In the imagination of this sometimes Malthusian, Montana is one of the last frontiers, so it's dispiriting that the state's population just crossed over the 1,000,000 mark. In the spirit of suppressing population growth, I wish I could record that Missoula is lame and always smoked out by forest fires (as it nearly was our last visit, more than a decade ago), and that it doesn't even have an Indian restaurant (ok, that's actually true), and that, therefore, anyone thinking about Montana should move instead to Texas, if progressive, or Alabama, if conservative, but I have to confess that we had a great weekend, one made even better by the temperature dropping into the mid-40s both nights. Completely fun, relaxing, and drama-free weekends don't make for especially riveting blog entries, but hey, I'll take this trade-off anytime.
To begin with, most of us (even if we live in Sandy), don't have a federal Wilderness Area 1.4 miles from our front door. After an idyllic trail run in the Rattlesnake Wilderness, and much ado about nothing over a few moving boxes, it was time for the real business at hand: sampling Montana's practically-approaching-Fort Collins beer scene. In The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri poignantly wrote about the main character's wedding at a Doubletree, which for him confirmed the all-too-soon abandonment of his dreams of greatness and wealth. But I'm pretty sure Lahiri never sipped a Blackfoot IPA from Blackfoot Brewery in Helena while taking in the Clark Fork River below from the deck of the Doubletree Missoula.
Fast forward past a zippy Slovenian white and a damn good Italian meal (this isn't your grandfather's Montana), the main hike of the weekend brought us down the road to the awesome two-state Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and to Blodgett Canyon more specifically.
Sean's a local, and an experienced backpacker, and he manages an REI to boot, so we figured he'd be able to get us to the waterfalls at the end of the hike, where we paused for an outstanding Prickly Pear APA, brewed with real cactus, from the Lewis and Clark Brewery (also in Helena). Sure the cactus is pure marketing, but it's also delicious.
The highway between the Bitteroots and Missoula should be renamed the Montana Taphouse Trail. After visiting the perfectly fine if perhaps trapped-in-the-90s Bitterroot facility (still called a "brewpub"!), perhaps the highlight of the whole weekend was our visit to Wildwood Brewery. You simply have to love a taphouse in a barn with rusting trucks out back and $2 saisons.
Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol wine region, my new kick, but the wines were decent, and the setting was unbeatable.