Montana was calling.
I was a 6 year-old kid when my father lost the 1962 election for Missoula County Attorney. I had enjoyed most summers on the family’s Glory B Ranch between St Ignatius and the Mission Mountains, and went to class at Paxson Grade School in Missoula.
Glory B Ranch, St Ignatius, Montana
Every summer morning we were in town, my older brothers and I would climb Mount Sentinel to the fire road just below the whitewashed M. The view of the valley below always made me smile.
But my dad decided to move us to the Chicago area a couple years after that unsuccessful election. He’d been a boy there and still had business connections, so that’s where we went.
I spent the next 50 years trying to get back. In between, I kept looking for mountains and forests with bears. But none of them looked right anywhere else.
View from the M on Mount Sentinel, Missoula, Montana
I finally got there, but Missoula had changed a bit.
The whitewashed stones of the M became white concrete at some point – MSU students don’t have to re-paint the rocks annually anymore. Downtown had acquired a bunch of microbreweries I was now old enough to enjoy. And there were twice as many people.
After an excellent dinner and drinks at Tamarack Brewing, I was aggressively panhandled for my leftovers right out the door. I have no problem giving them away, but when there’s that expectation, and you see the same guy there on different evenings doing the same thing, you feel a bit taken advantage of.
North to Flathead Valley
So Missoula didn’t feel right. As we headed north on US 93 to Polson, I began to feel better. Finally, in Kalispell north of huge Flathead Lake, the small-town feel took over. I was home again.
Flathead Lake, Montana
Canola blooms, Kalispell, Montana
We were so enchanted, we started looking at real estate. We placed a backup offer on a property we really wanted, and drove home to Albuquerque, thinking nothing would happen.
A place where the mountains look right – Flathead River, Kalispell, Montana
When ours suddenly became the real offer after the primary backed out, we discovered they do things a bit differently in Montana – and we had to ask very specific questions about items usually included in disclosures in other states. But we purchased that charming house in the woods.
Flathead Valley, Montana
Three Days To Kalispell?
Now, after a month-long vacation, we had to get back to Kalispell to get the property ready for rental – and do it quickly. That meant a 1200 mile road trip of three days maximum duration in each direction, stopping for meals and doggie potty breaks, with 4-5 days in Kalispell to line up a property manager and clean up the grounds.
I’ll be back with our fast route up the Great Basin Desert spine next week.
The linked Winter At Glory B Ranch article was written about a time just after my family sold the place. The Shetland pony grazing in the meadow was actually named Twinkletoes, not Stinky. He was the first horse born on the ranch, and my grandmother named him. Louis “Uncle Knute” Knudsen, the ranch manager, had been a friend of my grandfather’s. Knute passed away in Ronan, Montana in 2001.
An earlier version of this post had my dad losing the election for County Attorney in 1964. My older brother Doug corrected me on the year – 1962.