Ah, summer of 2006. Just about to start my senior year of high school, I was definitely in the phase of not wanting to spend time with my parents and being far too cool to wear ugly hiking boots and carry a stupid backpack. Looking back, I was many things in high school. Cool was never one of them.
And since I was still living under my parents’ roof, I didn’t really have much of a choice but to don the ugly boots, sling my old tan canvas backpack over my shoulders, and do some hiking.
Though I’m sure I did my fair share of complaining at the time, I’m infinitely grateful that my parents raised me to have a love of the outdoors. I went camping for the first time when I was just a few months old and learned how to pitch a tent long before I mastered the handstand.
Not to mention that I grew up in the most beautiful place in the country. Biased? Okay, yes. A little bit. But it’s true. Montana is stunning. I could walk out my back door and see mountains in every direction. We could drive twenty minutes, park the car, and hop on a winding trail through fragrant pine forests to a waterfall or a lake. The water is crystal clear, the sky is an expanse of blue, and nothing compares to the fresh mountain air.
No matter where I end up, Montana will always be my home sweet home.
Funny story about this last place: I’ve actually been to Windy Pass twice, and both times I got lost on the drive to the trailhead. It was one of those things where you do it wrong the first time, correct the mistake, and then forget which one was correct.
I can now say this with absolute certainty: every time the road forks and there’s no sign telling you where to go, keep right. And if you end up on a horribly rocky road that drops down into the next drainage instead of at a well-marked trailhead… well, you probably tried to follow the map instead of just keeping right.
But once you get there, as you can see, it’s a moderate 5-mile (8 km) round trip hike with thousands of wildflowers and stunning panoramic views of the Gallatin Mountains.