Fiftieth "Anniversary" Trip to Montana

Fifty years ago today, my parents and older sister and I arrived in the Mission Valley in Montana, where my parents had chosen to retire. (I posted a little about that move here.) My sister thought we should have a small celebration of some sort, so I drove to her house Saturday for a short visit. Theoretically, it should take about 3 1/2 hours to make the drive, but I like to stop frequently and stretch my legs and take pictures, so it took me 6 1/4 hours.

It was a cloudy day with frequent, sometimes-heavy showers. Traffic on I-90 was light, despite it being tourist season. Perhaps the high gas price is keeping folks from traveling, and perhaps the lack of warm, sunny weather is a factor.

One of my favorite stopping places is the travel center at St. Regis, MT. In addition to a gas station and convenience store, there is a large gift shop to explore. The gnome craze has made it to the gift shop.


Bigfoot is always a popular theme in this area, too. This plaque really made me chuckle, for some reason.


Huckleberries grow in profusion in the nearby mountains, so huckleberry specialties are always in abundance.



Of course, Montana-themed clothing and decor were everywhere.



Highway 135 runs from St. Regis more or less north to intersect with Highway 200 near Paradise, MT. It follows along the Clark Fork River, and many turnouts are available for viewing the river and surrounding countryside.


It amazes me to see the little evergreen trees growing up on the side of this rocky cliff. How do they ever find enough nourishment to grow?


The water was fairly high in the river, and the vegetation was much greener than I usually see it, but I saw no signs of flooding like the Yellowstone Park area in southeastern Montana has experienced.


Several miles farther along, not far from the little town of Dixon, this view always gives me the urge to stop and take a picture. Just as I stepped out of the car, a meadowlark burst into song. That sound takes me back fifty years to our first days living in this area. Meadowlarks did not live in western Washington where I had lived for most of my life, so it was an exciting new experience to hear them in Montana.


Dixon is a forgettable little town. Other than an elementary school and the post office, I only saw one other open business, a small cafe. I don't think the bar was even open. The town is only about six blocks long, and the handful of old storefronts along the highway are empty and abandoned.

But after I was out of town, I came across this field full of adorable goats. I tried to count them, but gave up when I reached about 80. While I stood there admiring them, a large dog lumbered down the driveway, barking loudly. The goats began to wander toward the dog, making me wonder if the dog's arrival usually is accompanied by the arrival of a bale of hay.


Shortly after Dixon, one can turn off onto a road that winds around the National Bison Range, or one can continue on Hwy 200 to the also-forgettable town of Ravalli. (Population 76 in 2010.) There used to be two gas stations, a restaurant, and a gift shop, but all are closed. This old school building, currently used as a church, is the only interesting thing to see in the three or so blocks of town, most of which is located right along the highway.


The reason I drove to Ravalli, however, had nothing to do with the town itself. If one turns north onto Hwy 93 there, one soon reaches the top of Ravalli Hill and an amazing view of the Mission Mountains can be admired from a scenic lookout. That's one of my favorite views, and that's why I chose that route. I wish you could hear the meadowlarks singing, and the distant lowing of cattle on the hillside, and smell the freshly-cut grass, all of which was part of my experience that day.


This next view is looking more toward the north. I was pleased to find the mountains visible, after so much rain earlier in the day.


I have lived in five states, but I will always be a Montanan at heart.The population is much higher than it was in 1972, lights twinkle all over the valley where once the nights were dark, traffic is heavier, gravel roads have been paved, businesses have come and gone, and the older generation of folks who were so kind to us when we moved here have all died, yet this beautiful valley remains "home" to me.

All photos taken on my Android phone.

 7 months ago  

It looks like a very beautiful place with some lovely views. It sounds like it's very sparsely populated area.

It is much more populated than it used to be, but those who didn't live here 50 years ago probably think it isn't crowded.

Ahh, that picture filled trip recap was glorious! I especially loved the Mission Mountains, it reminded me of riding the bus to sporting events from Thompson Falls to St Regis when I was in high school, such pretty country!

Congrats on the 5 decades of Montana Move anniversary!

It rained ALL DAY, so we had our picnic indoors!

I loved going on this drive with you, Montana is beautiful and I also love to explore gift shops.

Thanks for the read and the comment. Montana's nickname is so appropriate: Big Sky Country.

Its nickname is even beautiful.

I can see why you stop nad stretch your legs, what views you saw, and how cool was that shop.
I have only heard of Huckleberry Finn! I did not realise that they were real berries, thank you for teaching me something today:)

Huckleberries are similar to blueberries, but usually smaller and the flavor isn't the same. I don't know how to describe it.