Daily Reads


Montana - Paradise Valley (Part I)

Absaroka range, Paradise Valley, a few miles from our cabin
Mallard's Rest, Yellowstone River

It took us most of the day to drive from Glacier, south through the Flathead Valley, through Missoula, south and east and over the Continental Divide and into Livingston. From there we turned south onto highway 89 through the Paradise Valley - a gorgeous two-lane road that follows the sparkling Yellowstone River dotted with fishermen in their boats, beside pastures of cows and green fields watered with giant sprinklers, and the Absaroka mountains looming up beside us. We opened the sunroof and the windows for the final stretch of our drive, and tried to take in every bit of the beauty and the sweet air. When we arrived at the cabin and got out of the car I could have cried with happiness - it was a quiet little spot on the country road of my dreams, and just beyond the cabin, winking at us in the afternoon sun, flowed the Yellowstone river. We immediately trekked down to the water to start exploring.
driving south throught the valley / our view from the porch
exploring "our" little piece of the Yellowstone / ice cream on the porch

It was hot and sunny when we arrived at the cabin, but as soon as the sun dipped below the mountains (around 9 at night!) the air turned cool and crisp. The mornings were so refreshing - open windows, sweatshirts, hot coffee, warm little guys in their warm pajamas. Some of my favorite things!
 waking up and showing me the river - the boys always wanted to get outside right away! me too!
 happy Sam - he picked out this mountain lion in Glacier and named him Bomp
quiet, happy morning by the river

On our first day we packed up and headed south to Yellowstone for a half-day trip. We wanted to minimize time spent driving and/or sitting in Yellowstone traffic, and of course find some activities that would be fun for the boys, so we drove a short distance into the park and spent the morning hiking and playing at the Boiling River.
hiking along the Gardiner River / the Gardiner and Boiling Rivers meet

a beautiful day in Yellowstone - by the end of the hike we were hot and ready to get in!
playing in the Boiling River (it turns out there was a snake coiled up in the rocks right next to us)

 It was a perfect activity for little ones. The hike was flat and pretty, about half a mile in each direction, with the Gardiner river running along beside the trail, and wildflowers to pick along the way. The trail ends where the Boiling River empties into the very chilly Gardiner River, and where the rivers meet the water temperature fluctuates between hot and cold, but it's comfortable enough to swim! The boys protested when it was time to leave, and I forgot to bring them dry shoes for the hike back, but otherwise we had a really good time!

Park County Fair in Livingston / dinner at the Rib and Chop House, one of our favorites
having some ice cream at the fair

That night we hit one of the highlights of our trip - our precious friends Lance and Elsabe joined us!! We met up at the Park County Fair in Livingston, had a fun dinner at the Montana Rib and Chop House, then spent the rest of the evening back at the fair before heading home to the cabin. We stayed up late every night visiting, using the hot tub, having a campfire, trying to photograph the stars, and always laughing. It was so special sharing this trip with them! I wish I had more pictures, but as is so often the case (in my life, at least) some of the best times go un-photographed because I'm just enjoying myself too much to worry about pictures! I suppose that's the way it should be.

More to come....


Two years old

I wish he would loosen up and have fun sometimes

Today our Sam turns two. What a couple of years it has been! This child has brought so much love and joy into our lives. It hurts my heart that you're growing up so fast, Sammy, but oh how we have treasured every moment with you.
You love everything on wheels - trucks, cars, motorcycles - and you love Mickey Mouse, so we had a little bit of both to celebrate your birthday. You loved it! You were so thrilled with your Mickey Mouse cake, and the Mickey toys, and especially with your "motorcycle" (big wheel) and helmet. What a gift for me to get to put together this little celebration and see your reaction! It made my heart burst seeing your happiness, Sam! 
We celebrated with family at Gigi and Papa's house last weekend, and then again at home over the weekend
 playing cars and stickers - two of his favorite things
 Evie loved the balloons! She carried them around very carefully without popping them! Made us laugh.

Happy, happy birthday precious boy! You're such a blessing to us!
We love you more than you will ever know. xoxo


Montana - Glacier Country

 Avalanche Creek Glacier Park or, as Michael calls it, "our river"

We're back from our trip to Montana, and since we've been home I've been acting like a teenager,  alternately floating along on the dreamy memories of our trip, and moping like my life is over because the trip is behind us. Maybe I'm reacting this way because I was a teenager when I lived in Montana? Have I regressed to my adolescence? 

  Mission Mountains and barn, Flathead Valley

I think I'm just having a hard time getting over this one because Montana, as I've mentioned before, is my sacred place. For many reasons - so many of my formative years were spent there, my memories of it are almost all very happy, the peace and quiet and the landscape and the people are just a good fit for my personality and my taste, oh and it's GORGEOUS - it feels like my home.  It takes forever for me to move on after a good trip under any circumstances, but this one has been really hard. It was a dream come true to share Montana with my boys. One morning at breakfast Michael actually turned to me and asked out of the blue, "Can I grow up here?" and I almost cried because it makes me so happy that he loves it as much as I love it. I've always hoped that Montana would be part of Michael and Samuel's life, and this trip seemed like the beginning of that.

It was everything I expect summer in Montana to be - crisp and cool at night, hot and sunny during the day, buzzing with life (read: mosquitoes and biting flies), shimmering with crystal clear rivers and dazzling stars, covered with the dome of that big open sky, and smelling as fresh as if the Lord just put the finishing touches on the pine trees. Of course it wasn't a perfect trip. (Do they exist? I'll spend the rest of my life trying to find out.) There were short nights, grouchy mornings, testy arguments, getting on each others' nerves in the car, etc. But there were such good times, too. I love that we showed our boys a part of our country that is so different from where we live. (I'll never forget Samuel walking barefoot in the grass and excitedly saying, "No ants! No ants!") And, as far as traveling with kids goes, Montana is as perfect a place as I can imagine. To say that it is casual and outdoorsy is a total understatement. The boys spent most of the time dirty, barefoot, playing with rocks, sticks, dirt, water, and whatever else they could get their hands on. I'm proud to say that the boys spent almost all of their waking time outside playing and exploring. We couldn't have kept them inside if we wanted to. 

 bear patrol and howling like a wolf / sunset from the porch
breakfast at Buffalo Cafe in Whitefish / wildflower picking at the cabin
We flew in and out of Spokane, which means that we had a pretty (but long) drive to get in and out of Montana. We stayed in a cabin up a long gravel road on the edge of Whitefish, where we were warned not to go outside without bear mace because a bear had been hanging around the property. We never did see that bear (Michael kept lookout the whole time we were there) but it was a beautiful place to spend a few days. We spent two days on the west side of Glacier Park (not nearly enough time!) and found a few things that were just right for young kids:

- We walked the Trail of the Cedars - beautiful, shady, flat, with the gorgeous Avalanche Creek Gorge at the halfway point, and plenty to explore along the way. This was a perfect "hike" for the boys. They loved it.

- Picnic and playing at Avalanche Creek, just across the road from the trailhead for the Trail of the Cedars. Both days we went to Glacier, we packed a cooler with snacks and lunch. We liked this spot so much, we ate lunch here both days. It was so beautiful and peaceful, and the boys were so happy playing with the rocks and water, they never wanted to leave. It was a really special spot for us.

 Huckleberry Nature Trail

- On day two, in the name of kid-friendly hiking and wildflowers, we drove up the west side of the park to the Huckleberry Nature Trail. This one was a little bit out of the way, but it was a fun hike, and good for the kids too (Sammy rode in the pack for this one as there was quite a bit of climbing, but Michael handled it like a champ!) I only wish we had brought some sort of bear protection with us - there were multiple bear warnings at the trailhead, and it was obvious to us as we walked the trail that this was prime bear territory. Tim and I were pretty terrified as we began the hike, and we thought about turning back, but we made a big racket (Michael chattered and sang happily the whole way) and we never did see any bears (so thankful for that). The views were beautiful and it was such a peaceful, pretty trail - when we weren't scared for our lives. Ha!

a few of the vistas we passed on our way out of town - these photos are so inadequate it hurts to post them!
from top: a pretty lot near our cabin in Whitefish (Glacier mountains in the distance), my favorite orange BNSF train on its way through Whitefish, and a view of Flathead lake (from the west side looking east toward the Swan and Mission ranges)

After spending two and a half days in Whitefish and Glacier (not nearly enough time - what was I thinking with that plan?!?), we packed up the car and headed south through the Flathead Valley. It was a beautiful drive past fields and barns and stunning mountains, the shimmering Flathead Lake, and dozens of cute little cherry orchards on the surrounding hills. I found myself daydreaming about running one of those little cherry farms by the lake - it's hard to imagine a more lovely setting (at least, in the summer time.) We picked up lunch at Tagliare in Missoula, and had a picnic in the park so the boys could run. By four that afternoon we were stocking up on groceries in Livingston and headed to the house we had rented in Pray, a teeny town on the Yellowstone River in the heart of the Paradise Valley....