Experience Montana

September 1, 2016

Last month, J and I went away for a night without our kids for the first time ever. Think about that. Since the day Coco was born, we've never been away together without at least one child. So, it was incredibly wonderful, and relaxing, and also surprising...

Back in April, we booked a night at a lookout tower on Garver Mountain in the northwestern corner of Montana. Staying in a lookout tower is something we've always wanted to do, but as the date drew nearer, we took a closer look at the reservation and saw that it is expressly and strongly discouraged to bring children to this location. You can see why.

So rather than cancel, we asked my mom to take the kids and we went on our own. I'll admit, I was a little nervous about being away from them both overnight, even though I knew they were in the best of hands. But as soon as we got up there, opened a bottle of Oregon Pinot and started taking in the views, I knew we had made the best decision ever.

We couldn't get over how picturesque it all was. This particular tower is from 1929. The Forest Service had rangers live in these towers for the entire fire season to literally look out for fires and report them once they spotted them. This round thing used to hold a very precise distance and coordinate measuring telescope but doesn't any longer.

We explored a bit and enjoyed the scenery and then we just chatted and chatted for hours while playing the ukulele, snacking on our favorite ever pistachios and sipping our wine. It was beyond quiet and so gorgeous. We kept pinching ourselves and saying we couldn't believe it!

Once the sun began to go down, we got dinner started. It was eerie as the darkness started to creep in. You literally cannot see any signs of civilization up there - not one road. And later, once it was dark, we only ever saw one lone light, way off in the distance.

We took about a million photos during the magic hour, including these goofy ones. Have I mentioned before that I'm so afraid of heights? I didn't want to get anywhere near that railing and had a hard time even standing up straight for fear of pitching over the edge.

The darkness settled in quickly and we saw a huge owl fly over the tower and off into the sunset. It was completely magical. Then everything became very still to go along with the darkness. I have to admit that it was kind of scary, or maybe nerve wracking is a better term. We ate our dinner and then had all evening to relax, but we were kind of on edge!

We opened our second bottle of wine and after a bit, perhaps because of the wine, adjusted to the weird feeling of being up there. We lowered the hatch to the stairs to make sure no bears could get in and lit a candle. Then, for good while, we just marveled at the quiet. With no one to bathe or put to bed, we had uninterrupted conversations that were able to shift and evolve and go places like we haven't had in years. Somewhere along the way between nightfall and a sky full of stars, it felt like we were in our twenties again, before we had kids, just the two of us hanging out and enjoying each other. It took us both by surprise and felt so good.

We barely slept a wink all night long. The moon was really, really bright and we could hear coyotes or wolves every now and then in the not-too-distant distance. With all windows and no curtains, the sun had us up before it had even risen. Luckily, we had brought tons of coffee and enjoyed it and soaked up the last of the views before it was time to go.

The drive home was beautiful and peaceful and we were so happy to see the kids! Since we got home, we've been asking ourselves if we would want to do it again. It was a completely breathtaking experience, but maybe a little too frightening? At any rate, we are so happy we did it. Best of all, we got that little glimpse into what life will feel like once we're empty nesters, or maybe even sooner, when our children aren't so omnipresent during every waking (and sleeping!) moment of our lives. It was a good reminder not to rush anything (we really did miss them!) and it was equally astonishing to feel that we were just as we were before we had kids, as if nothing had changed. So awesome if you ask me.

We'll definitely be making annual trips on our own a priority from here on out. And, if you'd like to experience wild, remote Montana to its fullest yourself, you can reserve the Garver Mountain Lookout Tower here.

Join the conversation!

  1. My goodness this looks magical. I love the relative silence of remote places, when the noises of wild creatures are so sharp and clear against the stillness. I would have been scared stiff too though, I must admit I like the security of electric light on demand.

    1. Such a great description, Lucy! I also appreciate electric lights on demand more than ever. ;) xx

  2. Wow, these pictures are amazing. I love discovering the Northwest (Excuse my Yankee ignorance, but does MT count as Northwest?) through your experiences. I really need to plan a trip out your way someday. So many fabulous places to experience.

  3. Amazing!! I want to go right now!

  4. Looks wonderful! Love your observations about not having the kids around, too. Food for thought. ~K

  5. OMG! We were just talking about doing this! We planned to visit friends and family in Sanders County MT and didn't have accommodations. The lodges are expensive and the cheaper inns were booked. We looked into staying in a lookout tower, but it seemed like a bad idea with small children. Luckily our friends said we could stat with them! Isaiah still really wants to stay in one, but I am not so sure! ;)

    1. I'm so glad you didn't go to the lookout tower with kids. It is not at all like staying in a cabin, or even a campsite. It's like backpacking and would be a nightmare with kids for any amount of time. No bathroom, shower or plumbing...packing in all your water, stove, cooler with ice that melts within the first 48 hours. Definitely an experience, but not enjoyable for anything beyond the experience itself. ;) I freely admit I'm more of a hotel gal. Five stars will do. HAHA!!


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