This is especially true in the west. The photo above was taken just a minute or two outside Red Lodge, Montana, where we came upon this vista of bracingly cold rushing water, dark, cool shade under the green trees, and deep quiet on a hot summer day.
This photo was taken as we walked down the street in Red Lodge, Montana during our trip west some years ago, but it could have been taken just about anywhere in America’s heartland on a day in the high summer. It has the common elements of a brilliant blue sky, green grass, a barn, and a grain elevator reflecting the sky like a finely polished mirror.
Americans like to take road trips during the summer, and part of the attraction is the chance to stumble upon beautiful everyday scenes like this, which can be found just about anywhere in this land of ours.
We left Cody, Wyoming in the morning for a short and leisurely drive to Red Lodge, Montana — one of our shortest drives of the entire trip. It was a beautiful summer day, with a bright blue sky and high white clouds. As we drove we encountered, yet again, the spectacular western vistas that had become an expected part of our drives.
Red Lodge is a former mining town that I had never heard of before I started doing the planning for the trip. I was interested in going there because Red Lodge is home to the Pollard Hotel, an historic hotel built in 1893 that was recently refurbished. When we got to Red Lodge, it was as if the whole town had been encased in amber in, say, 1920. The Pollard exuded history and turn-of-the-century class.
After we checked in we drove out of town to find a place to explore the countryside, which has a dramatically different look and feel than the dusty landscapes of Wyoming and South Dakota. Red Lodge is nestled in the piney high country, and we found a perfect spot with a rushing stream, a walking path that wound through cool pine forested countryside, and interesting rock formations. It felt good to get out of the car and do some hiking, and even though it was a beautiful spot with national park-quality scenery there was no one else there. The moment made me feel, for a short time anyway, like a settler moving through virgin countryside in the 1880s.
After our hike we returned to Red Lodge, had a fine dinner at the Pollard Hotel, and explored the town. Kish and the boys found a fine candy store and loaded up on all kinds of unusual “penny candy,” which helped fortify them for the next day’s drive. And it was a long drive — our longest of the trip, I think — that took us from Red Lodge, through Montana and the whole of North Dakota, ending in Fargo. Kish and the boys, gorged on penny candy, dozed as we drove through the beautiful, open North Dakota countryside. When we got to Fargo we didn’t seen any pregnant police officers or legs sticking out of wood chippers, but we did find a bar that served very welcome cold beer.