Undersold

Outside Bozeman, Smith River

Undersold

Pogge, Drew
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Don't rush the season.

“There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto.” —Cormac McCarthy

Spring in Montana is a little like walking into a kitchen where cookies are baking. The smell is arresting, with the unmistakable promise of something delightful, coming soon. It produces physical reactions—crinkling nose, widening smile, whetting appetite—that signal an upwelling of pleasant expectation. It’s a happy surprise every time; cookies and spring confirm the existence of all that is good.

Our reward is warm and moist and just the right hue of golden brown. It’s just what we’ve been craving since the last time (long ago) we felt the sun warm on our chests. In Montana, we crave summer the way desert-dwellers crave rain. It’s life, and change, and possibility; often we’ve planned the entire season before the last snows of May clear the Bridgers. And come spring, a powerful, curling wave swells and grows stronger with time: anticipation.

But we tend to undersell anticipation here. For better or worse, Bozeman is a place that celebrates immediate gratification—the go-big-or-go-home ethos permeates almost everything we do. Skip work to enjoy a spring powder day; have another beer and deal with the trailhead hangover; sell out the places and values we hold most dear to the highest bidder, in the name of progress, profit, and private property.

Patience is a virtue seldom found in Bozeman, and anticipation seems to be an annoyance, rather than an elixir—something to work through as quickly as possible, rather than the rarest happiness, to be savored. We pedal mountain-bike trails while they’re still snow-covered and greasy with mud; run trail races while ski season yet lingers; fish rivers the consistency of milkshakes, knowing that nothing could be biting. We build and pave and develop with an appetite that only grows more impatient and greedy—kick it in the pants, move it along! Spring is in the way of summer—can’t we skip right over anticipation to full-on satisfaction?

But even children learn that nothing good should be rushed. Underbaked cookies are doughy and thin, full of egg yolk and grainy sugar—impatience is the ruin of goodness. It’s better to wait, with expectation growing stronger and more tantalizing with each passing minute. In Montana, our reward is always worth the wait—made better by the ache of anticipation. You can bet I’ll be there this spring, shirtless in the sun, ready to feast on the season. But not quite yet. There’s too much to look forward to, and satisfaction isn’t nearly enough.

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