1 Shoe, 2 pairs of sunglasses, 1 camera and its carrying case. These are the items, we so kindly donated to the Yellowstone River. (disclaimer- this post is in 4 parts. Read if you have the time.)
Let's backup. Ryan met Pete Sveen in college, where he learned that Pete is the ultimate out door enthusiast. He's from Aberdeen originally, but could probably backpack around the world with Bear Grylls. Pete was a groomsmen in our wedding, and we all have fond memories of Pete and Ryan's apartment back in Lincoln. It has been 3 years since Pete moved out to Montana, where he is living now. So a little over a month ago, we booked our flight and headed out west.
If you've never been to Montana, you really should go. It is GORGEOUS! Immediately when we stepped off our plane in Bozeman, the lodge-like airport and fresh mountain air filled us with western nostalgia. Pete had informed us that we were in for a treat for our visit, the weather was unseasonably warm.
Pete had to work on Thursday after he picked us up from the airport, so Ryan and I decided to peruse downtown Bozeman. The shops were pretty empty for 11:00 AM, but as the lunch bustle picked up we noticed that all Montanans sported 3 things- a beard, a dog and some sort of sporty outdoor gear. We purchased a bear ornament throwing snowballs to remind us of our Montana get away and talked to various store-owners who were ridiculously nice and welcoming. Most everybody was happy to hear we were from Nebraska/South Dakota, apparently nice Midwestern folk get along with everyone.
After a fun lunch with Pete, Ryan and I decided to try our first hike. We decided on the "M" Trail, a 2 mile popular college hike located at the mouth of Bridger Canyon. There were 2 distinct trails we could take to the top of the "M", a steep trail that said "continue at your own risk" and one that meandered back and forth within the mountain. We chose the latter. The views were astonishing, and as we continue to climb in elevation the city of Bozeman spread out before us. It was breathtaking, quite literally because we weren't used to the altitude. After stopping a few times to catch our breath, we saw a 70 year old couple headed back down the trail and decided we could definitely make it. About 45 minutes later we reached the "M" and thought we were on top of the world. Ryan decided we should hike to the top of the "M" so we could look down it, so we did, but after he headed out to the middle and noticed the steep incline wouldn't allow me to attempt it.
We felt refreshed and so proud to have finished our first Montana hike. Since Pete was still at work and the hike didn't take as long as we had expected, we looked for a place to rest. I think Ryan might kill me here...but the "Dollar $pree" had a very large and vacant parking lot. So we thought we'd take a snooze in the truck with the A/C on, of course. Classy, we know. It only took us 20 minutes to realize how ridiculously ghetto we looked and we drove over to Barnes and Noble for some better civilized rest and reading time.
Pete joined us and we picked up groceries for a yummy grilled cheeseburger dinner in the mountains, and some pumpkin ale to keep it festive. We were staying at Pete's parents place for the duration of our visit, so we headed up the mountain following Pete all the way. At one point and time I figured we had already reached the top and were heading back down we had ascended so high. But a wooden sign with the words "The Sveen's" told us different. The Sveen residence in Bozeman is really amazing. It looks out over another mountain and from there you can spot elk and sometimes moose. Our room was just as amazing...the entire North and West walls were covered with windows for the view of the mountains. After marveling at the gorgeous views, Pete asked if we'd like to take a 4 wheel ride to one of the open summit areas. Of course we did!
As the sun set on our first night in Montana and the stars came out in droves, we sat outside near the crackling fire and enjoyed a beverage or 2. God really outdid himself here in Montana.