Big Sky Country – the road to Yellowstone National Park
A trip through Big Sky Country
“I bet we’re the only people listening to Hilltop Hoods in Montana,” I shout to my mates as we bounce along the highway to the Aussie hip-hop group’s “Chris Farley”.
“How many people live in Montana?” asks Kahn, my Aussie mate living the eternal dream of chasing snow in the winter and surf in the summer.
I guessed at half a million. We hadn’t seen a town of any significance since leaving Whitefish four-hours earlier.
Small farming communities dotted the highway, running parallel to the single-track railroad, which looked like it had seen better days.
We left Fernie at 6am, myself, Kahn, Caitlyn and Alana, our destination – Yellowstone National Park, where we intended to see the world famous Geysers, the Grand Canyon and as much wildlife as we possibly could. But along the way we had ten-hours of rural Montana to marvel at. Montana is easily one of my favourite states, sweeping prairies are locked in by imposing mountains, and melting lakes sit glistening in the early spring sunshine.
We entered the USA and meandered through the lake district of Northern Montana. Around every corner there seemed to be a new lake, some still partially frozen from the harsh realities of winter. The fields were lush with green before the scenery turned to awakening forests before turning back to green fields. The mountains an ever imposing backdrop, the sprawling landscape stretched out for miles.
As we made our way through winding forest roads we had to be vigilant for deer, for the unsuspecting driver never knows when one of the little Bambi’s would make a suicidal dash across a vehicles path.
Montana is known as Big Sky Country, for good reason too, the sky is perhaps the most impressive aspect of this vast state. It’s endless, never ending, the clouds huge yet sparse at the same time, allowing lots of room for the piecing blue sky to add another dimension to the landscape.
Montana, like much of America, has a lot of time and love for Jesus. We passed the Cowboy Church of Kalispell, a huge cross between Somer and Big Fork and Montana’s very own Christ the Redeemer. Montana’s Our Lady of the Rockies statue is perched, somewhat preciously on a hilltop over the otherwise unremarkable mining town of Butte.
Gardner, Montana was our destination and the 50-plus mile drive from the Interstate was a pure delight. We felt we had truly entered cowboy country, the hills towered above the valley, ranches were everywhere and the bison, deer and other wildlife roamed freely. Images of Native Americans sitting atop the hills, looking down as settlers and wagon trains made their way west sprang to mind.
The magic of the Wild West, the lure, the dream, the urge to get lost there is still strong in many people. Montana is Big Sky Country.
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