My youngest brother Wayne and his wife Becky are making their way back to Minnesota today on Amtrak after spending 10 days in the Flathead Valley.
It’s their first anniversary on this very day, a year since they tied the knot at the Stave Church, a beautiful replica of an ancient Norwegian church that is part of the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead. They waited a long time to find each other. Both weathered a bad first marriage and it’s clear to everyone — friends and family — they were meant to be together.
This big trip to Montana was supposed to be a celebration filled with hiking, mountain-biking and kayaking, but it was mostly filled with smoke. Yet these two soul mates are a good reminder that life is what you make it. They remained upbeat, and chose to see the glass half-full.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity over the smoke, they embraced other amenities of the Flathead, getting wowed at the House of Mystery, visiting and dancing with locals at the Blue Moon, trying fresh oysters for the first time during a lovely dinner at the Stillwater Fish House and hiking the Whitefish Trail on some of the less hazy days.
The mountains of Glacier Park were still pretty visible when they arrived on Amtrak, and they lucked out during a road trip to Northern Idaho before the smoke descended there. Later during their trip they headed to the east side of Glacier where the visibility was much improved.
While they never saw the postcard-perfect views or had the bluebird days they’d hoped for, they declared the trip a rousing success. Wayne has been out here a few times to go skiing, but it was Becky’s first experience in Montana. He dearly wanted to show her Montana’s best.
But no worries, she kept saying. Everywhere they went, people were so friendly and apologetic about the smoke. In her mind the people made their days fun.
Not accustomed to mountain culture, these flatlanders had inquired early on about bear spray, in the off-chance they would encounter a bruin on the trail.
“So how does it work with bear spray?” my brother inquired. “Do you spray it on yourself?”
“NOOOOOOOOO,” I exclaimed. “You spray it at the bear.”
It was an honest misconception, I thought afterward. People spray bug repellent and sunscreen on themselves, so why not bear spray.
After living in Northwest Montana for 26 years, I no longer sweat mountain driving and the hair-pin turns that come with it. I’d forgotten what it was like to be a flatlander, and smiled when Wayne recounted his “white-knuckle” drives on the east side of Glacier.
So here’s to you, Wayne and Becky, as you chug eastward on the train, sipping celebratory wine from your tiny cardboard container of Merlot. Happy anniversary and best wishes for many more years of happiness.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.