We reviewed all our Montana Moments blogs, selected the twelve best and ranked them in ascending order. Last week we presented numbers twelve to seven (on our website: www.mllg.us); this week we conclude with numbers six to one.
6. Wild West: Echos of the frontier reverberate at Packer’s Roost, an outre biker bar in Hungry Horse, near Whitefish. It is named after convicted cannibal, Alfred Packer, and was Ted (Unabomber) Kaczynski’s haunt while hiding out from the FBI. Vestiges of the old west survive at the Blue Moon Nite Club, just outside Whitefish. A long bar populated two deep by working cowboys, many of whom are wasted, greets those undaunted enough to enter. There is a casino with jangling slots, pool tables, the de rigueur live poker game and rest rooms festooned with avant garde art, if you get my drift. Of course, there is a live country band with dancers attired in full western regalia. The gestalt of all this unfolding at once is an authentic Montana moment.
5. Great Outdoors: It’s hard to imagine a place on our planet better endowed by nature. There are mountains, rivers and six-mile long Whitefish Lake. Every conceivable outdoor activity for all four seasons is present in spades. The Whitefish ski area is ranked eleventh best in the world (yes – in the world) by Ski Magazine. Each year there are magical days when you can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon.
4. Rodeo: Every Thursday in summer there is a rodeo featuring locals; it begins with a moving, not-to-be-missed ceremony honoring US, Canadian and Montana flags. One event is youth bull riding for kids as young as eight. There are precautions: the bulls are young, their horns trimmed and the kids wear helmets. Nonetheless, a 50-pound eight-year old is riding a cantankerous wild 500-pound bull. Teenagers with serious hunting knives strapped to their waists freely mingle with the 2,000 spectators. If that happened at a big city high school football game, there would be panic, SWAT teams would fast rope in, the stadium would be evacuated and all knives confiscated.
3. Derby: I belong to a club with a 60-year tradition called Derby. Every Thursday at noon up to 30 golfers (in 3-man scramble teams) play simultaneously and finish in regulation time. Derby participants are ages 15 to 85, low wage to millionaires, scratch to high handicap, uneducated to Ph.Ds and Americans, Canadians, Native Americans and summer residents like me. Some openly smoke dope while others, who are deputy sheriffs, pretend not to notice. Some players have derby nicknames too ribald to print. The repartee is incessant and priceless. Derby is a bona fide Montana moment.
2. Whitefish: For a town of 6,500, Whitefish offers more than many cities 50 times its size. It is picturesque; many commercials you see are filmed there. It sits at 3,000 feet altitude in a valley, resulting in perfect summer weather and mild winters given its 48 degree latitude. It has a year-round full symphony orchestra, fine dining, live entertainment, non-stop festivals and several top-notch golf courses. It is the western gateway to Glacier National Park and only seven miles from world class skiing.
1. Glacier National Park: GNP is the crown jewel of NW Montana. It is (by far) the best national park of the many we have visited. It is so remote and with so little lodging, it remains relatively uncrowded – although that is changing. Its major artery, Going-to-the-Sun Road, is as spectacular as it is iconic. The only tricontinental divide in the USA, where water flows to 3 oceans (Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic), is in GNP.