Guys, big news... remember that transfer I applied for over a month ago for Kalispell, Montana? I finally got word that it was accepted. YES! That means I'll be living less than a one hour drive from Glacier. National. Park. Shut the front door. Just stop. I can't believe it.
I non-reved over the weekend into the area so I could tour a couple apartments & try to secure a second job. I hopped on the first flight to Denver immediately after clocking out at 9:35 A.M., sitting among the passengers that I had just checked in at the Ticket Counter. I tried to play it very incognito, but everyone recognized me. Oh well.
Flying in & out of Kalispell is really challenging unless you're a revenue passenger, so I flew into Missoula & rented a car instead. Not only did it help acquaint me with the roads in Montana, it showed me the scenic route along Flathead Lake & Highway 93. I sat next to a Status passenger on my flight from Denver to Missoula, & we got to talking about the reasons we were flying & what we do for work. His eyes lit up anytime he spoke about Montana & all of the outdoor/adventure opportunities that are available there. Flying over Big Sky was just stunning, & he was able to point out the various terrain & mountain summits. Killer seat assignment, I couldn't have sat next to a better dude to help acquaint me with these new surroundings.
As per my usual level of excitement, I had an extra pep in my step upon landing in Missoula. I headed straight for the rental car counter, where I was given a complimentary upgrade to a small SUV (I'm an avid car camper, so this is always a dream come true), & I hit the road after taking a quick selfie with the Montana plates on "my" Kia Soul.
And this was my first time in Montana, was I supposed to just ignore the beautiful scenery? Was I supposed to just pass on by these gorgeous mountains as if they weren't there? Heck. No. I had to stop for a few photographs. Driving by the peaks, pretending that I didn't see them in all their glory, literally pained me. And driving while in pain isn't safe. So really, I was doing the other drivers a giant safety favor by pulling over. Yeah....
Mind you, this was the weekend leading up to July 4th, so traffic was getting pretty intense the closer I got to Flathead Lake & Kalispell. The drive normally takes about two hours by car, but it took me closer to three & a half. At that point, I was feeling mildly guilty for stopping along the route for those Nikon moments (and to be fair, the Budweiser Clydesdales were in town), but the landlord was completely understanding. I'm sending his office some coffee & donuts, don't you worry.
Matt, the landlord, showed me two properties. The first property, I had only seen one picture of the outside, & the second property was one that had just come available, so it was like a little surprise. Talking about it now feels a bit like I'm on House Hunters -- Property #1 was in my price range AND a two bedroom, perfect for all my airline buddies & family so they could have their own space when they visit. Property #2 was a newly remodeled two bedroom & beautiful, with washer/dryer hookups in the unit... but y'all, you pay a pretty penny for a pretty property.
Before walking into Property #1, which was a house converted into three apartments, Matt said, "Now, there's a reason there's only a picture of the outside of this unit on our website...." & his voice trailed off, like he was embarrassed to even show me the place. I cringed on the inside & thought, Dear Lord, as long as there are no cockroaches or rats, I'll take it. I affectionately refer to this property now as The Dump -- the carpet is torn & ripped in noticeable spots, the floor is stained, wood paneling adorns the living room, dining room, & one of the bedrooms, no closet doors in the master bedroom, only half of one closet door in the second bedroom, missing cabinet doors above the refrigerator, old metal kitchen drawers straight out of the fifties, no vanity in the bathroom... you get the idea, right? I don't need to go on? Okay, great.
The second property was closer to the airport (bonus), & was every bit the perfect "home", with brand new appliances, countertops, paint, seemingly everything in this unit was spotless & new. I think Matt planned the tour this way on purpose, as I was finding ways to justify the $750/month rent payment as we walked around the property. I could totally picture myself living here, & I was mentally hanging all of my maps, trail guides, & photographs in the living room. I told him I wanted to think about it before making any decisions -- because if I were to make an emotional & non-logical decision right away, I would've taken Property #2. But the logical truth is that I'm rarely home. I really just needed a place that wasn't in the backseat of Chuck to rest my head at night. Fancy appliances, new paint, & having in-house laundry seemed pretty frivolous in the grand scheme of things.
So, which home did I choose? I'll let you know right after this scenic commercial break, brought to you by Glacier National Park.
Welcome back, welcome back. As it turns out, I chose The Dump, because it really was the most logical decision. I was pretty confident that I could turn the property around too, giving it those tiny, impressionable touches that would transform it from well, a dump, into something charming. I had my decision made, but wouldn't hear back about my rental application until the following Wednesday. Oh, P.S., I was set to hit the road that following Thursday, but I oddly wasn't overly stressed about it. I figured they accept it or they don't -- & if they don't, then I live in Chuck until I find something else. Not ideal, obviously, but also not a huge deal. I went into this prepared to be flexible, just like when I fly on non-rev status. You roll with the punches or you don't even bother... that's just how I live my life now.
I actually met with another couple about one of their three properties they had for rent on their five acres of land. They were a super sweet Christian couple with a hand-built three bedroom house for only $950. Ugh, if I was moving there with people, I totally would've taken their offer. The house was simply stunning, with solid attention to detail & built incredibly well. I would have taken this property, but with the added stress of having to find two roommates to afford the rent, it just wasn't feasible. Nah, no thanks. I thanked them for their time & then hit the road again... this time for Glacier National Park.
A few days prior to my arrival in Kalispell, Going to the Sun Road officially opened. This was a huge deal, because that's the main road through Glacier, giving you the best access to most of the luscious camping & trails in the park. I knew I wouldn't have time to complete a hike before sundown, but I was more than happy to drive the world-famous route to Logan Pass before calling it a night. I pulled off more times than I can count, chatting with other visitors, standing in awe, & breathing in the freshest, sweetest air I have ever sensed.
Have you ever had a moment out in the wilderness where you are completely overtaken with emotion? Legit, you just cry because the landscape is that beautiful? Guilty. This happened twice on the night that I drove Going to the Sun Road. The place itself was not something that can be easily described, it was one of those rare places that has to be experienced. I could share every photo I took from the lightning-fast trip, & you still wouldn't understand or comprehend the beauty found in Montana's nooks & crannies.
Now, car camping is pretty discouraged in the park (oops), but I was operating on just shy of four hours of sleep. Taking the hairpin turns & going over passes of road that didn't have guard rails, quickly succumbing to my own exhaustion, I decided to pull over for a nap anyway. I did, I admit it. I assumed the rangers would rather I sleep in the park on a pull-off than to have a vehicle go airborne off a cliff into oblivion.
I woke up early the following morning completely rested, the earth still asleep with vivid blue hues living in the shadows between peaks & trees. I made my way (safely) back down the pass, stopping again at every turnout to take in the views; to let the reality settle in my soul that this would soon be a place I could call home. I soaked in every bit of this 36 hour trip. From the glacier-blue waters, to laying in my hammock on Lake McDonald, I was yet to find any piece of Montana that my heart didn't agree with, which only solidified my quick-snap decision to move 18 hours north from the Colorado mountains that gave me life & awakened my dormant wild woman.
I popped in to a local coffee shop, Montana Coffee Traders, before continuing on my route to Missoula to catch my flight to Denver. Do yourself a favor & get a cinnamon roll when you visit. Out of this world, oh my goodness. After my caffeine fix, I gave myself plenty of time to get back, knowing full & well how distracted I get with scenic routes, wildlife, mountains, & forests. Good thing I did, because I happened to find the National Bison Range Refuge Complex. For $5 admission, this place was well-worth every last penny. The gravel & dirt roads took a little over one hour to drive through, but I had so many up-close-and-personal encounters with the bison (& their cute little babies!) in that short span of time. The refuge also houses bighorn sheep, mule deer, & Rocky Mountain Elk, but I was far more concerned with seeing the giant bison.
I think we all know how this story ends. I move to Montana & live happily ever after, right? HA! I can't say that Montana will be my forever-home, because I really don't know what the future has up its sleeve. I can recall a ton of conversations when I said the same thing about Colorado: "I am never leaving," with an adamant tone. That was a statement I would have bet on, until December of last year when I was hired by the airline. Hands down, I have the best job on the planet, & it has been such a giant blessing that I intend to never take for granted. I wake up for work at 3 A.M., & I assure you there is a smile on my face even then. The more tenured employees always laugh at me for my enthusiasm about earning minimum-wage for the amount of stress this job requires. I laugh too, because as a benefit to the work that I do, I am granted opportunities to explore the world & to live all over the country. To see, hear, & experience a gamut of livelihoods that are different from my own. To smile at strangers, whether working or traveling. To willingly sleep in my car when taking trips so I have extra money for my lapel pin collection & the next adventure waiting just around the corner. And to share my journey with each of you. I laugh because I have no other way to accurately express my joy. I laugh because I am in complete shock & awe that the entire world is at my fingertips, all for simply helping people get from their Point A to Point B.
Although I can't say that Montana will be my forever home, I can say, with complete & utter confidence... I am home.
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.