Montana Connections

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~William Shakespeare

It was like a bad first date. Someone should say something, but nothing comes out. We’d covered all the basic topics of conversation—what do you do for work, how do you know everyone here, mighty fine weather we’re having—and now an awkward balloon of silence was inflating between our sentences. Floating down Bear Trap Canyon for the 30th anniversary of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness (pg. 26), my raft guide and I were 20 minutes into the “getting to know you” phase of our brand-new relationship—and it was floundering. Now, it was nothing against the guide—he’s a friendly river rat with a few lifetimes of water under his belt—but I’m a pretty awkward guy, and meeting new people has always been on par with visiting the DMV and dental work.

“So… do you climb?” I asked. A big smile came across his face, and we spent the next half hour trading notes on our favorite pieces of rock around town. We’d done most of the same routes—“That reach on Bowling for Buicks is heinous, I know!”—and we could barely finish talking about one crag before another favorite popped into our minds. The conversation flowed like the river beneath our boat—from climbing, to biking, to the summit of Granite Peak and back down to the banks of the Gallatin. He’d felt the same cool granite at the top of the Skyline Buttress at sunset. Felt the same deep burn in his quads biking across the Bangtail Ridge. Felt the same buzz of electricity up his fly rod when a fat rainbow swallowed his fly. In under an hour, he went from a stranger to an acquaintance to a friend.

It’s these shared experiences that have built thousands of lasting friendships in our corner of Montana. It seems like this inherent kinship is what makes Bozeman so great—politics, religion, and opinions aside, everyone here has something we can agree on: we wouldn’t trade our outdoor playground for anything. In this issue, we take a look at how our natural surroundings bring us together.

To start, we take a look at the wild, primitive land only a half-hour from home: the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. Thanks to all the hard work Metcalf did to create and protect our wilderness designations, we have millions of beautiful, untrammeled acres across the state that’ll never see development of any kind. By banding together as a community, we’re making sure our primitive outdoor experience is guaranteed to be exactly the same for countless generations of Montanans to come.

In “Coming Home” (pg. 78), editor-at-large Drew Pogge reflects on the relationships forged in the mountains around Bozeman—and the same strong bonds that brought him back after years on the East Coast and around the country. Bill Bilverstone gives us a harrowing tale on the Gallatin (pg. 84) that brought him and his girlfriend closer to death—and closer together. And in “Life, Death, and Catch & Release” (pg. 98), Jack Jelinski delivers a reasoned, levelheaded essay on the hard realities of the passion shared by thousands across the state: fly fishing.

So when you’re out this summer enjoying everything Bozeman has to offer, pack a few extra beers and share them with someone new at the trailhead or take-out when the day is done. Strike up a conversation. Chances are you’ll meet someone worth talking to.