PHOTO ES­SAY: MON­TANA

Fall in love with the peo­ple and wildlife that in­habit this Amer­i­can won­der­land.

Signature Travel & Lifestyle - - Contents - WORDS Amelia Hunger­ford PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Don­nie Sex­ton

Be­tween two na­tional parks, Mon­tana stretches out in all its open glory. Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes, guardians of the sur­round­ing lands for cen­turies, have made their homes on and around the state’s seven In­dian reser­va­tions. Ev­ery Au­gust the Ap­saalooke Na­tion gath­ers for the Crow Fair, a week-long cel­e­bra­tion of cul­ture, crafts­man­ship and rodeo skills in the so-called Teepee Cap­i­tal of the World. Along the Rocky Moun­tain range to the west, the Black­feet tribe and the Con­fed­er­ated Sal­ish and Koote­nai Tribes (CSKT) keep tra­di­tion alive in their reser­va­tion homes. Vis­i­tors can dis­cover CSKT hos­pi­tal­ity with a visit to the Na­tional Bi­son Range and Pablo Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, where elk, bighorn sheep, an­te­lope and rare bi­son wan­der the high plains.

Span­ning 15 ski ar­eas, 54 state parks, two na­tional parks, six tourism re­gions and seven In­dian na­tions,

Mon­tana is sim­ply vast. Green plains climb into vi­o­let moun­tains and plunge into val­leys carved out by glaciers long melted and even longer for­got­ten. Woolly bi­son, elk, wolves and griz­zly bear share their pre­his­toric lands with the gey­sers, hot springs and mud pots of Yel­low­stone, the world’s first na­tional park – a land­scape raw with the move­ment of the earth – ly­ing on the state’s south­ern edge, shared with Idaho and Wyoming.

At home on the range

Along the north­ern bor­der, those with an ad­ven­tur­ous streak ven­tur­ing be­yond Glacier Na­tional Park’s es­tab­lished paths are re­warded with the blue vis­tas, thun­der­ing wa­ter­falls and mir­rored lakes of re­gions like Two Medicine.

This is cow­boy coun­try. Real cat­tle-driv­ing, round‘em-up cow­boys have been open­ing their dude ranches to cu­ri­ous city-slick­ers here since the early 20th cen­tury, let­ting them clear their lungs and get a taste of Mon­tana’s ‘big sky’ panora­mas and hearty home-style cook­ing. Even to­day, days spent on horse­back lure cos­mopo­lites into the sim­ple plea­sures of wild­flower-strewn grass­lands.

Mon­tana’s fron­tier spirit is alive in its towns, in the wooden barns nes­tled in the foothills of the Mis­sion Moun­tains and in the log cab­ins shrouded in snow. It lies in its furry an­cient wildlife, its peak-capped land­scapes, its wooded trails and the colour­ful cul­tures that fill its vast­ness. From the moun­tains to the plains, and ev­ery quaint vil­lage in be­tween, Mon­tana truly de­serves the ti­tle of Big Sky Coun­try.

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08 Two Medicine Val­ley glows 09 Snowed-in griz­zly 10 Lone Moun­tain Ranch 11 Park your sled in Cooke City 12 Antlers of Yel­low­stone 08

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