backcountry. As a knife and sword maker, I can make the time, but reality of life intrudes so I hike when I can and plan hikes when I can't. I loved your article and will be returning to this site frequently.