At first glance, Montana appears to be a wild and untamed bastion of wildlife and rugged natural beauty — people are scarce for most of the state, and only a few minutes’ drive can put you right in the middle of wilderness. With innumerable huge wooden lodges, vast sprawling mountainsides, and perfectly clear lakes dotting the countryside, it’s hard not to be in wonder.
My family has had a small house right on the side of Flathead Lake — one of the clearest lakes in the world, and the largest west of the Mississippi River — for several generations. Originally belonging to my great-great-great-grandparents, it’s been passed down through the different generations. Growing up, we used to take trips to it to visit my grandparents, who lived in and maintained it, and made many memories running up and down the few acres of property we had.
For many in the city, being only a few steps away from completely lawless wilderness is absolutely terrifying. When I was little it was definitely terrifying — and it still is to me now. You can only hear about so many bear attacks and such before being even a little bit intimidated. Our land stretches up into the hillside, far enough to where traveling in is a hassle and potentially dangerous.
Despite all that, it remains one of the most peaceful and incredible places in the world for me. Going out to the house and the lake, you might never see another person if you tread right (and it’s not tourist season) — although the people are all very friendly, so it’s never a bad encounter. Perhaps everyone is just mutually afraid of the bears and it keeps things humble.