Why I love Montana
Written and submitted by Lindie Gibson, Livingston
I love Montana because my grandmother was born here in 1897 to parents who came from Norway to start a new life in the Land of Opportunity. Then, my mother came along in 1925 and me in 1953, and my son in 1975. My son started his family here in 1994, and Montana will always remain my home.
For a place to be called “home” it needs to be more than a place to tie your horse to a hitchin’ post and pitch your tent, or a railway stop at the end of the line.
Montana is an environment offering a variety of opportunities and experiences coinciding with the awe and wonder of nature; a place where people realize that earning a good living is not as important as the experience of true living – in harmony with God and man – the way it was meant to be.
Montana is a place where you can hold your head high and see limitless sky and feel purifying wind blowing through your hair – where you can study a ceiling of a starry night – unshrouded by big city lights.
It’s a place where your neighbor is your friend, where strangers still reach out with a helping hand, and where a man’s word and handshake are as good as any piece of paper.
Montana is a place where living in the slow lane of life is a much preferred lifestyle – where watching a colt or frisky young calf run and dance in a field is better than the best programming TV has to offer – where hiking and camping and fishing diminish the lure of holiday cruises and Disneyland – for making and sharing memories while our children grow.
Montana is a place where the roar of the hustle and bustle of life is drowned out by the solitude and silence of nature and the music heard in the sounds of birds and creatures that inhabit our wheat fields and countrysides and woodlands.
Montana is home to the deer and antelope that play, and a few buffalo that still roam; with golden sunsets and flaming orange sunrises and crystal clear lakes and stream.
Montana is also a place where nature dresses in the beauty of four distinct seasons; a never-ending reminder of the omniscience of God.
Our state is home to everyone in between – a place where all are considered equal in the eyes of the Montanan.
Why do I love Montana?
Because Montana is a land rich in resources and experiences that are treasured – and for generations, the love and appreciation for Montana remains in the hearts and homes of its people – as one of its greatest treasures.
Montana lost a good one
Sent by Shane Morger, Ventura, Calif.
I always knew part of my budget for Christmas gifts to my dad, Wally Morger, would include renewing his subscription to Montana Magazine.
I will have to “reassign” that subscription this year.
On March 24, dad passed away one month shy of his 91st birthday in the greatest of small towns, in which he was born, raised and died: Fort Benton.
But what a remarkable life he led.
Dad was a proud American – but even a prouder Montanan- father of nine children, grandfather of 20 and great-grandfather to six, a WWII Marine veteran who displayed his proud past on his license plate that read “IWO JIMA.”
He actually owned an autographed photo of the first flag raising on Mount Suribachi.
Of course those years included 90 winters when I’m sure there were times when he thought of warmer climates, but would always quote C.M. Russell’s famous picture, “Waiting for a Chinook.”
I guess the greatest tribute at his memorial was looking back at the funeral procession and seeing an endless trail of cars and trucks on their way to the Fort Benton Cemetery.
(The accompanying picture taken at the memorial) is of his three active duty grandsons, who presented our step-mom, Muncie, with the American flag. . . Look at the faces of the small children who were witness to such an emotional send off.
We lost a great one, Jenna, but one that will be remembered forever.
Big Sky Spotlight: Meet Kasey Austin
By Brett Berntsen
Photo by Kelvin Pinney
Montana’s mountains, rivers and valleys often speak for themselves, but to fully appreciate the beauty of Big Sky Country it helps to have a guide.
Kasey Austin is one of the best in the region. Indeed, the world.
Already a veteran of the industry at just 25, the Billings native was recently named the top family guide of 2014 by Outside Magazine. The recognition reflects Austin’s dedication to showing off her home turf with sprightly enthusiasm and awe.
“As long as you’re passionate about a place it will show in every single thing you do,” she said.
At the same time, it also helps to have a background jam-packed with experience.
Growing up, Austin’s father, Dan, ran a tour company out of the basement.
She remembers guides camping out in her backyard and swapping the “craziest” stories; climbing trees to divert wild animals away from guests, taking a blast of bear spray in the face, finding a human toe floating down a river.
“Back then I thought it was completely normal,” she said. “I thought that was every kid’s upbringing.”
Austin started tagging along on trips at the age of six, and began to rack up tales of her own; breaking her collar bone while biking in the Tetons, turning a corner to come nose-to-nose with a moose.
She soon embodied the lifestyle, constantly pestering other guides for tasks.
“I wanted to be a guide so bad,” she said. “I bet it was annoying.”
The involvement taught Austin the intangibles of tourism, spurring the development of her family-oriented philosophy. If the children are happy, she says like a mantra, the rest will follow.
“You’d be surprised at the number of people who are intimidated by talking to kids, but there are so many questions you can ask. ‘What’s your favorite color?’ can turn into an hour-long conversation.”
Time in the field also provided Austin with a few tricks to brighten a dreary day. The most memorable involves eating a balled-up chocolate PowerBar disguised on the ground as moose poop.
“I had a kid puke once on my trip because he thought it was so real,” she said, adding in hindsight, “I’m not sure if we need to put that in the interview.”
But despite an upbringing that all but screamed destiny, a career in tourism was never written on the wall for Austin.
“I didn’t want to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” she said. “That’s not what I wanted to do in college.”
Instead she pursued teaching, graduating in 2011 from the University of Montana with a degree in elementary education. After no schools bit on job applications, however, it was either try and break into subbing or take a full-time position with the family business, Austin Adventures.
“I’m glad I chose the latter,” she said.
The trips that followed, around Montana and across the world, sealed the deal. While Austin emphasizes the demands of guiding – working from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., constantly answering to guests’ needs – she says the work provides endless rewards.
“Everyone wants to have a cool job like this,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine being a teacher anymore.”
Complementing her guiding savvy, Austin recently transitioned to the managerial side of the industry. As vice president of operations for Austin Adventures, she plans future trips and handles logistics, always remembering to view aspects through the eyes or binoculars of guests. She hopes to grow the business into the future, a goal fomented by her Outside Magazine honor.
“Awards are huge in this industry,” she said. “Everyone is looking for kudos.”
And now that she makes the schedule, she can pencil herself in to share the places she holds dearest.
“Montana is the easiest place to fall in love with,” she said. “I can do whatever I want, but Montana is going to show itself off.”
Can you describe your job as an adventure tour guide in two sentences?
My job as an adventure tour guide involves making connections with and between the people and places I work in. Sharing a passion and excitement for adventure, wilderness, and wildlife is the goal; I want my guests to fall in love with the same things I love.
What is the best part about guiding trips inside Yellowstone National Park?
The best part about guiding trips inside Yellowstone is seeing how the Park changes (drastically at times) from season to season. Wildlife viewing is probably my favorite activity (although it has a lot of competition) – I love seeing the bright red bison calves in the spring and the male elk in the rut in the fall.
Where in Montana do you go to relax?
To relax, I go anywhere I can take a hike. Walking for miles and miles can clear the mind and create a fresh start to a busy week. My favorite hiking base is Red Lodge, MT.
What three words describe Montana?
Stunning. Refreshing. Adventurous.
Lake McDonald Lodge, Granite Park and Sperry chalets reach century mark
By Becky Lomax
A flurry of new destinations threw open their doors in Glacier National Park a century ago. In summer 1914, Lake McDonald Lodge and two backcountry chalets admitted visitors who gaped in awe at the splendor — both inside and outside. This summer, 100 years later, visitors can have much the same experience as in the early days overnighting at these three National Historic Landmarks owned by the U.S. National Park Service.
If you’ve been there, done that. Think again. You might need to tack on a repeat trip to Lake McDonald Lodge, Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet.
Because although the lodges retain the look and feel of the original days with distinctive stonework and log beam-and-post architecture, a few recent changes make the modern experience different.
Stay in a chalet
For reservation information about Glacier National Park’s chalets visit:
Lake McDonald Lodge, www.glaciernationalparklodges.com, 855-733-4522
Granite Park Chalet, www.graniteparkchalet.com, 888-345-2649
Sperry Chalet, www.sperrychalet.com, 888-345-2649
To view the entire story on lodge and chalets, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Crafting a living: For Western Montana artisans, handmade is a way of life
Story and photos by Jessica Lowry
Across the state of Montana, individuals are using their hands to create their livelihood. While it’s become trendy to eat artisan pickles from Brooklyn or purchase an entire hand-sewn outfit from the online retailer Etsy, across Big Sky Country the handmade movement has more to do with putting down your smart phone, picking up a craft and earning a living.
From Leah Morrow and Mary Ryan who own and operate Selvedge Studio fabric shop in Missoula, to Melanie Cross who teaches knitting in Kalispell, creating items with your hands and teaching others to do the same isn’t just a fad.
It’s a way of life.
Leah Morrow and Mary Ryan
Rows of brightly colored fabrics in cotton, linen and velvet line the walls of Selvedge Studio.
“What we do here is provide the makers with beautiful and unusual fabrics,” said Leah Morrow, 32, of the shop in downtown Missoula, that she owns and operates with her mother Mary Ryan, 55.
Selvedge Studio is in its eighth year of operation and in addition to selling fabrics, sewing notions, and patterns, the shop also offers sewing classes.
“A lot of people don’t know how to sew and they want to,” Morrow said.
The store provides a place for makers to learn new skills and work on projects. They even host an annual Project Selvedge contest where entrants sew outfits for weekly design challenges.
Morrow feels that the handmade movement has support from local community.
“It’s definitely accepted and appreciated in Missoula,” she said.
To read the rest of the profiles on Western Montana artisans who make their products by hand, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Granny Gordon: Rough Rider on the Bull River
Story and photos by Aaron Theisen
A citizenry suspicious of Washington outsiders.
Accusations of government land grabs.
Federal servants tasked with presenting an unpopular policy to the public.
The creation of Montana’s National Forest lands at the turn of the 20th Century echoes throughout public-lands debates a century hence.
In 1906, one year after its creation, the U.S. Forest Service established the Kootenai Forest Reserve, encompassing timber lands in the Kootenai River drainage of far northwest Montana. From Trout Creek to Troy arose public opposition to the Forest Reserve boundaries.
The frontier had been closed 10 years earlier, and settlers had resorted to squatting on abandoned rail lines, Indian territory and old mine operations. The creation of Forest Reserves struck some as a move by the federal government to lock up potential agricultural land from settlement.
Not aiding matters is that most of the fledgling Forest Service’s new hires were Ivy League-bred Easterners, graduates from Yale University’s then-novel forestry program, rather than longtime residents.
Locals dubbed them “instant rangers”.
“Most of the rangers weren’t local, and when you look at it from a public relations standpoint, it may not have been the best approach,” said Rachel Reckin, zoned district archaelogist for the Three Rivers and Cabinets Ranger Districts of the Forest Service.
Directions to the Bull River Guard Station
From Highway 200 turn onto Highway 56 follow this highway for approximately 8 miles and turn right onto the East Fork Bull River Road 407. Follow Road 407 about 1.5 miles to the junction with Road 2278 and stay to the right, follow this road for approximately 0.5 miles to the Guard Station.
The Bull River Guard Station was built in 1908 as the Ranger’s house and office. This structure was a primary ranger station from 1908 to 1920, surviving the 1910 fire. The cabin was home to Granville “Granny” Gordon, his wife and three daughters. The cabin is a two story building, containing 700 square feet. It is equipped with period furniture including three full beds and two single beds including mattresses. It has a sitting room with chairs, a kitchen and dining room with a hutch, table and chairs, and electric range. It is heated with a forced air electric furnace, and contains cleaning supplies.
The cabin is available for rent year-round.
It can be reserved by calling 1-877-444-6777 or visiting www.recreation.gov. The cabin rents for $55 a day with a seven day stay limit.
To view the entire story on the Bull River guard station, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Ready, Set, Go!: On a ride in the classic red and yellow buses inside Glacier and Yellowstone national parks
By Ednor Therriault
Whether you’re nudging your way through a road-blocking herd of grumpy bison in Yellowstone National Park’s Hayden Valley, or trying not to wet yourself as you look over the edge of Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road at the sheer half-mile drop into thin air, riding shotgun in a vintage National Park Service tour bus is the best seat in the house.
If you’ve experienced both of Montana’s national parks from the unique perspective of the throwback tour buses, you might think that apart from the paint jobs, Glacier’s iconic red buses and Yellowstone’s historic yellow buses are all the same.
But that would be like comparing apples and bananas.
There are plenty of tours to experience at both parks, from eight hour treks up mountain passes to quick evening rides.
Here’s more about the two tours writer Ednor Therriault took.
The Firehole Basin Adventure in Yellowstone: A three hour tour that takes riders to geyser basins along the park’s valley. Riders can also request drivers stop at specific sites throughout the drive. The tour leaves from the Old Faithful Inn and runs numerous times throughout the day.
There are plenty of more “adventures on land” inside Yellowstone. You can read about them all and fill out reservation forms here.
The West Side Crown of the Continent Tour in Glacier: An eight to nine hour tour that takes riders through Lake McDonald Valley and up along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Riders can eat lunch at the Many Glacier Hot, the tour then continues through St. Mary Valley and into Swiftcurrent Valley. The tour leaves from various sites around the park daily from June 20 through Sept. 21.
To learn more about all the tours, including the “Big Sky Circle Tour” and “East Alpine Tour,” click here.
To view the entire story on the famous park buses, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Welcome to Sugar Avenue: Billings refinery turns out millions of pounds of sugar each year
By Jennifer Mckee
Fall and winter in Billings is a time of odor. Newcomers and visitors often don’t understand these smells. They will even make fun of them.
But for the 110,000 people of Billings – fully one-tenth the population of Montana – the odor triggers the brain’s emotional messaging system each fall to begin pumping out messages.
Intellectually inaccessible, maybe even unreasonable, complex messaging about smell.
These are some of the messages they hear:
“The harvest is over.”
“The work has begun.”
“Food comes from work.”
“Food comes from Billings.”
“I am home.”
Billings’ signature smell that stirs these thoughts also conjures a kind of pride.
It is the smell of sugar beets.
The Western Sugar Cooperative beet refinery on Billings’ south edge produces 1.5 million pounds of sugar every day it is running.
Chances are, you’ve probably had some. It goes in Wheat Montana bread and Wilcoxson’s ice cream.
If you’ve bought sugar in Montana from IGA, WalMart, Albertsons or anywhere that stocks Western Family or Great Western sugar, you’ve had some.
Whole train cars of it go to Hershey, Penn., and you know exactly what that means.
From seed to sugar: How beets are turned to sugar
Seed: From mid-April to May, planting season begins for beet farmers on 150 Montana farms from Bridger to Custer
Root: From May through September the seeds begin to grow on the 24,000 acres of Montana farmland into what will become white, two-to five- pound, foot-long sugar beets. Beets contain up to 22 percent sucrose
Sugar beet: In September, harvesting season begins and roughly 1.5 billion of pounds of sugar beets are shipped to “beet dumps” around the state. Beets are then delivered by truck to the Billings refinery
Refining: From September through mid-February, once at the Western Sugar Cooperative refinery, beets are taken through a three hour process to make sugar. The refinery runs nonstop producing sugar
Sugar water: Inside the refinery every day beets are washed in river water, sliced with precision, dropped into a diffuser where steam coaxes out sugar. The resulting sugar water is then pumped into pans that induce crystallization
Crystals: As sugar crystals form, they’re sent through a centrifuge that blasts the last of the water from the sugar
Sugar: The sugar is spun dry and packaged. Every day of operation, the Billings refinery produces 1.5 million pounds of sugar. Sugar is shipped from the refinery to facilities across the world, including to Hershey, Penn.
To view the entire story on the sugar beet refinery, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.