Friday, June 7, 2019

Magical Montana: Big Sky Country beckons road warriors

The approach to the place we cherish, tucked away in the Beartooths.   
"Montana has the kind of mountains I'd create if mountains were put on my agenda."
 -- John Steinbeck in "My Travels with Charley"

Our little corner of the world, with clouds, trees,
mountains and the sound of the water.



NO MATTER HOW far we wander -- to the fjords of Norway or the deserts Down Under -- we are no more excited than when we answer the call of the Big Sky sirens and return to Montana.
I'm a fourth generation native of the Treasure State and I love traveling the world.
But my heart soars and my breathing quickens when I glimpse the meandering Yellowstone River out the airplane window and see the Rimrocks framing the town of Billings.
And it's no more beautiful  than this time of year, when the lilacs are still pretty in the high country and the lupine and mountain phlox are about to bloom.
Yes, it's a real cowboy -- not a rhinestone one.  Working ranches mean
working cowboys to move cattle, deliver feed, check for problems.
OUR LITTLE corner of the Beartooths is dear to my heart.  As a kid growing up in the 1950s, I traveled with my parents on regular trips "up country" to visit cousins in Roscoe and friends in Red Lodge.  My grandparents played bridge with chums at a cabin on the West Fork of the Stillwater River near where 30 years later I'd buy property.
I rode my first horse on the Beartooth Ranch between Columbus and Absarokee, which my grandfather Gus owned a few proprietors back. (He called it "Sunnyside Ranch" and I have photos of me on the ancient horse, Peanuts, riding down the same road we see from Highway 78.)
Red Lodge boasts many restored Victorian homes, a treasure
to behold in Livingston, Billings, and other Montana towns.
For those of us grounded in the natural world, there's nothing more pleasing than spring after a brutal winter.  While I can't claim to have suffered through the snow and chill, I've kept up on the miseries, stress and hard work of our rancher neighbors, and I feel grateful for their endurance and spirit. Nothing makes me happier than to have to stop the car while a cowboy moves cattle to summer pasture. "These are my people;  this is my country." Corny, but true. Sometimes I even belt out the state song: "Montana, Montana, glory of the west.......        M-O-N-T-A-N-A, Montana I love you."
YES, OF ALL the states from coast to coast, it's easily the best. I love my part-time California life, world travels and regular visits to Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Miami and Boston. But there's no place like home. The aging Yorkies love Montana, too. Nick and Nora romp and hike and get in shape, just as we do. Home on the range will always be dear to our hearts.
Cookie and Keller, Nick and Nora hike the East Rosebud.
Sioux Charley splendor
We love our Montana based road trips to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, forays to Red Lodge, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte,
Glacier Park is part of our summer itinerary, with an annual road trip.
Missoula, Harlowton, to visit friends and catch up on theater and dining. I spent the first years of my life in Bozeman where my parents were university students, and it's been fun to watch the Gallatin Valley grow and change, still feeling like part of the real West.
The little western towns in between are fun, too. Big Timber, Roundup, White Sulphur Springs, Harlowton, Lewistown, Cody, Wyo.

ONE OF OUR recent thrills is the opening of an internationally known art and music center just a few miles away.  Tippet Rise, built by the heirs to the Grey Goose vodka fortune, is a masterful creation presenting concerts by world-renowned classical musicians. The patron Halsteads commissioned stunning contemporary outdoor sculptures by famous artists to enhance the connection between land and art. More on Tippet Rise
We've written about this grand accomplishment for national venues and are fortunate to score a few cherished tickets each season. Places to stay if you come visit?
Mark di Suvero's "Beethoven's Quartet" is inspired by the string quartets of  the great composer.
The fascinating piece is one of several world class sculptures at Tippet Rise Art Center. 
Yes! Many gorgeous digs await visitors. Blue Ribbon Run Fishery, for instance, offers a tranquil, handsomely appointed vista on the Stillwater, fine fishing, abundant birds and wildlife (check it out at
Montana is a place where people still greet one another on the streets.  When we mow the front lawn, neighbors wave and honk. Our love of nature bonds us to Montana where we have cherished family and friends. "Summer people" arrive and that's fun, too -- from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington, Florida, New York. And we catch up with the "locals," those tough people who stick out the winter there.
DO I MISS city life?  The ocean, plays, nightlife, tango shows, watching Gustavo Dudamel conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Greek food, sushi on demand, ocean hikes, Macy's and Nordstrom's within walking distance.  Yes, I suffer temporary withdrawal. But we have Shakespeare in the Parks, Tippet Rise Art Center, my pianos, guitars, saxophones and talented voices to sing show tunes.  Peace and joy, happiness in the mountains, reunions, contentment in the serenity,, plus the bonus of reading and reflection. Lucky are we.

Swimming with the sting rays made for a memorable afternoon recently.

UP NEXT:  Manta rays! Come with us to swim with the rays in Sting Ray City, Antigua. We booked a day with these fascinating and beautiful creatures, escorted by trained nature guides. What evolved was an exciting  encounter with some of the ocean's most graceful inhabitants. The carefully choreographed aquatic adventure made one of our most memorable days, happily spent with southern stingrays, as we snorkeled and even fed them. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday.


  1. Washington Enthusiasts of Big Sky CountryJune 7, 2019 at 8:49 PM

    Wonderful homage to a state we love, too.

  2. Pennsylvania Armchair TravelersJune 8, 2019 at 10:12 AM

    This is a beautiful ode to not only your native state but to forging a connection with the land and it's diverse creatures.

  3. New York Rockies loversJune 10, 2019 at 1:42 PM

    Gorgeous photos and story and love the Steinbeck opening.

  4. New Hampshire Nature GalsJune 10, 2019 at 8:27 PM

    Wow. Really os Big Sky Country. Now I understand the nickname.

  5. Wow. So lovely. Thanks for sharing. We will be back in August, for Tippet Rise concert. Won the drawing! Thrilled.