I honestly don’t know where to start about this incredible place, but I will try to treat you to a good story. There’s a reason why they call the state of Montana, Big Sky Country and The Treasure State, and it is simply because it is said to be The Last Best Place. Now, I was willing to dispute this unofficial nickname because I have traveled quite a bit over the years and almost every place that I have visited has left a beautiful memory in my soul, so I really wondered if Montana could really be the last best place?
Unbelievably, my personal debate on this moniker ended the moment my plane landed on the runway of Bozeman, Montana. As cliché as the words may be, the beauty of Montana truly lies in the eyes of the beholder.
When I boarded this unexpected yet in some ways anticipated journey, nothing quite prepared me for what I was going to see and experience. I had always wanted to visit Montana but since the start of the pandemic, plans just changed. Eventually, I booked my ticket and got going! I mean I’ve watched the three seasons of the Yellowstone TV series, episode after episode and I am eagerly waiting for season four. My jaw would always hang in disbelief as each season ended, just like a child-like nostalgic reaction. I envy how Kevin Costner has the time of his life galloping his way around in the state’s beautiful open lands, stunning wildlife, and incredible ranch scenes. But nothing, nothing in my wildest country dreams could have quite prepared me for my trip to Montana.
On my flight landing, cowboy hats were taken out of knack bags and amusingly I could hear the distinctive hill-country slang from the passengers as if I was in a Yellowstone act, and boy did the airport arrival hall mesmerize my soul. As I walked out of the plane, I began to hear the click cluck sounds from the heels of cowboy boots while the passenger who sat next to me happily waved my way and shouted, “Hope you have a hog-killin’ time’! I already felt so welcomed and as I waited for my bags to come out onto the carousel, my eyes were met with amazing country art and phenomenal wooden ranch-like architecture. I was so losing my patience and just wanted to get out there onto Montana soil!
A week to discover, and I discovered. A week to embrace, and I embraced. A week to fall in love, and I truly fell in love. Montana melted my soul, lifted my life, and gave me a lifelong gift that I will forever cherish deep in my heart. But how and where do I even begin to tell you of this stunning place. Perhaps a good start would be my journey up into Big Sky through Gallatin River Canyon. As beautifully seen in the movie ‘A River Runs Through It’, it is the best white water in the Rockies. I saw the sunrise above the mountains and watched the sunset late into the evenings. The mountains still carry some snow in this hot summertime and look stunning as the sun shines, and I watched the Canyon River waters flow with charisma and unlimited power. As I put my head out of the car window, I freely opened my heart and embraced freedom in the air. I closed my eyes and allowed the fresh mountain breeze to touch my skin and I gave full permission to the sunshine to color me. I never smiled as much as I did when I was in Montana. For some time, I had forgotten about what true happiness meant, but Montana gave me hope. On some mornings, I felt heaven had opened itself up in the skies. The colorful blue and white shades nestled beautifully above the green and brown mountain plateaus. As Christoper Paolini so powerfully wrote, “Everything is so big—the sky, the mountains, the wind-swept flatlands—it sinks into you, it shapes your body and your dreams.” I felt like a tiny dancer in this big, big land and I gradually learned to dance again. It is just a small part of our world, yet it is all about its untouched beauty, the amazing natural colors and the openness that tears you up with so much adoration.
The city of Bozeman truly delivers its grandeur and has nothing less than complete admiration from me. It is buzzing with amazing eateries, boutiques and offers a string of entertaining local storefronts. A walk along downtown Main Street gives you the best opportunity to mix amongst the people and their canine friends. I was grabbing a coconut ice cream cone nearly every evening, joyfully passing by the open bars along the streets and watching how America had reopened its doors and is filled with life, hope and fascination. People were happy, people were smiling, and everyone was living in the moment in The Last Best Place. A guest called this place a “Super Cute Downtown”, and I couldn’t agree more. Passionately, my camera refused to stop snapping and faithfully delivered the vacation imaginings right on its lens. Is this truly enough to make you want to visit Montana?
Let me reassure you that you will probably pick up a pair of boots when you’re here, and just like me, you will make your own click cluck jingles and be proud as you stride along downtown. My boots are light brown, with some floral designs just to be noticed, not too pointy, and heels high enough to give me that confidence. Boy did I feel like a neat American cowgirl? I must admit, I did let myself go and allowed my soul to be taken away for the week by this beautiful land. I was alive all over again!
My stay at the wonderful and amazing Kimpton Armory Bozeman spoiled me rotten. Evenings spent up in their Sky Shed truly transformed what I had already grasped of this town. The fire pits set up outside on the patio lit up everyone’s face while allowing us to take in the breathtaking views of four mountain ranges in the distance set against the Montana starry night sky. I screamed silently in happiness and within myself, I refused to catch my return flight to the city. I mean I literally froze in fascination each evening. The jazz tunes that filled the night through gave more meaning to this already spectacular rooftop place and tickled my toes to dance along. A week-long of happy night dreams truly made each day so comforting to me. I simply forgot how happy I could be. I forgot how wonderful it felt to be surrounded by good friends. I forgot how beautiful the simple things in life could do to transform my life. It was at this moment I gave cheers to this wonderful land. I mean I now know why this beautiful place deserves its name as The Last Best Place.
I boarded my flight back with a heavy heart, looked out the plane window and smiled unbrokenly. It is a little bit funny as I make my way back east because I felt as if I had left my soul in a place where I only stayed for a week. I fell so in love, and I was hurting to say goodbye, yet I was filled with a great sense of pure happiness. I filled my memory bank with every single snapshot my eyes allowed me to take, and you must remember that sometimes the best cameras in the world are the ones we all own, our very own eyes.
How wonderful life truly is, and I am so grateful that I learned to smile again. Yes, I am smiling today. I mean as so candidly expressed by Jefferson White who plays Jimmy Hurdstorm in Yellowstone, I too shall shout it aloud “Appreciate y’all!”
Thank you, Montana, for showing me how beautiful you are because there is simply no other place quite like YOU. I will return one day again.