Our Infinite Variety

My friend threw an elbow into my ribs. “Shut up,” he said through clenched teeth. The usual chatter of the crag had ceased and half a dozen people froze to stare upward, jaws hanging limp and eyes unblinking. “He’s climbing it.” The dusty limestone cave was quiet as Catholic mass, sentences clipped short to leave only the trickle of the pre-runoff Gallatin in the background. Halfway up one of the hardest routes in Montana, this local was closer to a piece of art than a rock climber. He didn’t grunt or yell or slap for holds. Instead, he quietly placed each hand on the stone with precision and then clamped down until the tendons screamed out from under his skin. He floated upward past a few more bolts, clipped the chains, and slouched back into his harness. We looked back down and stared at each other with wide eyes, chuckling with disbelief. We’d witnessed history.

After he lowered back to the dirt, I walked over and clapped a hand on his shoulder, telling him that he was the best climber I’d ever seen. He gave a smile and looked down to untie his knot. “Well, I’m not that good,” he said. “I still have a lot to learn.”

Those words stuck with me. As one of the most outdoorsy communities in the country, no matter how much we train, experience, or explore—no matter how good we think we are—there’s always more to learn. Opening up your brakes on a steep singletrack, pointing your tips down a black diamond run, feeling the buzz of the reel as a trout drags your fly upriver—in every experience, for the thousandth time or the very first, we always take away something new. The true joy, we’ve learned, doesn’t come from the end result, but rather the experience of discovering something new—whether it’s taking the first clumsy steps as a beginner or impressing a crowd of onlookers with supreme skill and confidence.

The changing season brings rebirth to Bozeman, and we’ve tried to capture that same spirit. Scattered throughout this issue are tales of people trying new things, exploring new places, and expanding their comfort zones—all designed to help you get out and re-discover southwest Montana’s boundless opportunity. On page 38, you’ll learn about a twist on an old classic—stalking carp with a fly rod—and on page 90 we show you new places to play outdoors, when the snowmelt turns your favorite spots into spilled milkshakes. There’s a guide to rainy day activities guaranteed to teach you a thing or two (p. 96) and essays by the intrepid students of Mount Ellis Academy (p. 22), whose unique outdoor curriculum introduces them to things most high-school students never see. And we’ve thrown in some new ways of looking at the outdoor lifestyle, including the dangers of the digital revolution (p. 62) and a no-nonsense take on sustainability and ethics in the outdoors (p. 64).

Fact is, we’re lucky enough to live in a place where the next adventure is always right out the front door—the only prerequisites are an active body and an open mind. So treat this spring as an invitation to shy away from the ordinary, to explore Montana’s infinite variety, and do something you’ve never done before. We think you’ll find that there’s still plenty to learn.