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    State of Montana

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    Montana is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. It is bordered by Idaho to the west; North Dakota and South Dakota to the east; Wyoming to the south; and by the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan to the north. It is the fourth-largest state by area, the seventh-least populous state, and the third-least densely populated state. The western half of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges, while the eastern half is characterized by western prairie terrain and badlands, with smaller mountain ranges found throughout the state. In all, 77 named ranges are part of the Rocky Mountains.

    Montana has no official nickname but several unofficial ones, most notably "Big Sky Country", "The Treasure State", "Land of the Shining Mountains", and "The Last Best Place". The economy is primarily based on agriculture, including ranching and cereal grain farming. Other significant economic resources include oil, gas, coal, mining, and lumber. The health care, service, and government sectors also are significant to the state's economy. Montana's fastest-growing sector is tourism; nearly 13 million annual tourists visit Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Beartooth Highway, Flathead Lake, Big Sky Resort, and other attractions.

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    Budget Travel Lists

    Red Lodge, Montana - Coolest Small Towns 2022

    If Red Lodge didn’t have you at “Gateway to Yellowstone,” consider that the drive from Red Lodge to Yellowstone National Park’s northeast entrance takes you over the Beartooth Highway, perhaps the most beautiful, dizzying, surreal, and thrilling drive in the world, reaching an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet above sea level at the top of the pass. But whether Red Lodge serves as your gateway to the wonders of Yellowstone or as your first stop back in the “real world” after exploring the park, the town is legit cool all on its own, with its own outdoor recreation offerings, family activities, authentic culinary traditions, and much more. Spend some time getting to know the town’s arts and culture — art galleries like the Clay Center, unique shops, Pride Park, and walking tours of historic downtown (once said to have a “saloon on every corner,” but nowadays decidedly more sophisticated) will keep you busy. And while catching a fleeting glimpse of wildlife in Yellowstone depends very much on luck, it’s an everyday occurrence at Red Lodge’s Yellowstone WIldlife Sanctuary, a few blocks from downtown and home to “non-releasable” mountain lions, wolves, bears, bison, eagles, hawks, and many other native Montana animals. More about Red Lodge Red Lodge, MT Red Lodge, Montana - Gateway to Yellowstone Park via the beautiful Beartooth Highway. Come and experience true western hospitality in this quaint, historic, mountain town. Keep Reading... Meet Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns for 2022: Content presented by Have Fun Do Good Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) is on a mission to provide adventure seekers with a unique experience that allows them to travel while giving back to the community through volunteering. Learn more at https://havefundogood.co/

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    Inspiration

    5 perfect rentals for plant lovers

    The home gardening trend that bloomed during the pandemic has planted roots for the long term, with nurseries continuing to report record sales as consumers test and refine their green thumbs. Plant-loving travelers looking to take their plant parentings skills to the next level will be rewarded with stays at these five botanical vacation rentals courtesy of Vacasa, the leading full-service vacation rental management company in North America. As an added bonus, there are parks, greenhouses, gardens and more nearby, offering plenty of additional opportunities to enjoy nature’s beauty in full bloom. Source: Vacasa Arcadian Gardens (Sequim, Washington) - It’s fitting that this vacation home is in The Evergreen State, where an indoor koi pond—and hot tub—are surrounded by an impressive display of tropical plants that create a jungle-like oasis. Spend an afternoon at Pioneer Memorial Park, a beautiful 4-acre park and arboretum located right downtown and maintained by the Sequim Prairie Garden Club. Home Run House (Warren, Vermont) - This custom-built vacation home uses greenery to soften the steely gray of its industrial-style interior architecture, with a two-story living wall of plants and a forest of potted trees. Nearby, the Von Trapp Greenhouse in Waitsfield has been growing all of its own plants from seeds, cuttings, or divisions for more than 40 years. Source: Vacasa Mellow Marsh (Folly Beach, South Carolina) - Wicker baskets and plant stands dot the living area of this beachside rental, proving that even with a view of palm trees from the deck, a fiddle leaf fig tree can really bring a space to life. Head about 20 minutes inland to Charleston and stroll through acres upon acres of romantic blooms at the popular Middleton Place or Magnolia Garden. Source: Vacasa Yellowtail Home in the Meadow (Big Sky, Montana) - This Big Sky sun porch, complete with skylights, is decked out with a container garden of trees that artfully brings the outdoors in, but will keep any chilly evening temps at bay. An abundance of wildflowers line area hiking trails nearby, including Beehive Basin and Cinnamon Mountain, but remember to leave the colorful buds rooted—picking them is against hiker (and plant enthusiast) etiquette. Tabor Treehouse (Portland, Oregon) - As a house in a plant, this vacation rental gives guests the true “one with nature” experience. If that’s not enough, nearby Leach Botanical Garden (which unveiled a $12 million renovation this spring) is home to a diverse collection of more than 2,000 plants across its 16.5 acres Source: Vacasa This content has been provided in partnership with Vacasa.

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    Road TripsBudget Travel Lists

    10 of the most scenic drives in the USA

    This content is sponsored by Before you leave, make sure you check health and safety regulations in any area you are traveling to, as well as the weather conditions. Mountain roads in particular are subject to closures due to snow. Prior to setting off on any road trip, make sure your car is ready for the journey. You could save 15 percent or more on car insurance by switching to GEICO. Going-to-the-sun road - Glacier National Park, Montana Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park in Montana is almost 50 miles carved into the beautiful Rocky Mountains. It is the only road that traverses the park, providing access to Logan Pass at the Continental Divide. This alpine road is so winding it takes up to ten weeks for snow plows to clear them each year, so the best time to visit is later in the summer and early autumn. We recommend lodging on the Western edge of the park in Kalispell, where there is also an airport. Shenandoah National Park © Laura Brown / Budget Travel Skyline Drive - Shenandoah National Park - Virginia Skyline Drive is a 105-mile mountain road that runs the length of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, starting in Front Royal, about an hour west of Washington, DC. There are 75 overlooks, providing amazing views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont. It is especially beautiful in the summer and autumn. Drivers should plan to spend a full day doing Skyline Drive, and we highly recommend you make time to watch an evening sunset from a west-facing overlook. King's Canyon National Park © Laura Brown / Budget Travel King's Canyon Scenic Byway - California State Route 180 This state road has the benefit of going through two National Parks in short order. The first is the General Grant Grove of Giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park. The road continues for another 50-miles through the Western Sierra to King’s Canyon National Park, an underrated gem in the National Park system. The nearest major city to King’s Canyon is Fresno, California. Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rob Hainer / Shutterstock Cades Cove Loop, Great Smoky Mountain National Park The 11-mile Cades Cove Loop is deep into Great Smoky Mountain National Park and it makes for a perfect leisure drive. Spend 2-3 hours exploring an early 1800s European settlement and appreciate the fresh air and beauty of the mountains. Make sure you plan a picnic and stop at Cable Mill, which also has restrooms. For accommodations, we recommend nearby Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The nearest airport is in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Overseas Highway © Laura Brown / Budget Travel The Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West The 110-mile Overseas Highway drives, well, overseas – connecting Miami to Key West through all the Keys. Drivers will feel the salt air and sunshine on their face and find plenty of charming nooks to explore along the way. There are beaches with public parking and unique local art gardens. At the end, arrive in beautiful Key West. North Cascades National Park © Checubus / Shutterstock North Cascades Scenic Byway, Washington The North Cascades Scenic Byway in Northern Washington is the most mountainous and hair-raising road traversing that park. You will see turquoise blue glacier water and sprawling mountain peaks. Make sure to stop for a photo at the Washington Pass Overlook. Eat, explore and stay at one of the 1920s towns along the way, and spend some time in the outdoorsy Methow Valley. Like most mountain passes, this is closed in the winter due to snow. North Cascades is relatively far away from society, the nearest airport is Seattle. Beartooth Highway © Laura Brown / Budget Travel Beartooth Highway - Southwest Montana This 68-mile mountain pass crosses from the town of Red Lodge, through Southwest Montana, and into the Northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It crosses through the beautiful Beartooth Mountains, one of the most remote regions of the United States, and one of the most ecologically diverse. The Beartooth Highway offers some incredible vistas as it climbs up the mountains. The nearest major airport is in Billings, Montana. Monument Valley © francesco ricca iacomino / Getty Images US Rt 163 - Monument Valley, Utah US Rt 163 is the 64-mile highway running from Arizona through the Navajo Nation in Southern Utah, showing off the dramatic and beautiful landscapes of Utah in Monument Valley. The red rocks and cliffs are one of the most iconic scenes in America, and the wide-open space makes the drive feel uncrowded. Plan at least two hours to make this drive and take time to stop for photography. Sunsets are particularly spectacular. The nearest major airport to Monument Valley is in Flagstaff, Arizona. The coastline surrounding Acadia National Park © Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock Park Loop Road - Acadia National Park, Maine The 27-mile Park Loop Road is the primary road around Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park. It offers scenic ocean vistas where the rocks hit the water, and the forest changes colors with the seasons. Make sure to plan extra time to stop for hiking and photography. For inexpensive accommodations, we recommend staying in nearby Bangor, Maine. Rocky Mountain National Park © Ronda Kimbrow Photography / Getty Images Trail Ridge Road - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado The Trail Ridge Road is a 48-mile long mountain route, nicknamed the ‘Highway to the Sky.’ The highway starts in Estes Park in the East and goes to Grand Lake in the West. It climbs up more than 4,000 feet to above the tree line in Rocky Mountain National Park. Considered the highest elevation paved road in Colorado, it features plenty of hairpin turns. Plan at least half a day to fully appreciate this trip. The nearest major airport is in Denver. SPONSORED BY Carefully crafted collaboratively between Budget Travel, GEICO, and Lonely Planet. All parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

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    Inspiration

    The last pie shop in Pie Town

    When Sarah Joe Montana Chavez first visited Pie Town, New Mexico, on family vacations, three pie restaurants were open for business in the small high-desert town. The town’s love of pie was signified by the summertime Pie Town Pie Festival. Pie Town’s appeal was was based on curiosity from quirky travelers. “Folks look at a map and think, oh, Pie Town, let’s check that out and eat a pie in Pie Town,” says Montana Chavez. Then the COVID-19 pandemic halted mass gatherings and the Pie Town Pie Festival had to be cancelled in 2020. Trepidation lingered for the three pie businesses on whether to open their doors, thanks to the unknown health factors of the virus. After the pandemic hit, two of the three pie shops in Pie Town shuttered, leaving one sole pie shop – the Gatherin’ Place – the last pie shop in Pie Town. Montana Chavez baked at home for fun prior to moving to Pie Town, but didn’t realize that she would be carrying on a small-town tradition of doing just that: baking pie. A Phoenix, AZ native, depending on the day, Montana Chavez is the baker, shipper, cook, and front of house staff for the last pie shop in Pie Town: Pie Town Pies. In January 2021 Montana Chavez was folded into her new role as one of the last bakers in Pie Town. She was in between jobs when her stepmother, Sarah Chavez, decided to purchase a historic Pie Town antique shop, the Pie Town Homestead, which is next to the pie shop formerly known as The Gatherin’ Place. Montana Chavez moved to Pie Town to help her stepmother with the antique business, but when Chavez learned of the opportunity to buy the last pie shop in Pie Town next door, she couldn’t resist. Being able to serve travelers pie in Pie Town was the impetus for Chavez to purchase the Gatherin’ Place and keep the last pie shop in Pie Town alive. Montana Chavez learned all about baking New Mexican pies from the previous baker at The Gatherin’ Place and carries on the unique tradition of home-spun baking. The most popular pie she crafts is the New Mexico Apple Pie, a basic apple pie mixed with green chile and piñon, a treasured Southwestern nut that bursts from clusters of bushy piñon trees across New Mexico each fall. Montana Chavez says she has noticed an uptick in RV travel with adventurers on their way to California and Nevada. However, Pie Town faces distinct challenges in ramping up tourism because even though comparable towns across the state have faced similar travel fluctuations during the pandemic, Pie Town’s problems lie in its rural, serene nature. “There’s just not too much out here. In Santa Fe, there are a lot of restaurants and places to go, but in Pie Town, there is the RV park and a hotel or two. Having the last restaurant here and keeping it open is what makes Pie Town a place to still stop and visit.” As the pandemic hopefully turns a tide that welcomes back travelers to Pie Town, Montana Chavez is confident in the leadership that she and her stepmother can provide for businesses development and the community. “My stepmother is big on helping local artists by selling their goods at the Pie Town Homestead. She works to keep everyone involved to help the town stay alive.”

    Inspiration

    The best books to read in every state in America

    As soon as coronavirus arrived in New York City last winter, my brain became a tangle of anxious thoughts, pounding down on my already overtaxed amygdala. I had one salvation: a three-by-two map of America hanging in my living room. While most of my friends set their sights on the Balis and Bermudas of the world, my only travel goal has long been to visit every state in America. Ostensibly, this map’s point was to be the canvas for a smattering of pins until I created a multi-hued distribution upon all 50 sates. In actuality, the point was to accomplish something, to wrangle up America into a palm of pastel thumbtacks, to live a life full of stories. Stories from a life of zigzagging our great terrain this past year, it turned out, would not be in the cards as travel restrictions and lockdowns made all too clear from the outset of this mess. But as I squinted once again at the pin-less sweep of real estate on my wall somewhere between Minnesota and Oregon early last spring, I realized I could still get to work on these travels, if I got a little creative. Thus, my 50 states book project was born, where I embarked on a challenge to read a tome set in every state in the union. I still met people and places and things and disasters and triumphs, but I didn’t rent a car, or hop on a plane, or even scour the internet high and low for Clorox wipes to sanitize my hotel room. Instead, I let William Least Heat-Moon, Bill Bryson, and Paul Theroux lead me on road trips, I hung out with that guy who walked across America, Peter Jenkins, I chased redbirds in Kentucky with Sharon Creech, listened to crawdads singing in North Carolina, and I went on one hell of a bender with Hunter S. Thompson in Vegas. I spent a grand total of $233.96 buying used books on Amazon—less than an average one-night hotel stay in Chicago, mind you. I read classic texts and obscure novels, fiction and nonfiction, humorous and heartbreaking, and it completely changed the way I think about travel. For one thing, given the titles I read, I can now unequivocally say the best adventures are the outdoors ones. My nationwide literary adventure had me walking around my own little nook of a park, Sutton Place Park in Midtown Manhattan, like I was a Thoreauvian naturalist (I’m not sure how he’d feel about the giant neon Pepsi Cola sign across the East River). In lockdowns, these books gave me inspiration to find meaning in the toughest of days knowing that This Too Shall Pass, and the road awaited me. It even helped me feel a little less pissed when my well-intentioned best friend would send me gorgeous mountain-y snapshots from her quarantine castle in the Hudson Valley. After all, I had just gotten back from a whirlwind stint in Iowa. Perhaps counterintuitively, surveying a book from every state in America blurred the lines of my much-loved pushpin map. Alaska was Alabama was Kentucky was Kansas. On page 18 of my Michigan selection, The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers, I came across this passage: “The great American anarchist Edward Abbey is probably not a terrific role model for mature relatedness—by all reports, he had prickly relationships with other people and, like Henry David Thoreau, needed the solitude he so extolled. But in Desert Solitaire Abbey addressed that need to confront our position vis-à-vis the nonhuman world…” In a quick swoop of the pen, my Michigan author had referenced my Maine essayist and my Utah wordsmith. We’re all independent, yet linked. Separate, yet dependent. Alone in the woods, yet with your friends on the forest floor. Alaska is Alabama is Kentucky is Kansas. Alabama Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep Cep does a deep dive into Harper Lee’s true-crime book about reverend Willie Maxwell, an alleged serial murderer that never was finished and published. Her portrait of To Kill a Mockingbird’s scribe, Harper Lee, is just as fascinating as the unreal story of Maxwell. Alaska Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer There’s hardly a stretch of 10 pages in this book without creased corners and underlining, in this enthralling account of a renegade college grad who abandons the conventions of traditional life on Alaska’s harsh frontiers. Arizona Arizona Then and Now: People and Places by Karl Mondon By the time I got to my Arizona selection, my eyes had glazed over from so. much. text. Thankfully, this assortment of archival photos from the Jeremy Rowe Collection juxtaposed with modern-day photography from Mondon was exactly what I needed. Nothing will beat the heavenly Grand Canyon, but the main street photos of towns like Bisbee and Winslow really made me nostalgic for wandering a new teeny town’s downtown for the first time. Arkansas Hipbillies: Deep Revolution in the Arkansas Ozarks by Jared M. Phillips Hippies of the Haight-Ashbury variety + backwoods hillbillies = “Hipbillies.” A fascinating perspective on this Southern counterculture from the 1960s and ‘70s, I was intrigued to learn about these back-to-the-landers’ incredible impact on the future of the Ozarks. California The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan Head to San Francisco in this award-winning gem from Tan that also brings you along to China in stories of immigrant Americans, the lives and pain they left behind, and the chapters they’ve built anew. Colorado The Voyeur's Motel by Gay Talese A journalist uncovers a heck of a world after receiving an anonymous letter from a peeping Tom who owns a hotel in Aurora and spies on unknowing guests. It’s creepy, it’s can’t-put-down, and it will definitely have you look around extra carefully after you check into a hotel room. Honorable mention: Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson by Juan Thompson Connecticut The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin Well, guess I need to see the 2004 movie starring Nicole Kidman now. Because, wow, what a book: When Joanna arrives in Fairfield County with her husband and kiddos from New York City an American horror classic ensues, from the same author as Rosemary’s Baby. Delaware And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer by Ann Rule This book has something for every kind of reader, true crime, politics, superb research, psychological nuances...the list goes on and on. You’ll stay up way past your bedtime finishing this one. Florida Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh Woman decamps from her busy life and heads to Captiva Island, off the coast of Fort Myers. Woman picks up various seashells and uses them as metaphors to reflect on life: work, relationships, struggles, joys. Turns out said woman is married to a Nazi (see: New Jersey), which ruins this poetic, rhythmic philosophical missive for me. Georgia Between Georgia Torn between two families, a husband and a best friend love interest, the tension is palpable in this Southern Drama with a capital D. As one reader referenced in the Amazon reviews, the saying "We don't hide crazy in this family. We sit it down on the front porch and give it a cocktail” was just made for this book. Hawaii The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings You know a book is that good, when the George Clooney movie version doesn’t even hold a candle to it. There’s a wife in a coma and her extramarital affair, a husband forced to reckon with raising his two daughters alone and being heir to a ton of primo real estate, and so much more that will leave you unable to think about anything else for a couple of days. Idaho Idaho by Emily Ruskovich I’ll be the first to admit I picked this book up for the eye-catching floral design on the cover, but I couldn’t put it down for the pathos bleeding through every page. When a mother kills her child, so much more crumbles and is lost, but the beauty here is in all that is found, practically, philosophically, and otherwise. Illinois Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond When I was an editor at Men’s Journal in 2016, I sat in the cubicle next to Mr. Diamond (remember these things called offices) and this book encpatures so much of who he is: wise, writerly, idiosyncratic, and a touch grumpy. Enjoy the ride as he commences a quest for the filmmaker behind Home Alone, Sixteen Candles, and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Indiana The Fault In Our Stars by John Green I’m still crying, but to be fair, how could you not be crying after reading this novel about two kids who love like there are thousands of tomorrows despite the terminal cancer diagnoses with which they’re both reckoning. Iowa The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson 1950s-era Iowa is brought to life in this oft humorous memoir from the beloved travel writer. It really made this New York City kid feel like she was missing out on a quintessential childhood experience by never having attended a county fair. Kansas In Cold Blood by Truman Capote A true crime classic that revolves around the brutal slaying of four family members in a small town in Western Kansas and the detective work that ensues. The book was praised for utilizing novelistic techniques to describe the characters and their feelings, a trailblazer for the nonfiction genre. Kentucky Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech Lockdowns have had me returning to tween books (don’t judge me), and I don’t regret the walk down memory lane in the least, especially in the company of the protagonist Zinny. The industrious youngster sets out into the woods and grapples with grief, blossoming love interests, and frustrating family dynamics along the way. Don’t we all? Louisiana Magic City by Yusef Komunyakaa Step inside 1950s Louisiana in Komunyakaa’s hometown of rural Bogalusa in this harrowing collection of poems. Within, the talented poet tackles racism, sexuality, and economic inequalities with a swift, vivid hand. Maine The Maine Woods by Henry Thoreau What I would give to escape this city jungle and take a walk in the Maine woods right about now. Thankfully, Thoreau’s quintessential naturalist account of three trips into the rugged woods with philosophical musings intertwined with the detailed physical descriptions of all that Thoreau witnesses. Pretty foreboding for the mid1800s: “the mission of men there seems to be, like so many busy demons, to drive the forest out of the country.” Maryland Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler Admittedly, I picked up this book because there was a tantalizing slice of pie on the cover. But I’m glad I did: Follow along for all that unfolds as one grieving Baltimore family learn about long-hidden truths and struggles to cope. Massachusetts Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom I mean, what can I say about Tuesdays with Morrie? In this blockbuster memoir-cum-biography, a journalist visits his beloved former college professor at home as he dies of ALS. A five-star book (albeit, with some four-star writing). A beautiful biography of a life well lived, and a workaholic writer who’s outlook is changed because of his inspiring teacher’s example. Michigan The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, A Family, and the Land That Healed Them by Dean Kuipers It was easy to fall in love with Kuipers’ elegant prose in a story about an estranged father and his three sons and what happens when said absent dad tries to make amends after buying 100 acres of hunting property in middle-of-nowhere Michigan. It’s a memoir I know I’ll be recommending for years to come. Minnesota Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich I had picked this book up because I was supposed to gather with a crowd of hundreds to see Erdrich speak at the 92nd Street Y this past month. Needless to say, that blessed packed auditorium never came to fruition, but I’m glad I still devoured this spooky, powerful account of a pregnant woman in a world where expecting mothers are held captive in hospitals. Honorable mentions: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; The Good Girl by Mary Kubica Mississippi The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner I did it. I read a full Faulkner book. And while I probably would have understood more about this Deep South family and Dilsey, their black servant, had I read the SparkNotes, if only for the occasional heart-stopping quote like “Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” Missouri The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States by Walter Johnson This Missouri native and now Harvard professor captures the oft overlooked history of St. Louis, tracing the city from Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition to modern times, with moving examples in each chapter. It’s a tough look at racism in our country from centuries past to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, but a look well worth taking. Montana A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean So far, I’ve lost one friend to Big Sky Country since lockdowns commenced, and I can now totally appreciate why. Penned by a retired English professor who commenced his fiction career at 70, this novella and accompanying short stories will have you eager to fly-cast and play cribbage amidst a backdrop of trout streams, drunkards, and whores (maybe not the whores). Nebraska The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert Venture to the 1898 Omaha World's Fair – filled with sinners and saints – as one ventriloquist stumbles upon a new love. The book has burlesque dancers, snake oil salesmen, and plenty of wild west drama and romance. In these strange times, what more could you want? Nevada Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson Like The Plot Against America (see: New Jersey) I didn’t think this stream of conscious book would be for me, so I was amazed that I polished it off in three evening reading sessions. Vegas is wild, life is wild, and it’s all gravy baby in this fast-paced (psychedelic) trip. New Hampshire Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving If this doesn’t make you want to traipse around New Hampshire (minus an accidental murder and an unfortunate sheriff), I don’t know what will. The inventive novel takes detours to Iowa, Vermont, and more, as you get to know three generations of men and a rotating cast of women and feel particularly drawn to say goodbye to your smartphone for a while and retreat to 1950s Coos County, New Hampshire. New Jersey The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth In this lengthy novel, Roth reimagines a world in which Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh is President, creating fantasized historical fiction that has striking parallels to today’s dystopian America. The book focuses on Philip’s upbringing in Newark in the 1940s in a tight-knit Jewish community, with a brother desperate to leave and a cousin returning home from World War II missing a leg. Overall, this book a nice reminder for me that reading beyond your typical wheelhouse pays dividends. Check out the miniseries on HBO Max after you’re done. Honorable mention: Shore Stories: An Anthology Of The Jersey Shore by Richard Youmans (Editor) New Mexico House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday After I told a friend in California about my little project, I was touched when this book arrived in my mailbox a few days later. This Pulitzer Prize novel by esteemed Kiowa journalist moved me in all the right ways during such a time of turmoil with the unforgettable Abel, a Native American man who returns to his reservation after fighting in World War II. New York The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger In a time when it was easy to forget New York City’s boisterous splendor, it was comfort food to cavort around famed landmarks and reconvene with old Phoebs, Holden, and even pimply Ackley. As for “those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South,” I’m pleased to report they appear to be COVID-free and frolicking about even as hell and temperatures freeze over. Honorable mentions: A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin; Here Is New York by E.B. White; Manhattan’45 by Jan Morris; An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena; The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto North Carolina Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens A haunting murder story with unforgettable characters, a moving love story, and evocative descriptions of nature’s wonders, all set in the marshlands of the Old North State. North Dakota The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown by Blaire Briody Part culture analysis, part travelogue, this book about the oil biz delivers on the premise of its title — especially on the wild front. Ohio Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance From page one to the end, try putting this book down as it simply yet poignantly captures the realities of growing up in a family riddled with addiction and drama. P.S. If you watched the stekkar new Netflix flick, you’ll definitely appreciate reading the original memoir. Oklahoma A Map of Tulsa by Benjamin Lytal Dubbed “a love letter to a classic American city,” this love story in a Tulsa that straddles the line between dusty and sparkling is unlike any other you’ve ever read. Oregon Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed Okay, so it also covers California and Washington, but since the author lives in Portland, we’ll give this unique, achingly beautiful memoir to her stomping grounds. Chronicling one woman’s quest to hike the PCT in the cradle of grief, this memoir will change your outlook on everything from nature to family. P.S. Reese Witherspoon stars in the 2014 movie adaptation. Pennsylvania Rabbit, Run by John Updike This was the first Updike book I read, but it won’t be the last. I think one Goodreads reviewer nailed it: “Have you ever seen something noted because it is a representation of a specific thing? For example, a building might be marked with a plaque as a perfect representation of a type of architecture. Well, this book should be marked with a plaque as a perfect prose example of America in the late 50s/early 60s.” It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t progressive in its treatment of women, but man was it enthralling. Rhode Island The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore Get to know Anthony, Joy, and Lu, three strangers whose lives become intertwined on Little Rhody’s picturesque Block Island. They may call it a summer beach read, but I call it cozy quarantine perfection. South Carolina The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank Set in Georgia and South Carolina, its a low-country love story that will leave you feeling Hallmark movie good. Also, the descriptions of towering trees, Sullivan’s Island, and Charleston restaurants, will help you indulge the armchair traveling spirit we all need right now. South Dakota Deadwood by Pete Dexter When the going gets tough, the tough head to Deadwood...at least in the 1870s if you’re Wild Bill Hickok or Calamity Jane. Expect searing grit. Booze, sex, betrayal, and murder in an action-packed work of fiction you won’t soon forget. Tennessee Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver A searing fictional narrative that grapples with the effects of climate change and draws you into the world of a young woman living on a farm in an isolated sliver of Tennessee. If you’re a lover of the mystical monarch butterflies, this is definitely for you. Texas God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright Diverse chapters covering everything from hurricanes and guns to music and Texan heroes, get a taste of this big, beautiful, and oft contradictory state. (Which, by the way, is so much more than Austin) Utah Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey This best-seller reminded me of the understated, almost eerie grandeur of Utah (I once took a SUP yoga class in thermal waters within the Homestead Crater, a 10,000-year-old crater, about a half-hour outside of Park City, if that’s not enough trendy activities rolled int one) — and had me itching to return. Through Abbey’s elegiac prose, sourced from journals and reflections of his time spent as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, you’ll yearn for the day when you can visit all of the natural wonders he describes for yourself, and with new eyes. Vermont Stranger in the Kingdom by Frank Mosher It’s a real treat to get lost in fictional Kingdom County, Vermont, in this tale that centers around a small town, a murder, and life in New England. Dealing with difficult themes like racism, Mosher manages to weave in humor and moral lessons without being preachy. Virginia The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark What happens when a married couple who are partners in law in a small Virginia town encounter a mysterious death of their most eccentric clients will leave you surprised at each twist and turn. One of my first quarantine reads last spring, it’s a veritable page-turner and welcome distraction from the relentless news cycle. Washington Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (Spoiler alert!) The last line of this courtroom drama regarding a case of a drowned fisherman on remote San Piedro Island was well worth slogging through the entire book for me: “Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” West Virginia Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life by Chuck Kinder This Goodreads review just about summed it up: “At turns uproariously funny and break-my-goddamn-heart sad, Last Mountain Dancer started off good and ended even better, set in a world where Hank Williams occupies the same spiritual space as the ubiquitous Jaaaaaysus.” Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the day when I get to visit these country roads for myself. Wisconsin Population: 485 — Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry I’ve visited my fair share small towns in Wisconsin like outdoorsy Door County’s fly-speck gem, Sister Bay, and Elkhorn to see the Dave Matthews Band play the much-hyped amphitheater that is Alpine Valley, but I’ve never ventured to one quite like Perry’s hometown of New Auburn, rendered beautifully in this unforgettable memoir. Wyoming Wrapped and Strapped by Lorelei James I like Harlequin romance novels, so shoot me. Hippie vegetarian meets hunky cattle farmer in a raunchy stint at the ole Split Rock Ranch and Resort in this “Blacktop Cowboys” series mass market paperback hit. Now I definitely want to visit Wyoming for the, um, scenery.

    Inspiration

    Romantic Montana vacations for couples

    Imagine being snuggled up in a cozy cabin somewhere far away from reality. The fire is glowing as snow-capped mountains sit in the background. Hiking trails and ski slopes abound. This mental picture is why we’re convinced there might be no better place for a romantic getaway this Valentine’s Day than Montana, dubbed “The Last Best Place” for a reason. The western part of the state particularly makes it obvious why it earned the right to that nickname. The global health crisis has meant weddings across the country (and the world) have been downsized, postponed, or canceled altogether. But celebrating love seems more important than ever as we collectively hit the year anniversary of socially distancing from friends, family, and lovers. While the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, Montana offers couples the perfect place to turn up the romance and disconnect from the noise this February in a safe and snowy setting. The first step in setting up the sexiest, socially-distant Valentine’s escape in Montana is finding the right place to stay. Calowahcan Cabin Ronan, Montana Set against the Mission Mountain range is an idyllic couples retreat in the form of a 500 square foot cabin. The cabin and its signature slanted roof sits on 10 acres of prairie only minutes from untamed Montana wilderness. The scenery is the selling point, but Calowahcan’s giant ceramic bathtub is a surefire way to set the mood. Unwind with your lover by lighting a bonfire on the patio, wildflowers and mountain peaks standing in the distance. Calowahcan is the right accommodation for couples seeking rest and respite; those who want to hit the hiking trails but, ultimately, are happy to settle in for an evening surrounded by snowy peaks on the horizon. Classic Whitefish A-Frame Whitefish, Montana This A-frame cabin in picturesque Whitefish is what Montana getaway dreams are made of. A cosy bed sits in the loft space overlooking Whitefish Lake, with twinkly lights illuminating the patio. The bonfire pit out back is well suited for warming up over s’mores making. Exploring the town is made simple thanks to the cabin being ideally located only a 10-minute drive from breweries and restaurants. Having a Valentine’s weekend spent in Whitefish is especially well-suited for skiers and snowboarders, as the town is home to one of the state’s most esteemed ski resorts. Meadowlark Treehouse Columbia Falls, Montana What is more romantic than cuddling up to your loved one under twinkly lights hanging from a three-story treehouse? Not much, honestly. A simple scroll of Meadowlark’s Instagram account will have you drooling over the interior of the cabin in equal measure to the beauty right out the front door. The treehouse comes full of blankets, board games, and books to keep you occupied, as well as a fire pit if you fancy lighting a fire. Reclusive Moose Cabins West Glacier National Park, Montana On the edge of West Glacier, near crystal clear lakes and purple mountains, are a set of small log cabins with the necessary amenities for a lovers’ retreat. Fireplace? Check. Kitchen fully equipped for you to cook up a Valentine’s Day dinner? Check. Comfortable bed for post-hike cuddles? Check. As a cutesy touch, each cabin is named after Montana wildlife, which you very well might encounter if you venture back in the warmer months of the year. Being based in West Glacier for Valentine’s Day means you’re surrounded by staggering scenery, including nearby Lake McDonald, and astonishing quiet-- the makings of a truly intimate vacation. Kalispell Grand Kalispell, Montana If cabins and treehouses aren’t really your thing, the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel’s lodging might be perfectly suited for you. Located in the heart of the downtown area, the Kalispell Grand used to host luxury travelers for a whopping $2 per night. Nowadays, the price point has changed and the amenities have no doubt been upgraded, but the Kalispell Grand still holds onto its old-time, Montana charm thanks to details like the lobby’s solid oak staircase and moose head taxidermy. It’s in a premier location, within walking distance of local establishments like Norm’s Soda Fountain, Colter Coffee, and Kalispell Brewery. Kalispell as a town is an ideal base for a romantic Montana getaway because it’s near marvelous Flathead Lake, a short drive from Whitefish ski slopes, and not far from Glacier National Park. Bitterroot River Bed & Breakfast Stevensville, Montana Right along the Bitterroot River is a large red house with a wrap-around porch. The house’s four bedrooms were turned into a bed and breakfast over a decade ago and has become the “home away from home” for fly-fishing enthusiasts, business travelers, and lovers alike. Fresh coffee is brought to the door of your room every morning at 7:30, giving you time to slowly rise before a home-cooked farm to table breakfast is served in the sunroom. Each room is uniquely decorated with Montana touches-- think bear paw prints on the comforters and antlers on the wall. You and your valentine are steps away from outdoor recreation of all sorts, but can rest easy knowing you’ll be in great hands once you retire for the evening. Kimpton Armory Hotel Bozeman, Montana Another less rustic choice is the Kimpton Armory Hotel located in one of Montana’s most aesthetic towns. It is a hotel made for modern lovers. Everything about the Kimpton is sleek: its on-site dining, its interior design, its common areas. The Kimpton’s rooftop is a great place for a nightcap before you slip back into the warmth of your contemporary bedroom. Once you’ve booked your stay, you’ll need to find COVID-appropriate activities to enjoy with your Valentine. A February visit comes with the bonus of fewer crowds, and it also means you have a bevy of winter time activities to choose from. Catch fresh air and stunning views by taking part in any (or all) of these pandemic-approved, outdoor activities. *Please note: at time of publishing, face masks are required across Montana in all public indoor spaces. Dogsled Dog sledding isn’t just an Alaskan bucket list item-- Montana has incredible dog sledding rails and operators, particularly in the Western part of the state. An energetic team of dogs will lead you through the stillness of the beauty that surrounds you as they run down snowy trails. Most operators offer half-day adventures, but some have a multi-night option that allows you to extend your sledding experience. Fun fact: the reality-TV famed Kardashian family were keen to book a dog sledding excursion, but refused to pay and, ultimately, missed out on this incredible winter activity. Skiing and snowboarding Montana has some of the best slopes for skiing and snowboarding and, thanks to its geographical location, it also receives a dependable amount of fresh snow. Although equipment rental and lift tickets make for an expensive day out, the rush of gliding downhill is worth every penny. Whitefish Mountain, Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, and Showdown are some of the state’s finest ski and snowboarding resorts. For a more affordable option, Maverick Mountain has virtually no lift ticket fees and extends over 450 family-owned acres. Horseback trail rides It might seem counterintuitive to go horseback riding in the cold, but it’s magic. Big, fat flakes falling around you as you sit back and take in the views. In order to book a horseback trail ride, you’ll need to find an outfitter or guide near you to lend you a horse and lead you along the trail. Your accommodation might be able to recommend a local ranch with guides for you to hire, like the renowned Artemis Acres. You can also find operating and COVID-compliant trail rides online via the Visit Montana directory. Hiking A super traditional (and budget-friendly) way to spend any day in Montana (rain, shine, or snow) is hitting the hiking trails that undoubtedly surround you. Hiking doesn’t require prior booking, loads of gear, or heaps of money. Due to the nature of Montana’s winter weather conditions, you’re also likely to have paths all to yourselves-- a total bonus during a pandemic. Snowshoeing If you’re up to burn more calories and try something a little different, snowshoeing is a great alternative to hiking. You’ll need to rent some snowshoes, but that’s easily done in most Montana towns with outdoor recreation retailers. Your body will work harder, but there are fewer things as luxurious as a post-snowshoe bubble bath back at your cabin or hotel. Make sure you know what trails are conducive to snowshoeing before you head out! You can do this by asking your equipment rental company what paths they recommend. Soaking in a natural hot spring West Montana has a wealth of natural hot springs for you and your Valentine to warm up in. Some of the most famed are Quinn’s Hot Springs in Plains, Chico Hot Springs in Pray, and Elkhorn Hot Springs in Polaris. Many of the hot springs locations offer premium lodging and fine dining options including private cabins to stay in and locally-sourced, wild game. Currently, many hot springs require advanced booking; make sure you plan accordingly. Snowmobiling Snowmobiling is a surefire way to ramp up the excitement in your Valentine celebrations. It’s a great adrenaline rush for those looking to tear up fresh powder. Lucky for you and your date, Western Montana in the winter time was made for adventure junkies to slide over frozen lakes and zoom along groomed trails.

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    DESTINATION IN Montana

    Great Falls

    Great Falls is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Montana and the county seat of Cascade County. The population was 58,505 according to the 2010 census, and was estimated at 58,434 on July 1, 2019. The city covers an area of 22.9 square miles (59 km2) and is the principal city of the Great Falls, Montana, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Cascade County. The county’s population stood at 81,327 in the 2010 census. A cultural, commercial and financial center in the central part of the state, Great Falls is located just east of the Rocky Mountains and is bisected by the Missouri River. It is 180 miles (290 km) from the east entrance to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, and 264 miles (425 km) from Yellowstone National Park in southern Montana and northern Wyoming. A north–south federal highway, Interstate 15, serves the city.Great Falls is named for a series of five waterfalls located on the Missouri River north and east of the city. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805–1806 was forced to portage around a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of the river in order to bypass the falls; the company spent 31 days in the area, performing arduous labor to make the portage. Three of the waterfalls, known as Black Eagle, Rainbow and the Great Falls (or the Big Falls), are among the sites of five hydroelectric dams in the area, giving the city its moniker, “The Electric City”. Other nicknames for Great Falls include “The River City” and “Western Art Capital of the World”. The city is also home to two military installations: Malmstrom Air Force Base east of the city, which is the community’s largest employer; and the Montana Air National Guard to the west, adjacent to Great Falls International Airport.Great Falls is a popular tourist destination in Montana, with one million overnight visitors annually, who spend an estimated $185 million while visiting, according to the Great Falls Montana Tourism group. Among Montana cities, Great Falls boasts the greatest number of museums, with 10, including the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Giant Springs and the C. M. Russell Museum and Original Log Cabin Studio on the city’s north side. Great Falls was the largest city in Montana from 1950 to 1970, when it was eclipsed by Billings in the 1970 census; Missoula assumed second place in 2000, and Great Falls is ranked third as of 2021.