Opener: Small-Town Montana Summer

Opener: Small-Town Montana Summer

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Mike England

"I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life." —Teddy Roosevelt

Few people enjoy summer more than Montanans. After a long, hard winter, when cabin fever rages and our bodies are soft and sallow, we embrace summer with the fervor of fanatics. Giddy and blithe under the new summer sun, we don shorts and flip-flops and we head outside – to the park, to the golf course, to the river, to the mountains: anywhere and everywhere we can most intensely engage the summer season. We're like schoolkids released after five months in the classroom, restless and brimming with anticipation for the freedom and adventure that lies ahead. Montana winters are bitter and constrictive, and that makes summer taste all the sweeter.

The same goes for relaxation. As outdoor enthusiasts, we lead the strenuous life – not in terms of ardor and discomfort, but in the sense of energy, vitality, and activity. We play as much as we can, and we play hard. Because of this intense activity, when it's time to relax, we relax completely, and we enjoy it immensely. The small-town Montana summer lends itself to this release: for the mind, there's the laid-back, worry-free Western lifestyle; for the spirit, there are mountains and forests to inspire and reassure; and for the body, there's sunshine, cool breezes, and clean Montana air.

And there's water. Lots of it. Rivers surround us, alpine lakes abound, and the reservoirs are just a short drive away. Frigid as the snow that feeds them, they're accessible for only a few short months every year, a brief window of receptiveness before fall arrives and turns them ice cold yet again. But for that short interlude, they are cool, refreshing rewards for strenuous summer activity. They are refuges for relaxation.

So cool off this summer. Get outside and play, play hard, give the TV and VCR a rest and try something new. Ride a sailboard across Daily Lake, paddle a canoe in Hyalite Reservoir, wade into a spring creek, or just grab a swimsuit and towel and head to the river. Just remember that summer will be gone before you know it, so grab a few friends and jump in.

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