Short and sweet; the theme for this post. But that's not to say I haven't been writing a ton.
It's been a whirlwind of events, emotions, people, places, birds, mountains, grasslands and more, all within the two weeks I've been out west. Montana is a combination of everything you can think of, whether it be geographically, socially, politically, you name it. It's as if each corner of the country some how found itself here and never left.
I started here:
Flathead National Forest. Condon, in particular. Heaven. On. Earth. Fifty miles from Glacier National Park, peaks in the tens of thousands of feet, one of the most wild places I've ever visited, surrounded by some of the best people I've ever had the chance to spend time with. This was our location for training. It was a rather rigorous week, packed tightly with early alarms and lots of coffee, but the learning, the experiences, the laughs and constant excitement of a new place made it all worth while. A week was not nearly enough, Condon. I could've stayed forever.
My assignment for the summer covers a large portion of Montana, focused primarily in the south. Out of 27 breeding bird transects I'll be completing, nearly all of them are scattered amongst the overwhelmingly flat and barren terrain of the state. This hit me hard on the first day, as I sat alone on the back of my car, before a 2,000 acre cattle ranch, contemplating why I had taken a job in such a place. My heart was in Condon, and I was out East. Luckily, I broke free from this mindset. I have since fallen for this place, and undoubtedly begun to embrace it. As everyone has been saying to me, THIS is Montana. Without this job opportunity, I may have never seen it. There are not many people here to begin with; even fewer in the places I go. There is something to be said for that.
I have since named this part of Montana, The Flat.
If I've learned anything thus far, it's to keep an eye out for the surprises in The Flat; the little badlands and canyons tucked in here and there, the oases of ponderosa forests every few hundred miles, the rattlesnakes and coyotes that share the sunrises, and the endless opportunity to discover. And, it's my home.
Soon enough, I will be ending my season back in the mountains of Red Lodge - some of the tallest in Montana. I can't say I wouldn't go today if given the opportunity, but I will say that I'm looking forward to the rest of my time here. I've grown to appreciate The Flat, and look forward to all of the surprises I have yet to come across.
To the adventures ahead.