In the middle of last summer, we drove down our east coast driveway. Our truck was packed with last minute items. We pulled our camping trailer behind. Our destination: Kalispell Montana. All our household items were already safely in a storage facility and my car was parked on a mountain in Kalispell, awaiting my arrival. We spent the next ten days journeying across the country en route to our new home. We’ve been here now for about ten months and have loved every moment. And I’m often asked why? Why Montana? Why did we move to Kalispell? What is so special about the place?
There isn’t just one answer. Here are some of the reasons…
What’s the first thing you might think about the weather in Montana? Freezing cold, blowing snow, icy mountain roads, frozen fingers and toes? I’m not going to say that doesn’t happen in the winter, it does. So let’s deal with the winter first.
Winter – Yes, it can be cold. The roads can be slippery and it does snow. But…. when it snows, it’s not wet and heavy Eastern snow. It’s usually light powdery snow. And when it’s cold, it’s not a damp high-humidity cold. So it’s not the kind of cold that gets in your bones and never lets you warm up. If you put on the right clothes and footwear, you can actually stay comfortable. And in the winter you can see wildlife tracks and the beauty of a forest full of snow-covered fir trees. You can explore the southern part of Glacier National Park with no tourists. You can participate in all the events that happen in the winter. Because here’s the thing. People here don’t stay home in the winter. They still enjoy all Montana has to offer. Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, skijoring, and more! And if you’re inside, there’s always a wonderful wood-fire, watching the snow from a warm home, with a delicious pot of something on the stove sending aromatic wafts through the air. For more about winter in Northwest Montana, click here.
Spring – Spring in Kalispell combines winter, spring and summer all in one crazy whats-going-to-happen-today scenario. Days can be 70 and sunny, or 30s and snowy. You could have moments of heavy rain followed by hours of sunshine. You might wake up to 35 degrees and by 2pm it’s 80. Basically, in springtime you have to drive around with all sorts of clothes and shoes in your car, “Just in case.” And don’t take your studded snow tires off until the last possible moment since you just never know. But even more exciting than temperatures are the sounds and sights of spring. A million birds chirping in the morning. It seems like one day they’re not there and the next there are hundreds of sounds. There are wildflowers and trees that bud and bloom in the spring. There are so many amazing things about the spring awakening – including wildlife, plants, gardens, and more. For more information, click here!
Summer – Ahhh, summer in Montana. If you rise at 5am, the sky is already bright. You go to sleep at 10pm, and it’s still light out. Mornings have temperatures in the 50s or 60s and afternoons of 80s or 90s with bright sun and dry air. Summer in Montana is simply perfect. Perfect for hiking in the Jewel Basin or Glacier National Park or any number of other places. Summer is also the time of fairs, auctions, fishing, rodeos, shows at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, weekly Farmers Markets, and more. The weather is usually so perfect you can eat all your meals outdoors if you want. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s all possible. For those of you who can’t imagine getting tan in a cold (ha) place like Montana, it is definitely possible! Summer is heaven.
Autumn – Another fantastic time of year. The only negative of Autumn is that people who hate winter know it’s coming. Otherwise, it’s just as wonderful as the rest of the seasons. Fall can see temperatures in the 50s to 70s during the day, with chillier mornings. As with everywhere else that has four seasons, trees turn colors and leaves fall. But not only that, larch trees also turn a brilliant orange or yellow and lose their needles. So splashes of color are everywhere. The ground is covered in gold. Hunters are in their element in Autumn, spending time looking for the elusive elk, for example. Chillier evenings in the Fall can also mean family time around fire pits, hot cider, and whatever else might make the brisk days and nights enjoyable.
So that takes care of the weather. What of the people?
All of the Montanans I’ve met have been warm, welcoming, helpful and kind. Are they all like that? Nah, probably not, but I haven’t met anyone yet who didn’t make me feel welcome. In fact, we had a visitor here last week who came back from a trip into town out running errands, and he said, “Wow, everyone TALKS to you here!” Which is basically true. If you go to the store, you can have a conversation with almost anyone you might want to talk to. If you ask a question, you better have time to hear the answer. Because you’ll get the answer and more. People, conversations, relationships – they all matter.
And another thing, Montanans say what they mean and mean what they say. If you shake someones hand and make a deal of some sort, that person is going to follow through. And many are giving. People have shown up at our door with neighborly gifts – something to eat, something to use, or something handmade. When we were building our garden, a neighbor showed up with a load of manure. Another offered his compost. Another offered her strong son should we need help moving something. And another brought plants. Being a good neighbor means something here.
At the same time, Montanans also tend to leave each other alone and let everyone do what they want to do. So friendly doesn’t mean overbearing or nosey. You live your life, I’ll live my life, and we’ll all be fine!
Another comment by our recent visitor. “Wow, most people here are so healthy!” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but he was referring to how everyone looks. And I’m betting a lot of that has to do with the outdoor nature of this section of Montana. No matter what time of year it is, there are events and activities going on. They include hunting, fishing, hiking, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, skijoring, boating, canoeing, picnicing, gardening, wildlife watching, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and attending rodeos, state fairs, farmer’s markets, antique stores, art galleries or pow-wows (to name just a few!). With dry air all year round, the weather is usually quite comfortable. Dress appropriately and you can do just about anything!
There is really no way to accurate explain what northwest Montana looks like. There are mountains surrounding the entire valley and almost anywhere you go, you’ll have some view of mountain tops. Some are soft and aged, covered with wildflowers, grass and trees. Others are craggy pointed peaks where one imagines the wind roars, where snow stays until July or even year round, where hawks and eagles fly and bear, bison, moose, elk, deer and more roam. There are rivers gushing with snowmelt, and meandering streams made perfect for float boats, canoes and kayaks. There are places where fishermen will stand for hours, flitting their fly rods across the fish-filled surface. And there is Flathead Lake, with nearly 200 square miles to explore. There are times when you’ll drive around a corner, and just have to stop to drink in the landscape. It’s all perfectly and awesomely gorgeous. Pictures do not do the area justice.
And then there is something that has been brought up quite often lately with talks of social distancing. Montana still offers properties that are rural, providing privacy and plenty of distancing space while not being far from town. If you would like to live in an area with no zoning, you can still do it. You can build what you want, store what you want, grow a garden or raise livestock. And that doesn’t mean you’d necessarily have to do without modern comforts. So while you could go for an off-the-grid cabin, you could also opt for a home with cell service, internet, and modern heat and utilities. Of course, rural living does come with its own challenges. See Building in Kalispell for more rural lifestyle considerations.
While there are plenty of options for rural living, most locations in Montana have all the modern amenities. Kalispell has five major grocery stores, multiple organic and specialty shops, restaurants, bars, and all the major shopping options (Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, etc). Before we absolutely decided to move here, we investigated to make sure that everything we normally buy was available here. And I do admit, there are a few things I haven’t found yet. Pignoli nuts and cannolis. That’s about it. Everything else is here. In addition to the stores mentioned above, the main part of Kalispell includes hotels, gift shops, book stores, coffee shops and more. In terms of home choices, there are a myriad of developments which offer options. You could also opt to live in the center of town within walking distance to Main Street, or you could own property where your horses can graze. It’s all here!
I am often asked, “Why Montana?” Why would I move to a place that so many people think is desolate? And often I just fling my arms open, and say, “Have you seen this place?” The answer to “Why Montana?” is because my part of Montana is both wild and tamed, rugged and safe, friendly and independent, and more beautiful than I could ever share. Want to see? Book a trip and come to the Kalispell, Bigfork and Lakeside areas. Hike the trails. Fish the lakes. Play in the streams. Talk to the locals. You too will fall in love. I’m sure of it.
If you would like any information about this area, feel free to call me at 406-270-3667 or email me at email@example.com.