Just south of Big Sky near Taylor's Fork camp ground is one of my favorite spots on the Gallatin River. Last Thursday I spent the evening on the riverbank where white cliffs line the banks of the east side of the Gallatin and soft green grass balks in the sun.
Even though I have a variety of favorite Gallatin River spots, this is one not far from the road yet peacefully projected by wild grasses and ants. Highway 191 can be seen from my spot, but when sitting on the banks I'm hidden from the road and therefore distraction of the steady stream of passersby.
As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter I long to spend more time on the Gallatin, whether fishing, reading, meditating, or rafting; the summer waters call. This particular Thursday it was just me, a friend, and the stillness of the water rushing past. Above the rushing waters Cliff Swallows, who find their homes in the shaly crags of the white cliffs nearby, feasted 100 feet overhead on hatches the fish would never find beneath the chocolaty Gallatin surface. My thoughts turned to those birds and the importance of their survival. Spurred by discussion on bear hunting with my friend, nature permeates Big Sky life beyond my daily interaction and understanding of it. I can debate on end whether or not bears should be hunted or whether or not cliff-nesting swallows (who also find resting places in our homes, at times attacking the home-owner) should be extinguished for my own peace-seeking desires, but I do not disagree that this canyon and surrounding mountains belonged to the bears and swallows first. I also do not disagree that I have a duty to protect their home. Thus on that beautiful sunny Thursday my thoughts turned to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, an American literary work I had not read in years, but that stuck with me. Carson asks the reader to consider a spring where no birds chirped, no ants pestered picnickers, and certainly no bears roamed the Gallatin Canyon, a silent spring.
Spring digs its rays of sunshine into the soil of the green grass and calls out each morning these days in Big Sky. It is alive and well at all my favorite spots along the Gallatin, and requires my attention more and more with each passing season. As Carson said, "the physical form and the habits of the earth's vegetation and its animal life have been molded by the environment ... Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species-man-acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world."
Unbeknownst to me upon writing this blog, May 27 would have been Rachel Carson's 107th birthday. Life in Big Sky is full of these connections and coincidences that, perhaps, are not coincidences at all, but reminders of the wonderful natural life that surrounds me in Big Sky. Reminders to take time to sit by the Gallatin River (or on it or fishing it) and contemplate all that this Big Sky life has to offer. It's going to be an amazing spring and one that is not silent at all.
Photos: Anna Husted
Yellowstone National Park hosts more than 3 million visitors a year. As much of a people person as I am, visiting a national park should not be like going to Disneyland. Even though Disneyland hosts an average of 15 million visitors a year, 3 million people in Southwest Montana's prized treasure feels like 15 million. Therefore, I've researched the quietest days to visit Yellowstone National Park and if I'm lucky I won't see you there!
1) Before June 15 or after Labor Day. The great thing about these dates is Big Sky Resort is open June 8 and well after Labor Day, which gives me the chance to do fun activities here one day and go to Yellowstone the next.
2) Not July or August. However, when this is my only option for days to go to Yellowstone then it's best to go on a hike through some of the 2 million acres of backcountry wilderness because 95% of visitors are "windshield visitors" and never venture into the wilderness. Suggested hikes: Purple Mountain Trail is near the Madison Campground and is a moderate 6-mile hike with a fantastic view at the top. Mystic Falls Loop is a scenic overlook 2.5-mile loop hike near Biscuit Basin.
3) Sundays. Yellowstone National Parks Trip Advisor page recommends visiting on a Sunday as that is the biggest travel transition day. The traffic in and out of the park might still be a bit less than desirable, but the park itself remains quieter on Sundays.
The beauty of living so close to one of the greatest national parks is I can pick up and drive whenever I want. But I definitely keep these tidbits in mind to have a full experience of the natural wonders in Yellowstone National Park.
"We're nowhere that I'm familiar with, in country that I've never seen before, yet I don't feel a stranger in it."-Robert M. Pirsig on Montana in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Montana summers are sentimental for me, especially Big Sky summers. From the crisp smell of mornings in the mountains to the smell of a charcoal grill firing up in the evenings, Montana summers encapsulate the human spirit in two words: Beauty and Adventure. I cannot wait to see my first bear, visit Fairy and Upper Waterfalls at Yellowstone National Park, camp near the Gallatin River, and ride the Tram to the top of Lone Peak. This summer will be full of excitement and sentiment as I make new memories with old and new friends, and discover for myself something new about living in the mountains during the summer season. The following video not only shows all the activities I'm excited to experience this summer, but also spurs that summer sentiment so much of Montana reveals. Join me out here.
Video shot and edited by Chris Kamman
I have been a ski instructor at Big Sky Resort for eight seasons and guests always ask me "but what do you do in Big Sky during the summer?" My answer: "winter in Montana is wonderful but summers are something really special." Unlike summers in the east, summer sun in the west is warm on your skin and humidity is low. The average temperature in July is a comfortable 83 degrees making weather in Montana perfect for enjoying all kinds of outdoor activities. I certainly don't miss those hot, muggy summer days of the Midwest.
In the summer I love to hike nearby peaks that yield 360 degree vistas. Imagine snow-capped mountain peaks against a sapphire blue sky or high mountain lakes surrounded by a wide jagged cirque. Hiking is not for everyone. Many of my friends prefer exploring the area on horseback, and my husband enjoys mountain biking in the Porcupine Wilderness area or along the Gallatin River. The Gallatin River sits near Lone Mountain and is one of our favorite rivers in the country to fish. The movie "A River Runs Through It" was filmed on the Gallatin River near Castle Rock introducing Americans to fly-fishing and immediately increasing the popularity of our river. Skilled kayakers love the Gallatin's raging white water during spring run-off. It is fun to watch but I prefer a gentle raft trip down the Gallatin during the summer season when the water is much calmer.
A couple of times a week, I can be found golfing at Big Sky Resort. My favorite hole is nine because of the unique perspective of Lone Peak looming majestically in the distance. The view never ceases to impress me, and even though the views from every hole are spectacular this one in particular stops me in my golf-spiked tracks.
I also love summers in Big Sky as hibernation ends for human and animal alike. Maybe it is because the sun doesn't set until 10:30 at the peak of summer nights or because the sun provides us with our much missed Vitamin D.
Almost each Wednesday and Thursday of the summer I check out the Town Center Farmer's Market and Music in the Mountains, respectively. We take a bottle of wine to Music in the Mountains and enjoy the company of friends and free music as the sun sets over Lone Peak. I love coming to a place where I will see everyone I know.
It is a far better thing to spend summers in Montana than anywhere else. Where the biggest problem of Big Sky summers is there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them all. What a place to call home.
In 1999, Baz Luhrmann (yes of 2013's The Great Gatsby) wrote the bizarre and popular "The Sunscreen Song (Class of '99)." I recorded this song off the radio onto a tape so I could memorize the lyrics, later that same year I got the worst winter sunburn of my life. I was skiing at Big Sky Resort with my family, and my dad told me to put sunscreen on my face. Dads know best, but multiple factors led to this sunburn: Time of day, altitude, reflective surface, and a lack of sunscreen (because even though dads know best, daughters don't always listen). At the time I did not realize that the sun was most intense from 10am-4pm or that UV exposure increases about 4 percent for every 1,000 feet of vertical, according to WebMD. Thus, we mountain-living folks are like Icarus, sometimes just a little too close to the sun. It's too bad Luhrmann's "one tip for the future" didn't stick with me better on that day in 1999 when I got sunburned while skiing.
As summer approaches in Big Sky the snowy reflective surface fades, but the sun becomes more intense during this time of year and the days are longer. As a redhead the sun and I have a tumultuous relationship, making my freckles pop out without a moment's notice, and can burning my freckly skin as late as 6pm on a peak summer day. Last summer while stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Levinsky (another reflective surface) I neglected to wear any sunscreen at all. It was 4pm on one of the hottest days of the year, yet I thought it was late enough to be out on an adventure without sunscreen. The sun: 2; Me: 0. I highly recommend the paddleboarding, but just with sunscreen.
Protecting ones skin is as important as staying away from salty snacks or greasy foods, and it's a lot easier to do. I managed to stave off any serious sunburns this winter in Big Sky, but summer's just around the corner and the sun taunts me.
This time around I'll be wearing sunscreen (especially at 11,166 feet), and I'll take time of day, altitude, and my dad and Baz's advice into consideration.
After all "the long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists ... trust me on the sunscreen."
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