We had an incredible time in Montana last weekend. It was so wonderful to be with friends we’ve known since childhood and see the beauty of a new place. And Montana is a post card image of beauty for sure. We ate so much lean, grass-fed beef; most of the time bred within 100 yards of where we consumed it. We saw storms roll in across an expansive valley, and sunsets that lit an entire mountain range. We dipped our feet in a glacier-fed lake and hiked across snow fields to catch glimpses of hidden lakes. It was a pretty magical weekend; best we’ve had in a long time. I guess that’s why it merits the longest blog post in Stray Streets history.
We headed out on Thursday, stopping for lunch and a quick stroll around old town Butte. Everything was old, dilapidated, and worn. It’s fun to envision something so run down as a once booming and thriving mining town.
When we arrived in Polson our jaws dropped. The small town sits between rolling hills that lead up to a gorgeous mountain range, and the beautifully expansive Flathead Lake. We stayed in a small, local hotel that sat right on the water front, Port Polson Inn. After freshening up we met our dear friend Steven, who took the train from to CA to MT, then rode his bike about 100 miles down to Polson from Glacier. Impressive, I know. After grabbing some of the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had we headed out to the farm to see the beautiful bride, Alyssa, and meet the groom, Paul.
Alyssa’s family has a tradition that the men marrying into the family must “debag and tag” a calf – a right of passage you might say. Usually this happens when the calf is just a few weeks old, but unfortunately for Paul the calf was a whopping 5 months. It took all 5 of his siblings and a couple of Alyssa’s to tackle the animal and hold it while Paul slipped the band over it’s manly parts, and tagged the ear. They had not one, but two cows to attend to. At one point the bride went down as they cornered one of the calfs and every jumped in, terrified she’d take a hoof to the face two days before her big day. I watched from outside the pen. It was an incredible evening, entertaining AND beautiful. The sunset does pretty phenomenal things to that big sky country.
The next day we woke up early and headed out around the lake and northward to Glacier National Park. The view around the west side of Flathead Lake at sunrise was like a dream. The day was a little cloudy and overcast, especially once we got into Glacier. We drove the “going-to-the-sun” road, past the weeping walls, several waterfalls, and a few construction projects. After making sandwiches balancing on our laps in the car we reached the top of Logan’s Pass. Snow, more clouds, wind, and some pretty chilly temperatures were what greeted us as we stepped out of the car.
The guys were bummed the trail to summit Oberlin Mountain was closed, so instead we put on every piece of clothing we had with us and trekked out over the snow to a lookout on Hidden Lake. My ears were killing me with the cold wind, and we looked pretty bedraggled at the top, but it was well worth the hike. Those boys are so much fun.
After our escapades at Glacier we raced back down to Polson, hastily ate yet another delicious gluten free option at Betty’s Diner next to the hotel (who know the small towns of Montana would be so accommodating!) and then drove down to Ronan for a barn dance, hosted by Paul’s family. Turns out the live bluegrass guitarist was from our hometown, so he dedicated several songs to us and gave a shout out to the “Desert Rats” at several points in the evening.
The big wedding day was pretty perfect. We slept in a little, ate breakfast at Ronan Cafe, hiked up to a waterfall above Ronan, dipped our feet in Flathead Lake, then dressed to look the part of a country wedding guest and headed back to the farm. Alyssa did an incredible job with the design. (She’s a senior display coordinator for Anthropologie so this came as no big surprise.) Everything was absolutely beautiful. Just the right touch of each element. A classy country nuptial with beautiful simplicity, customized just for them, with their closest friends and family present. There seemed to be a place for everyone, regardless of their personal style or mannerisms. It was lovely.
Their beloved farm dogs followed the bride down the aisle, local musicians played fiddles and mandolins softy during the ceremony, the gourmet burger bar featured meat from the family’s cows, and the tables were set with fresh cut pieces of wood that served as cutting boards for local cheeses and fresh-picked wild flowers in small vases. Bistro lights and burlap were strewn between four trees above and candles provided the only light on tables below. I don’t think I can adequately express the exquisite atmosphere at this wedding. By far the most wonderful I’ve ever been to. It made you feel so at peace.
After the ceremony, social hour, dinner, toasts, and dancing, everyone headed out to the front of the house where we sent off Thi fire lanterns as well wishes for the bride and groom. The last one hadn’t even crossed the property completely when fireworks were launched from behind the barn. As though it were planned, at the very same time lightning bolts from an incoming storm were visible at the far end of the valley. They never made it our way, but provided a surreal moment of illumination along with the bursts of colorful fireworks.
Following the lanterns and fireworks more dancing ensued, and around 1:30 AM the bride and groom finally departed and the evening came to a close. It was absolutely magical. Every single moment.
The next day we woke up, ate gluten free pancakes next door at Betty’s Diner and then headed home. We stopped in Missoula to catch the second half of the Euro Cup Final in a small sports bar filled with old Montana cowboys watching baseball. Something from the farm the night before really enflamed my allergies, and I was pretty much useless as a driving companion. When Brent’s eyes started to kill him we decided it was best to stay the night with friends in Idaho before heading the rest of the way home.
It was an incredible trip. Congrats to Alyssa and Paul on a lovely wedding, and thanks for hosting everyone in such a remarkable location. We had an amazing time.