Mixed reviews are pouring in from Missoula.
It’s hard to not judge one place by the last. Montana is gorgeous…but as big and beautiful as the Tetons? Missoula is, well, we’ll get to that but suffice to say it’s just not quite Jackson, Wyoming.
It seems this summer we’ve been somewhere we all loved so much, only to the next week find ourselves stuck in a week’s prepaid, discounted rent somewhere a little more…meh.
Missoula was lining up to be that type of a place. We’d traded a kinda great spot at Jellystone (a small chain of parks around the country where Yogi Bear gives kids ice cream and swimming pools and mini-golf) for shade across the street at a different park. Much shadier, no playground. Both are about twenty minutes from downtown.
And that is where it’s at here in Missoula. This, I’ve gathered, is what Austin and Boulder were probably like before they blew up. Remnant industry, train yards, a city street grid not ready for the weight of summer travelers. A downtown where a few forward thinking individuals poured their hearts into making something great.
A river walk with no rush hour. Downtown shops speckled among vacant buildings selling locally made, handmade and just wonderfully made kids clothing, skateboards and jewelry. Breweries and excellent restaurants abound. Motorists obeying pedestrian right of ways. Tons of people riding bicycles.
It still feels industrial here, a little dirty, edgy. The raw Montana hasn’t been shaken out of the gutters just yet. People who live here, they’re part of something rather than just the masses of Johnny-come-latelies that will likely overtake town if it manages to continue growing.
But the beards here in Missoula are not worn by hipsters looking for a new place to call cool. They’re mountain man, survive the winter cold beards. There is something so refreshingly real about this city that, as we pack everything up and start thinking about heading north into Glacier, I think I might even miss a little.
Here’s to knowing what you’ve got before it’s gone. Here’s to heading north. To Glacier. To Canada, and maybe even making some new friends!