Stickin' Around

Exotic locations just a short drive away.

For most families, the word “exotic vacation” conjures up images of a luxury resort near an azure sea, sipping tropically themed cocktails on a white, sandy beach. Mom is lounging peacefully on a recliner, Dad is off fishing, and Junior is building a sandcastle. Exotic? Sounds more like clichéd—not to mention more expensive than most of us can afford. If you’ve never been to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Hawaii, the trip is sure to be memorable and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s possible to find an exotic vacation experience within driving distance of our beloved Gallatin Valley—all you need is some ingenuity, a sense of adventure, and some camping equipment.

You can start your “exotic vacation” by remembering that Montana is truly a land of diverse landscapes, climates, and cultures. Western Montana is different from central Montana, which are both different from eastern Montana. From Bozeman, you can change your elevation and topography simply by venturing west to the Three Forks area or south toward West Yellowstone and on the same day you’ll find opportunities for floating and fishing in one locale, and biking and hiking in the other.

Once you become aware of what’s possible, find a way to outfit yourself so that you and your family can explore these close-to-home possibilities in reasonable comfort. There are as many approaches to “gearing-up” as there are individuals with imaginations. For most of our family outings to local destinations, my wife and I use an RV-style travel trailer outfitted for our needs and interests. We have space inside and outside the camper where we can fit bikes, rafts, kayaks, ATVs, dog kennels, and a plethora of other sundry gear and family articles. There is room enough for close friends, the kids’ buddies, tag-along family members, and the two bird dogs. On occasion, we’ve even brought the cat. We don’t always travel in this manner, but we’re capable of it, and I shudder to think what such a set of airline tickets would cost! Probably better to have your own plane. Sometimes we go light and set up a fabric tent; however, logistics often become a problem if we plan on staying for more than a single night. Find what works for you. I’ve seen everything from wall tents to pop-up tow-behinds attached to Subarus, to primitive lean-tos.

It is important to realize that with some quality gear and a little camping know-how, there are endless possibilities nearby for original vacations. Part of what makes such a vacation “exotic” is that simply engaging in the camping experience can be a first for many families. Camping together and exploring your local environment can be challenging, exciting, and lead to bonding opportunities for a family and friends as they grow together to meet those challenges. It’s as easy as sitting down at the dinner table with a map and picking a spot to head out to that weekend.

People spend copious amounts of money traveling to Montana for their vacations. In some cases, these people have spent more time looking into what’s in our own backyard than we have. Learn from their zeal. Pick up some maps, guidebooks, and other reference material, then start making a study of where you’d like to go. Do your homework and creatively pursue your next “exotic” vacation within our local region and great state we’re all fortunate enough to call home.