A common sticker seen around Montana is a simple outline of the state, with the phrase, “Get Lost” in the center. It was spotting one of those stickers on a sign along a remote Forest Road that made me realize I’ve inadvertently spent the past two months doing just that.
I’ve wanted to visit Montana for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure when that seed was planted, I blame all the old Westerns I watched with my dad as a kid. The wide-open spaces, panoramic landscapes, cobalt blue skies, and rugged terrain shown in movies felt unattainable and unreal. Now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I can confirm not only is it real, but it has far exceeded all expectations.
Trying to capture the Montana landscape in a photograph is like trying to scoop a whale from the ocean with a Dixie cup. I wish I had words to better describe the scenery and that my photographs would even begin to capture some of the magic and lushness one only feels when completely enveloped by towering trees in a dense forest. You’ll notice in the photos below, I’m a little obsessed with how the sun moves through the thick canopies and softly dapples the ground or the way it reflects off the clean clear waters.
I arrived in Eureka a month into my Montana adventures. A routine oil change led to my facing a truth I’d been avoiding since Colorado – the transmission was shot. I knew it was coming, though I still slipped into that numbed state of disbelief when the mechanic broke the news. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and the new transmission gave me three more weeks to explore the areas around Eureka while I waited for my appointment. Taking extra precautions to not push my van beyond its limits, I moved in slow-motion along Forest Roads and stayed at campsites for longer stretches than usual. I never have a schedule or timeline, but somehow, having a set appointment permitted me to relax into things a little further and forced any restlessness to subside. By the time the day arrived that would take me back to town, I was grateful for it all, especially the kindness of locals who pointed me toward spectacular sites I never would have found on my own. The extra time solidified the fact that this area has quickly stolen my heart – more so than anywhere else I’ve traveled thus far. Of course, the weather is gorgeous now, so I might not have such romanticized feelings toward it in the throes of winter. Spending 18 years in Texas flipped the tables on my childhood love of autumn and winter, but I’m sure it could be flipped back.
Who knows where our new transmission will take us next? I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’ve learned the less I plan and fret over maps, the more apt I am to find wondrous campsites or wind up in wonderfully unexpected places, like Eureka.