Author Archives: tiatroy

Making a Move: Montana to Wyoming

I’m not quite sure how to tell you this, so I’m just gonna come right out with it: I’m leaving Montana.

Goodbye, Montana.

Goodbye, Montana.

For those of you who’ve been reading this blog or following me on social media, you know how much I love Montana. My love for this state is as expansive as Montana’s big sky and as deep as my family’s roots in this place we’ve been lucky enough to call home for generations. But I’m packing my rig (AKA my 4WD Jeep), pulling on my cowgirl boots and heading south for the beautiful, wild, romantic and adventure-filled state of Wyoming.

Hello, Wyoming.

Hello, Wyoming. Photo: Andy Austin

While it hurts my heart to leave Montana, I’m thrilled, happy and excited to explore the Forever West, and I can’t wait to help tell the incredible stories about the people, places and experiences that make Wyoming so special. And if there’s one state I could possibly leave my love Montana for, it’s Wyoming. Also, in case anyone is keeping score, Montana and Wyoming are BFFs (read more about why MT + WY are BFFs here). After all, they share three of the most special place in the country: Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Highway and Bighorn Canyon.

MT + WY = BFFs.

MT + WY = BFFs.

And while I’m leaving Big Sky Country, I’d love it if we could still be friends…maybe even BFFs like Montana and Wyoming? If you’re interested in keeping up with my new adventures in another absolutely stunning part of the world, you can follow me on instagram at @MontanaTia (PS: I totally know I’m going to have to revisit my instagram handle ;)), where I’ll be sharing photos, stories and more from life in Wyoming.

And while I said it in last week’s blog post (you can read that here), I need to say it again: thank you for letting me be part of your lives. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and feel honored to have spend so many years sharing my adventures with you as I’ve been living, working and playing under Montana’s big blue sky.

Until we meet again—this time under Wyoming’s wild skies—happy trails to you.

xo,
TT

Happy Trails to 2016, From This Montana Girl

You guys, first things first: I’m so glad we’re friends. When I think back on this blog, I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to take you on my Montana-loving journeys and share all the things that make Big Sky Country so special to me. I love reading your comments and receiving your emails about the latest blog posts, and I really love when you share your memories of Montana, family or life with me. So from the bottom of my windblown, silly, happy and joyful heart, I want to say one thing: thank you. Thank you for letting me be part of your lives.

My Montana.

My Montana.

Maybe it’s the holiday season or just taking the time to think about another year passing as we all gear up for the arrival of 2017, but I’ve been feeling really sentimental about this past year. 2016 held a plethora of adventures with some of my favorite people, from snowshoeing in Glacier National Park to the #PictureMontana trip with friends both new and old and taking the trip of a lifetime into the heart of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness to my family reunion at Placid Lake State Park. When I look back on all of the life that was packed into the last 12 months, I can’t help but be happy. So, just because, I thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the best Montana moments of 2016.

Take a look…

Starting 2016 at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.

Starting 2016 at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.

Ranger led snowshoeing in Glacier National Park, Glacier Country

Snowshoeing in Glacier National Park.

Taking in the stillness of winter in Glacier National Park.

Taking in the stillness of winter in Glacier National Park.

Several of my Montana memories involve this lady: photographer Donnie Sexton.

Several of my Montana memories involve this lady: photographer Donnie Sexton.

Stopping to take in the view along I-90 near Alberton, Montana.

Stopping to take in the view along I-90 near Alberton, Montana.

Perhaps my most favorite barn shot, ever.

Perhaps my most favorite barn shot, ever.

After work, I headed out west of Missoula to watch the soft evening light fall over the valley.

After work one day, I headed out west of Missoula to watch the soft evening light fall over the valley.

2016 also brought my first-ever visit to Cody, Wyoming.

2016 also brought my first-ever visit to Cody, Wyoming.

My traveling partner and I fell in love with downtown Cody, Wyoming.

Downtown Cody, Wyoming.

The first bike outing of the year on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The first bike outing of the year on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

This last year also brought two blissful, almost picture-perfect days at Flathead Lake Lodge.

This last year also brought two blissful, almost picture-perfect days at Flathead Lake Lodge.

In May, I was able to welcome 17 writers to Western Montana. Definitely one of my most memorable trips ever (in the best way possible).

In May, I was able to welcome 17 writers (who I’m lucky enough to call my friends) to Western Montana. Definitely one of my most memorable trips ever (in the best way possible).

One of the most special experiences of 2016: watching American Indian dancers perform at Ninepipes Lodge.

One of the most special experiences of 2016: watching American Indian dancers perform at Ninepipes Lodge.

Another thing I've learned: it's important to capture memories.

Another thing I’ve learned: it’s important to capture memories.

I also crossed another destination off my bucket list: Bighorn Canyon in Southeast Montana/Northeast Wyoming.

I also crossed another destination off my bucket list: Bighorn Canyon in Southeast Montana/Northeast Wyoming.

The second bike outing on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

The second bike outing on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Home. PS: when your hometown is as small as mine, you have no problem laying on Main Street to take photos.

Home. PS: when your hometown is as small as mine, you have no problem laying on Main Street to take photos.

Holland Lake Road, with Swan Mountain views.

Holland Lake Road, with Swan Mountain views.

Just a quick visit to my favorite spot with one of my favorite girls.

Just a quick visit to my favorite spot with one of my favorite girls.

This past summer, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and went on a week-long pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

This past summer, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and went on a week-long pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

My friend Amy taking in the view of the Chinese Wall in The Bob.

My friend Amy taking in the view of the Chinese Wall in The Bob.

For as long as I can remember, seeing the Chinese Wall in person has been one of my dreams.

For as long as I can remember, seeing the Chinese Wall in person has been one of my dreams.

Special thanks to my friend Tommy for this shot.

Special thanks to my friend Tommy for this shot.

The crew standing on top of the world.

The crew standing on top of the world.

This morning view was one of my favorites from the entire year.

This morning view was one of my favorites from the entire year.

A must-do activity: driving Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road in fall.

A must-do activity: visiting Glacier National Park in fall.

Don't tell anyone, but this lady is one of my favorites.

This little lady is one of the best adventure partners in the land. 

There's something about a dirt road and Montana.

There’s something about a dirt road and Montana.

Adventuring on Two Medicine Lake in fall.

Adventuring on Two Medicine Lake in fall.

Sunrise over the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park.

Sunrise over the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park.

Fall at Travelers' Rest State Park. My traveling friend and I (see previous photo) were the only ones there.

Fall at Travelers’ Rest State Park. My traveling friend and I were the only ones there.

A favorite fall memory: driving Chief Mountain Highway.

A favorite fall memory: driving Chief Mountain Highway.

One thing I've learned this year: sometimes you just have to go.

One thing I’ve learned this year: sometimes you just have to go.

For those of you who have been my adventure buddies this year, thanks for the memories. And for those of you who’ve kept up with my travels this year, thank you for letting me share my Montana with you.

xo,
TT

You Can Go Home Again: The Magic of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front

Oh you guys, where do I start? Well, with the truth I guess: last week was a rough one.

I won’t bore you with the details (AKA I won’t complain about my life, since I’m the first to admit how blessed I am), but I had a couple of days where I just didn’t feel like myself. To sum it up, I was sad. For those of you who know me personally (or from reading this blog), sad is not a word that’s used to describe me. So I went to the place that I knew would help me with that feelings: I went home

Take a look…

Lover's Lane, the street I grew up on.

Lover’s Lane, the street I grew up on.

Wide-open spaces, an old barn and Haystack Butte.

Wide-open spaces, an old barn and Haystack Butte.

Roads like these are home for me and I drove quite a few of them over the weekend.

Roads like these are home for me and I drove quite a few of them over the weekend.

Fresh snow in the mountains.

Fresh snow in the mountains.

Twilight looking east.

Looking east at twilight.

The landscape seemed endless, even for this local Montana girl.

The landscape seemed endless, even for this Montana girl.

That Montana sky set my heart aflutter.

That Montana sky set my heart aflutter.

My baby brother, niece and I drove out to watch the sun set behind Haystack Butte.

My baby brother, niece and I drove out to watch the sun set behind Haystack Butte.

Shades of my life stretched out on the horizon.

Shades of my life stretched out on the horizon.

The aptly described Rocky Mountain Front, where the plains and mountains meet.

The aptly described Rocky Mountain Front, where the plains and mountains meet.

As for me, I left that weekend filled with the magic of the Rocky Mountain Front, my home and family and knowing that no matter what, I can always go home again. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

xo,
TT

PS: For more daily photo updates of the West, be sure to follow us on instagram at GlacierMT.

Ho, Ho, Ho: Meet This Year’s Montana Gift Guide

It’s no secret that I think the Christmas season is one of the most wonderful times of year. And for those of you who know me, it’s probably no surprise that I love giving presents. Like, really love it. No matter who I’m giving a gift to, I try to make sure that it’s perfect for them, that it has meaning and that they’ll (hopefully) love it. And if you’re anything like me, you want to be sure to give the people you love thoughtful, meaningful gifts.

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Montana. Photo: TheBobFactor

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Montana. Photo: TheBobFactor

To help you do that very thing, I’ve rounded up my favorite Montana-lovin’ gifts and some of the best places to shop local for the holidays.

With that said, here’s a look at this year’s Montana gift guide

1. Jewelry. Chances are, the women in your life love jewelry. And I’m here to tell you that Montana has incredible jewelry makers who are creating stunning works of art. Topping my must-have list are Bellwether Jewelry, Ruby and Revolver and Rag and Stone. Located in Babb, Montana, Bellwether Jewelry is the brainchild of an adorable gal named Claire who uses Montana’s landscapes as her design inspiration. I learned about her when I was gifted earrings and a necklace from one of my dear friends (thanks Courtney!) and I’ve been in love ever since.

Two of my favorite pieces from Bellwether Jewelry. Photo: Bellwether Jewerly

Two of my favorite pieces from Bellwether Jewelry. Photo: Bellwether Jewelry

Meanwhile,  Ruby and Revolver has become one of my favorites mainly due to her instagram feed. In two words: it’s amazing. Jessie—the master creator behind the brand—creates some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen, but I’m especially fond of her rings. And if your significant other is a fan of stones, do yourself a favor and check out Erin’s work at Rag and Stone. 

2. Local spirits. While breweries have been a part of the Montana scene for awhile, in the last few years we’ve seen more distilleries open in Western Montana. Two of my personal favorites: Glacier Distilling in Coram, Montana, and Spotted Bear Spirits in Whitefish, Montana. Both distilleries are creating incredible Big Sky Country-inspired spirits and utilizing local Montana grains and products, including Flathead cherries, to do so. You can pick up Glacier Distilling spirits at several places in Montana (check out their distribution here) and Spotted Bear Spirits has adorable cute 50mL bottles that are perfect for gift giving.

The cutest little bottles I ever did see. Photo: Spotted Bear Spirits

The cutest little bottles I ever did see. Photo: Spotted Bear Spirits

3. Montana Wreaths. Truth time: I didn’t know about these until a few weeks ago and now I’m obsessed. (I’ll give you one guess as to what my Minnesota-living sister is getting for Christmas this year.) Based in Missoula, Montana Wreaths are handcrafted with grand fir and cedar trees and are absolutely beautiful. Plus, it’s like giving a piece of Montana to your family and friends across the country.

The standard wreath (AKA the wreath my sissy is getting soon). Photo: Montana Wreath

The standard wreath (AKA the wreath my sissy is getting soon). Photo: Montana Wreath

4. Montana Made Soap. Made from goat milk from goats that are raised on a farm near Dutton, Montana, Leigh is a stay-at-home mama (who also runs her family’s farm Grazing Greyn Acres) who creates her soap as organically as possible. The result: delicious smelling and nourishing goat soaps.

Goat milk, coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil: I think I need this. Photo: Grazing Greyn Acres

Goat milk, coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil = I think I need this. Photo: Grazing Greyn Acres

5. Leather bags. If you don’t know about T-Bird Leather and Goertzen Adventure Equipment, it’s time you do. While both companies make their handcrafted leather bags here in Western Montana, each brand has a distinct style and look that is uniquely its own. Based in Whitefish, Montana, and designed and created by Tress, T-Bird Leather is one of my personal favorites. Not only do I adore Tress, but the bags she produces are truly beautiful. Currently on my must-have list: her new mystery braids tote. Why? Because braids and fringe.

Mystery braids tote. Photo: T-Bird Leather

Mystery braids tote. Photo: T-Bird Leather

Handmade in Missoula, Goertzen Adventure Equipment’s leather bags are more gender-neutral and have a bit of a vintage vibe. Trust me on this one: their bags get better with age. Plus, they make fly-fishing equipment for the fishermen (and fisherwomen) in your life. 

A well-loved leather bag from Goertzen. Photo: Taylar Robbins

A well-loved leather bag from Goertzen. Photo: Taylar Robbins

6. Shoes and moccasins for the babes (as in babies) in your life. Hands down, these may be the cutest baby gift in all of Montana. Made my mountain mama Melanie, Starry Knight Designs crafts the most perfectly adorable items for babies, kids and toddlers I’ve ever seen.
Sidenote: anyone got a baby I can dress up in these? 

Bison booties, gray desert boots and fringe booties. Photo: Starry Knight Design

Bison booties, gray desert boots and fringe booties. Photo: Starry Knight Design

7. UPTOP. Owned by Montana boys and brothers Luke and Colt Anderson, UPTOP embodies the love of Montana that people who live here—and those who visit—have for this state. While their “Montana Til I Die” tagline may be the most famous to date, the boys have a wide variety of UPTOP gear that includes T-shirts, hats, hoodies and kids’ gear.

Montana over everything + Montana Til I Die. Photo: UPTOP

Montana over everything + Montana Til I Die. Photo: UPTOP

8. Shop local stores. As part of a family-owned business, I understand the importance of shopping local. When we’re all able to spend our money in locally owned businesses, it makes a difference. Here are a few of my favorite Montana shops: Electric Buffalo Gallery in Bigfork, Monte Dolack Fine Art in Missoula, Think Local in Kalispell, Montana Shirt Company in Whitefish (and online), Sora & Company in Missoula and Great Falls, Cloth & Crown in Missoula, Crown of the Continent Discovery Center in West Glacier and Great Gray Gifts in Charlo (just opened in May 2016 and is one of my favorite stores – they also carry abundant made in Montana products). You can also check out additional stores, boutiques and shops here.

A selection of the made in Montana items at Great Gray gifts. Photos: Great Gray Gifts

A selection of the made in Montana items at Great Gray gifts. Photos: Great Gray Gifts

And with that, happy shopping, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

xo,
TT

PS: For more gift ideas, check out my top 10 made in Montana gift list here.

 

Hitting the Road in Search of Montana’s Best Fall Colors

It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of fall in Montana. In fact, I think it may be my favorite season. But to be honest, the changing colors of autumn in Big Sky Country tend to get overlooked for other more colorful destinations. Which I totally get. If you ask me, one of the reasons Montana is glanced over as a fall color destination is because people just don’t know that we actually have fall foliage here.

A perfect fall scene of the Bitterroot Mountains in Hamilton.

A perfect fall scene of the Bitterroot Mountains in Hamilton.

Which is why I’m glad my buddy Andy Austin, a local Montana photographer, decided to embark on a Montana Fall Tour in which he drove hundreds of miles to soak up, play in and photograph autumn’s beauty. He traveled from Bighorn Canyon in the southeast corner of Montana (read more about the canyon here) to the expansive Paradise Valley and the ice-carved peaks of Glacier National Park on his search for Montana’s best fall colors.

Montana's Paradise Valley.

Montana’s Paradise Valley. Photo: Andy Austin

And while I lived vicariously through him on instagram while he was hitting the road, he said I could share his photos on the blog so you can have an up-close look at fall in Montana.

Take a look at his trip through Western Montana’s Glacier Country

The Middle Fork of the Flathead River from Belton Bridge in West Glacier.

The Middle Fork of the Flathead River from Belton Bridge in West Glacier. Photo: Andy Austin

A glimpse at Glacier National Park.

A glimpse at Glacier National Park. Photo: Andy Austin

A perfect fall sunset from Oberlin Peak in Glacier National Park.

A perfect fall sunset from Oberlin Peak in Glacier National Park. Photo: Andy Austin

Looking into the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park.

Looking into the St. Mary Valley in Glacier National Park. Photo: Andy Austin

Fall at Whitefish Lake.

Fall at Whitefish Lake. Photo: Andy Austin

Tamarack trees (and the most beautiful fog I've ever seen) at Salmon Lake State Park.

Tamarack trees (and the most beautiful fog I’ve ever seen) at Salmon Lake State Park. Photo: Andy Austin

Hands down, the Seeley-Swan Valley is one of the best places to view tamarack trees (AKA western larch).

The Seeley-Swan Valley is one of the best places to view tamarack trees (AKA western larch). Photo: Andy Austin 

Soaking up Missoula's colors from Waterworks Hill.

Soaking up Missoula’s colors from Waterworks Hill. Photo: Andy Austin

To see more of fall in Montana, check out the #MontanaFallTour on instagram.

Oh and Andy…don’t forget to stop and pick me up on your next Montana road trip.

xo,
TT

Fall in Montana: Exploring the Bitterroot Valley

I think L.M. Montgomery said it best when she wrote, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Truth be told, October (with November being a close second) is one of the most underrated months of the year, especially in Montana. And I get it. Weather in Montana can be a little unpredictable, but if you’re bold enough to visit in October you’re going to find that it’s actually quite lovely. Plus, when the weather has one of her “moods” she typically snaps out of it pretty quickly and returns to her pleasant self, complete with sunshine and gorgeous fall foliage.

October in Hamilton.

October in Hamilton, Montana.

And as we all know I’m in a constant search for fall colors in October, my road trip buddy and I decided to hit the road to Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Located just south of Missoula, the Bitterroot Valley is flanked by the Bitterroot Mountains on the west and the Sapphire Mountains on the east. It’s also home to the Bitterroot River, lots of cute towns, incredible history and it still has plenty of open spaces to explore. And while we only had a few hours to explore, we soaked up as many incredible fall moments as we could with stops at Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo, the Daly Mansion in Hamilton and St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville.

Take a look…

As we left Missoula, a soft snow started to fall. (I told you Montana's weather was dramatic.)

As we left Missoula, a soft snow started to fall. (I told you Montana’s weather was moody.)

And just like that, she snapped out of it and sunshine returned.

And just like that, she snapped out of it and sunshine began to return.

Our first stop: Travelers' Rest.

Our first stop: Travelers’ Rest.

Crossing the bridge at Lolo Creek.

Crossing the bridge at Lolo Creek.

Prior to being used by the Lewis & Clark Expedition, this site of Travelers' Rest was used by Montana's First Nations.

Prior to being used by the Lewis & Clark Expedition, the site of Travelers’ Rest was used by Montana’s First Nations as a gathering place and trading grounds.

We also made a stop to see the Historic St. Mary's Mission, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in September 2016.

We also made a stop to see the Historic St. Mary’s Mission, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in September 2016.

Main Street in Victor, Montana, looks like it's out of a western movie set.

Main Street in Victor, Montana, looks like it’s out of a western movie set.

The Bitterroot River (with the Bitterroot Mountains) in the background.

The Bitterroot River (with the Bitterroot Mountains) in the background.

Up next: the Daly Mansion Museum AKA one of my favorite places.

Up next: the Daly Mansion Museum AKA one of my favorite places.

The view of the grounds from the front porch of the Daly Mansion.

The view of the grounds from the front porch of the Daly Mansion. The mansion’s grounds are one of the best places in Western Montana to see fall colors.

No matter how many times I see a barn in Montana's countryside, it warms my heart.

No matter how many times I see a barn in Montana’s countryside, it warms my heart.

You'll also find small farms and ranches up and down the valley.

You’ll also find small farms and ranches up and down the valley.

Our last stop (and one of my favorite places): the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. PS: Read more about the refuge here.

Our last stop: the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. PS: Read more about the refuge here.

If you plan to explore the Bitterroot Valley, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
-The valley is long (as in 96 miles long) and there’s so much to explore. I’d recommend noting a few of the key places you want to visit and then just see where the trip takes you. Basically, have a flexible plan for your visit.
-Take time to stroll the communities in the valley. Stevensville, Hamilton and Darby have charming downtowns with locally owned shops, boutiques and restaurants.
-If you like local beer, the valley is home to some great breweries. Check out Lolo Peak Brewing Company in Lolo, Bandit Brewing Co. in Darby, Blacksmith Brewing Company and Wildwood Brewery in Stevensville, and Higherground Brewing and Bitterroot Brewing Company in Hamilton. PS: the fish tacos at Bitterroot Brewing are amazing and Higherground Brewing has yummy pizza and salads.
-While you can do a day trip to the Bitterroot Valley from Missoula, it’s definitely worth staying a night or two. For lodging options, consider Alta Ranch in Darby (be sure to bring your fishing rod), Bitterroot Cabins in Hamilton, Time After Time Bed & Breakfast in Victor and Stevensville Hotel in Stevensville.
-If you’re doing a day trip, be sure to travel on Highway 93 one way and the Eastside Highway on your return trip.
-There’s abundant outdoor recreation options in the valley and it’s perfect for hiking, biking, bird watching, fly-fishing and camping.
-Be sure to check out the Bitterroot Trail, a 50-mile-long walking and biking path that connects Missoula and Hamilton.

And as for me, I’ll always be glad to live in a world (and a place like Montana) where there are Octobers.

xo,
TT

9 Must-See Attractions in Montana’s Mission Valley

Montana has some big names and well-known places (I’m talking about you Glacier National Park), but the truth of the matter is this: some of the coolest places are located off the beaten path and come in the form of small towns, destinations at the end of gravel roads, local shops and colorful characters. Keeping this in mind, last week I set out to explore one of Western Montana’s most-underrated places: the Mission Valley. And you guys, it was a perfect fall day that had picture-perfect views around every corner.

Hello Mission Mountains.

Hello Mission Mountains.

But, as it goes with many off-the-beaten-path places, it can be hard to know where to start or what to see when you’re adventuring around a new destination.

To make it easier, I rounded up 9 must-see attractions in Montana’s Mission Valley. 

1. The Mission Mountains from Ravalli Hill. Hands down, this is one of the best views in Montana and it’s not really off the beaten path, as it’s right on Highway 93. But here’s the thing: this view is best soaked in by pulling off the highway into the scenic overlook and spending at least a few minutes looking at one of the wildest mountain ranges in the West.
Insider tip: this is also one of the best places to catch sunrise.

My favorite view in the Mission Valley.

My favorite view in the Mission Valley.

2. McDonald Lake. I found out about McDonald Lake from one of my favorite places: instagram. Several locals were posting photos from this lake, located a short drive back in the Mission Mountains, to their instagram feeds and I knew it was a place I needed to visit. It’s a gorgeous destination to take a hike, have a picnic, cast a fishing line or simply sit and relax.
One thing to note: the lake is on tribal land, so you do need to purchase a recreation permit from the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.

McDonald Lake last spring.

McDonald Lake last spring.

3. The National Bison Range. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the National Bison Range (you can read more about my day trip to the range here), but regardless this is one of the best places to visit in the Mission Valley, especially for wildlife watching and photography.

This pile of antlers welcomes visitors to the National Bison Range.

This pile of antlers welcomes visitors to the National Bison Range.

4. Great Gray Gifts and Ninepipes Lodge. Located just off Highway 93, Great Gray Gifts is brand new to the Mission Valley (they opened in May 2016). Owned by the adorable husband-and-wife team from Ninepipes Lodge, the merchandise at Gray Gray Gifts is all hand-selected and and includes many made in Montana products. Next door, you’ll find Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant. If you’re looking to stay and play in the Mission Valley, the lodge is a great home base.

Oh hey, Great Gray Gifts.

Oh hey, Great Gray Gifts. Photo: @greatgraygifts instagram

The view from the patio at Ninepipes Lodge.

The view from the patio at Ninepipes Lodge.

5. Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Located next door to Ninepipes Lodge is one of the most interesting museums in Montana—Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana. Operated by one of the valley’s most well-known families, the Cheffs, the museum has a well-curated collection of hundreds of Western Plains Indian artifacts, as well as exhibits on early settlers, the fur trade and cowboy way of life.
Insider tip: take the guided tour, if possible.

Handcrafted moccasins at the museum.

Handcrafted moccasins at the museum.

6. Mission Mountain Golf Course. If you like golf (or you’re really good at driving the golf cart like me), this course in Ronan has one of the most stunning backdrops in Western Montana.

Playing 18 holes with this backdrop? Yes please.

Playing 18 holes with this backdrop? Yes please.

7. Stella’s Deli & Bakery. Fun fact: I get really sick of eating sandwiches (except peanut butter and jelly – those never get old). But I’m 100 percent confident that I’ll never tire of the sandwiches at Stella’s Deli & Bakery in Ronan. I’m not sure if it’s the homemade buns they serve them on, but this is THE place to stop for lunch in Ronan.

I'll take seven cinnamon rolls please.

I’ll take seven cinnamon rolls and two turkey sandwiches, please.

8. Muley Bluz-Cowboy Toys. It’s no secret that I love cowboys and authentic western offerings, so believe me when I tell you that I’m obsessed with Muley Bluz. Located on Main Street in Ronan, I randomly stumbled into this shop last week and had a great 45 minutes of trying on chaps (also called chinks, depending on who you’re talking to), sitting in saddles and talking the owner’s ear off. Long story short: don’t visit the Mission Valley without stopping into Muley Bluz.

Not kidding: the saddle in the very front is the MOST comfortable saddle I've ever say my booty on.

Not kidding: the saddle in the very front is the MOST comfortable saddle I’ve ever sat my booty on.

9. The People’s Center. If you asked me what my favorite museum is in Montana, The People’s Center in Pablo would be among my top choices. The museum shares the history and culture of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes and has artifacts and exhibits on display. But if you want to really learn about the history of Montana’s first nation, take the guided tour. The center’s tour guides will share incredible insights into the tribal histories, traditions and more and, to be totally truthful, it’s one of the best guided tours I’ve ever taken.

The People's Center at night.

The People’s Center at night.

Happy adventuring!

xo,
TT

Montana LOVES Football: Enter to Win a Gameday Tee

Update: I’m thrilled to tell you the winners are Heather Isaacs & Rachel Kilroy! Congrats ladies and thank you all for entering. 

If there’s one thing you need to know about Montanans, it’s that we LOVE our football. As in we love it so much that we have no problem traveling hundreds of miles for games, cheering until our voices are hoarse and defending our team of choice like our lives depend on it. Since we’re in the midst of football season—and because Montanans are either fans of The University of Montana Grizzlies or the Montana State University Bobcats—I thought it’d be fun to do a giveaway to celebrate the strongest love I’ve ever seen: the love between Montanans and football.

Go Grizzlies! Photo: Kyle McGowan

Go Grizzlies! Photo: Kyle McGowan

Go Bobcats!

Go Bobcats! Photo: Cody Ristau

I teamed up with my friends—and fellow football lovers—at Sora & Company to give away two Gameday T-Shirts: one UM shirt and one MSU shirt.

Fall + football = a perfect weekend in Montana.

Fall + football = a perfect weekend in Montana.

Go Griz / Go Bobcats

Go Montana!

Here’s how to enter:
1) Follow Sora & Company on instagram here.
2) Leave a comment on the blog and tell me who your favorite team is: the Bobcats or the Grizzlies.
Sidenote: to be eligible to win, you must follow Sora & Company on instagram AND leave a comment. You also must be 18 years old. 

The giveaway closes on Monday, October 17, 2016 at 8 a.m. MST. Two winners (one for each shirt) will be annouced by EOD October 17.

As for me, I’m just a fan of the watching the game…especially when it involves my hometown, 6-man football team, the Augusta Elks.

xo,
TT

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Three

I’m just going to say it: spending a week in the backcountry of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness was a memory I’m never going to forget. But before I get too sappy, let’s pick up where we left off from parts one and two of this trip.

Day six was our last official day in camp and while most of the group opted to do a horseback trail ride to the Flathead River, I decided to stay at camp and go fishing with Bill—another guest on the trip. And while we had a great time fishing the purest water I’ve ever seen, it was the experience of fishing at this particular place that made it such a wonderful day.

Our fishing hole on White River.

Our fishing hole on White River.

You see, my mama and my grandpa (as well as my grandma and aunts and uncles) used to come into the Bob Marshall Wilderness every summer for their family vacation. The best part: they fished this exact fishing hole on White River.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

And while my grandpa has been gone for a few years now (and I still miss him every day), it was so special to know that both my grandpa and my mom had spent time casting their own fishing lines in this spot. Sidenote: this was a memory my mama shared with me after I came out of the Bob. Looking back on that day, I spent quite a bit of time just sitting on the shore of White River and trying to soak up every moment. Now it makes sense to me why I was so drawn to that particular location; being in the same place my mom and grandpa had been decades before turned that Montana memory into something that I can only describe as part magic and completely special.

I'm certain that I'll love this place forever.

I’m certain that I’ll love this place forever.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Patiently waiting.

Patiently waiting.

I love a feisty fish.

I love a feisty fish.

Pretty little trout.

Pretty little trout.

The little fly that landed the fish.

The little fly that landed the fish.

After a few hours on the river, we headed back to camp to meet up with the rest of our crew. At dinner on our last night, we sat around eating ribeye steak (which was THE best steak I’ve ever had) and sharing highlights from our trip. Our group shared moments that included Amy’s cooking, the views from the Chinese Wall and making the ride to Gladiator. When it was time for my turn, I teared up…and not because I was sad, but because a trip like this isn’t something that can easily be put into words. To sum it up, it was one of the most impactful trips I’ve ever taken. We all went to bed that night knowing that we had all shared an experience that would stay with us forever.

On the last day, we awoke early and prepared to hit the 24-mile-long trail to Benchmark.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

Looking west.

Looking west.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass is always a good idea, especially with this view.

Standing at a place that's frozen in time.

Standing at a place that’s frozen in time.

Cementing this view in my mind.

Cementing this moment in my mind.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

We walked a few miles down from White River Pass along creeks and through forests before mounting our horses to ride the rest of the way to our lunch stop. While we were taking a break, the two pack strings caught up with us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those mules can move.

Tucker and his pack string.

Tucker and his pack string.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Turk and his string.

Turk and his string.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

Riding back through an old forest fire. As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

Riding back through an old forest fire.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I’ve ever heard.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2.5 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Just a girl and her horse.

Just a girl, her horse and their shadows.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar and Amy's folks: Mark and Renee.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar (Amy and Tucker’s oldest son) and cool drinks.

For fun (and to help me remember the trip and be able to share this off-the-grid Montana experience with you), I created a little video. Take a look…

A few things to keep in mind if you’d like to take a pack trip into one of Montana’s most beautiful places, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex:
-Go with an experienced outfitter. Mills Wilderness Adventures has more than 100 years of experience packing into The Bob and it shows in how they handle their stock, welcome their guests and act as true stewards of the land. Other recommended outfitters can be found here.
-Book your trip in advance. If you want to take a pack trip in summer 2017, start researching the area and outfitter you’d like to go with now.
-You don’t have to be an avid horseback rider to take a pack trip. If you’re not, your booty will be sore (especially on day one and day seven) but riding that far is manageable. Don’t let the distance scare you.
-If you book a trip with Amy and Tucker Mills, get ready for some of the best storytelling you’ll ever hear. While Tucker has a quiet demeanor, he is one of the best storytellers in the area.
-If you plan on using your cell phone as your camera, bring a portable or solar charger.
-For packing, be sure to bring a button-down shirt (or two); hiking boots (don’t forget these at home – I was SO glad I had cowboy boots and hiking boots); and riding gloves (to help keep your hands a bit clean during long rides).

As for me, this trip was special because it’s a memory that could only be made in Montana. And that’s something I’ll be grateful for forever.

xo,
TT

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Two

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that earlier this summer I fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine and took a pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness will Mills Wilderness Adventures. Sidenote: if you’re just joining me, you can check out part one of the pack trip here.

On day four—the day after our incredible ride to the Chinese Wall—I decided to hang out at camp, relax and try my hand at taking photos. I was joined by two pals, Turk and Cinnamon, and we headed down to play in White River.

The path from camp down to White River.

The path from camp down to White River.

I'm fairly certain this little path was magic.

I’m fairly certain this little path was magic.

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Getting his saddle ready to ride. My favorite part of this photo: he didn’t know I was taking it.

Turk (and his trusty steed) crossing White River.

Turk (and his trusty steed) crossing White River.

Turk and Cinnamon.

Turk and Cinnamon.

After chatting with Cinnamon along the river, we turned around and saw this scene. This was one of the favorite moments from my trip: just a cowboy hanging out, talking to his horse.

After chatting with Cinnamon along the river, we turned around and saw this scene. This was one of the favorite moments from my trip: just a cowboy hanging out, talking to his horse.

PSA: I love riding horses...but you don't have to be a horseman to enjoy the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Its trails are also perfect for hiking.

PSA: I love riding horses…but you don’t have to be a horseman to enjoy the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Its trails are also perfect for hiking.

Heading back up to camp.

Heading back up to camp.

Hanging out with the horses AKA the perfect companions.

Hanging out with the horses AKA the perfect companions.

After our day hanging out at camp and taking pictures, we awoke on day five to one of the most perfect mornings of the summer.

Good morning to you too, Rocky Mountains.

Good morning to you too, Rocky Mountains.

Low-hanging clouds.

Low-hanging clouds over camp.

Early-morning light.

Early-morning light.

Following breakfast, Bob (one of the wranglers and perhaps one of the kindest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting) headed out with his pack string to ride the 24 miles back out to the Benchmark Trailhead. While I knew Bob had done this ride solo many times, as I watched him and his string make their way down the trail I was filled with feelings of awe and wonder as they rode off into the forest.

Bob leading his team.

Bob leading his team.

See ya next time.

Bob saying his goodbyes.

After sending Bob off down the trail, we prepared to head out for today’s destination: Gladiator Mountain. A 12-mile-long ride, I hadn’t heard of this mountain before now, but Amy told me it was one of her favorites so I was pretty positive I was going to love it.

From camp, we stayed parallel with White River for a spell as we made our way into higher elevations and through forested terrain.

From camp, we stayed parallel with White River for a spell as we made our way into higher elevations and through forested terrain.

Looking back toward White River.

Looking back toward White River.

The views from here were AMAZING.

The views from here were AMAZING.

Our first pit stop: Needle Falls.

Our first pit stop: Needle Falls.

Taking in the view of Needle Falls.

Taking in the view of Needle Falls.

This marker was just hanging out, in the MIDDLE of the WILDERNESS.

This marker was just hanging out, in the MIDDLE of the WILDERNESS.

Tucker checking stirrups.

Tucker checking stirrups and the cinch.

Climbing and climbing and climbing.

Climbing and climbing and climbing.

And climbing and climbing.

And climbing and climbing.

After riding across some of the most interesting terrain I’ve ever seen, we arrived to a gorgeous meadow at the base of Gladiator Mountain. And I have to be honest: I was completely surprised at the beauty of this place. I knew it was going to be pretty, but I didn’t expect this lush oasis surrounded by mountain peaks.

My favorite view.

My favorite view.

Our crew eating lunch and marveling at the incredible mountain that rose up before us.

Our crew eating lunch and marveling at the incredible mountain that rose up before us.

Tucker and Gladiator.

Tucker and Gladiator.

Soaking up the sun and the beauty of this meadow.

Soaking up the sun and the beauty of this meadow.

After spending as much time as we could ingraining this place and this moment into our memories, we headed back down the mountain for camp. And that, my friends, was quite the ride. We took a different trail down and the terrain in front of seemed to go on forever, as the only thing in view was endless mountain peaks.

Making our way down.

Making our way down.

Mountains upon mountains.

Mountains as far as the eye can see.

We also found this massive sinkhole on the side of the mountain.

We also found this massive sinkhole on the side of the mountain. Needless to say, we didn’t get too close.

The lovely Janet.

The lovely Janet.

And looking back on those two days now, I know one thing for sure: I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

xo,
TT