My wife and I enjoy our country’s mountainous west. We had a break in summer activities before school started so we saddled up the kiddos and pointed our wagon west toward Montana.
Of course, our trip began with travel through our immediate neighbor to the west. I’m not a big Minnesota guy, so I felt a moral responsibility to drive through Minnesota quickly. After all, my old co-worker Ray Vaughn would have his family plug their noses after crossing the St. Croix River in jest of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
We spent the first night of our road trip on the far side of North Dakota in Roosevelt Badlands National Park. When we arrived that windy evening the thermostat on the vehicle displayed 104 degrees Fahrenheit. My wife courageously set up our tent. Yes. I said “tent.” After having a wild horse approach our tent and startle us with a loud “neigh” we attempted to fall asleep for several hours in the super-hot enclosure. The kids tossed, turned and groaned. Eventually we nodded off only to be awakened by a shocking change in weather. At 4 a.m. the wind was howling, and the temperature had fallen dramatically. It was now a cool and windy 59 degrees. We didn’t sleep much that night, but alas, that’s camping.
We ventured further west to the land of big skies. Montana is not completely unlike Wisconsin. Biggest difference is the size of the hills. The beautiful Blue Hills do not quite compare to Montana’s majestic peaks. The people and culture are similar in Montana, though the towns are further apart. There’s still a lot of Lutheran churches, breweries and F-350’s with cattle-catchers on the front.
Upon reaching Montana, we expended a day of our vacation in the upper-middle class college town of Bozeman. It’s a fast growing, beautiful city. I didn’t expect Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies to be as impressive as it was.
We departed Bozeman and visited the Lewis & Clark Caverns before settling into a rented on-site RV near Glacier National Park. “Glacier” itself cannot easily be described by words. It is a place that everyone should experience at least once. There’s a lot to do in Glacier National Park, though the charm suffers slightly like many National Parks which accommodate a large daily influx of visitors. A highlight from visiting Glacier was the scenic hike and strong effort put forth by my children who made the trek to Avalanche Lake. I recommend that specific hike if you ever make the voyage to Glacier.
Also on our trip, we visited former Rice Lake alum Tom and Kristen (Raether) Davis in Kalispell, Mont. Besides their cute family, they’ve worked very hard and put their entrepreneurial skills to work in carving out a very cool little empire for themselves in our western states. It’s always good to see Rye-Slakers doing great things.
On our travel home, we made it back through Montana the first day. We rolled into western Minnesota by noon the second day. I noticed a familiar symbol around the Twin Cities as the Milwaukee Brewers logo was displayed on many billboards to advertise their upcoming weekend series with the lowly Twins. No doubt a Wisconsin sports team coming to Minnesota qualifies as a big event.
Overall, the mountains and valleys in Montana and other western states are well worth the long travel west, as long as you have enough time to stay and enjoy the scenery. At the conclusion of our vacation, my 10-year-old son said, “Dad. Montana has beautiful mountains. The Dakota’s have the Great Plains. And Minnesota has swamps.” I couldn’t help but chuckle in agreement.
Craig Severud is a husband, father of five children, banker, angler, aspiring chef and proud Norwegian.