Spectacular day. Sunny and clear with true blue skies. I skip my morning workout in the anticipation of some urban hiking.
It’s Patrick who drives us into the airport. He’s Missoula born and bred, and knows so much about the area. It’s striking to realize how thick the smoke had been on our arrival, as in the clear the scenery is just spectacular. Sharp rises of land covered with Ponderosa pine, the rise and roll of ridges into the distance, the bright glint of the river winding. The flat run of abandoned railroad tracks above the river and through a mill town.
A gorgeous fertile valley with its pretty farms, its grazing cattle and horses spreads wide, circled by the mountains. We saw none of this on the trip in. Patrick points out the remains of the first homestead of a family who continues to live on and work the land, now in–I think–its fourth generation.
It’s a really lovely and pleasant drive in, and a quick and easy process for the car rental. We backtrack into town in no time, and take Patrick’s advice and find a parking garage.
Now we shop!
Missoula has a beautiful and vibrant downtown, easy walking, pretty, pretty shops and restaurants, friendly shopkeepers. One of the first we swing into is all local arts and crafts, much like we have with Gifts Inn Boonsboro. I happily buy my first Christmas gifts.
The next has a wonderful bonus. Little Louise, the clerk’s baby girl. Maybe three months old with a big, happy smile. More gifts, but the grand prize of being able to hold Louise. Oh, the incredible perfume of baby head!
So many of the shops stock lovely things created locally, and that just makes it all the more special. Handmade jewelry, handcrafted leather, woolen items, clothes, art–all made in Montana.
As we hike along, I noticed this guy. He’s wearing odd leggings, two pair of tall socks and boots. A kind of long coat, not quite a trench. He’s fascinated with Jason’s camera, apparently, as it’s a real one. Falls into step with Jason–as many have before on our previous travels–and strikes up a conversation as odd as his attire, about cameras and eBay and whatever. Jason said afterward, he couldn’t decide if the guy was homeless or a hipster.
Kat finds a terrific sweater. I find a pretty and unusual little pendant of a face.
We loop around the downtown area, go into yet another shop. Everything’s so pretty and cleverly displayed. I’m hoping my girl pals are as pleased at Christmas as I am now–and I knock every female off my shopping list.
So when I see this amazing leather bag, I know it should be mine for being such a good friend! It’s big, with a long wide strap so I can wear it cross-body. Gorgeously handmade with textured purple leather (with two outside zippered pockets!) on one side, smooth black on the back. A great travel tote, or I need to carry a bunch of stuff today bag. I’m thrilled with it. I’ll think of our day in Missoula whenever I use it.
Every clerk is friendly, personable, helpful, every shop intriguing in its own way, and our men are patient even when we hand them more bags.
BW’s settled on a bench for awhile, and took that time to look up the possibility of pizza for a late lunch. He finds Biga Pizza. Just a couple blocks walk from where we are. It would’ve been worth a mile hike.
Jason and I split a house pie–the crust is sourdough based if I understood correctly, your tomato sauce, perfectly seasoned, mozzarella, and a drizzle of garlic oil. Oh my, my. Kat and BW are adventurous with a Vesuvius, with peppers and other toppings. I get a glass of white wine–light, crisp, lovely, and Kat tries the basil lemonade–which I may try replicating at home.
We can’t eat it all. We try, but we just can’t. We’d arrived about a half hour before their pre-dinner break, but our server doesn’t rush us along. In fact when BW tells her we own a pizzeria back in MD, she goes back for the owner. And he comes out, talks shop. Turns out he has a cousin with a llama farm in MD, calls his dad to find out where. Not far, actually, from Jason and Kat. Small, fun world.
We have them box up the leftovers, and walk off some of lunch before heading back to the car. There’s a cheerfully painted piano, obviously set up for anyone to play. A guy’s playing a tune as we walk by.
Easy drive home under blue skies, and we all agree to skip our camp dinner. No room for more food! BW and I sit out back for awhile, and the insane squirrel is our floor show. He gallops over the porch, circles the hot tub cover, disappears under it, comes out, stands on the edge of the porch and chirps insistently. I can hear another squirrel answer, but he doesn’t quit. Montana squirrels are definitely more vocal than Maryland squirrels.
He races, chirping, up a pine, keeps going, running nimbly out on branches, back again, up, up, all the way, then madly runs down just to do the same thing on another tree, and yet a third. What is his mission? I guess only he knows.
There’s another stunning sunset to experience. It holds and holds, bleeding red into the sky, setting a trio of pines on fire, turning the pastures gold.
We make ourselves a light meal from leftovers and the stores in the kitchen–and the six seed crackers I picked up in town. I start to read, but am out like a light by ten.
A shopping marathon wears you out!
This morning, more gorgeous skies and a lovely sunrise I enjoy while the others sleep. I’m going to try to fit in a little cardio before BW and I head out for a yoga session.
It promises to be another wonderful day.