First I'd like to thank everyone for taking the time to read the first installment of my blog series, “The Continuing Adventures of Dean Cassidy in Sweet Grass County.” And secondly, I'd like to thank the good people at the Sweet Grass County Chamber of Commerce for giving me the platform to write about the hidden gems and dramatic beauty of life in SGC. I'm fairly new here, and I still have lots to see and learn about this special place. As I meet new people and discover new places, I plan to share my best discoveries with you, the reader. Now, a lot of people are nervous about me giving up the best spots and hidden locations that only the locals know about. After all, who wants a crowd? So when it's time for me to hit the back roads and mountain trails of SGC, I'm going to tell you all about it, just not where it is! After all, finding these spots is really all part of the fun.
People are always asking me, “Dean, after a lifetime of rolling across North America, why'd you finally settle down? And why Big Timber?” Finding Big Timber, Montana was completely by accident. It was a hot July day, and the AC in my truck had been dead for a few years. I was desperate to get out of the heat. Looking at my map, I thought I might find some places around Big Timber where I could get into the mountains and gain some elevation and find shade. So I pulled off of I-90 in the late afternoon and decided to grab a room at the Super-8 for the night, just so I could get myself ready for my trip into the Crazy Mountains, just outside of town.
The room was great with its extra fluffy bedspread, spacious area, and delicious in-room coffee. But the view from my room was the real treat. It looked right out at the Crazy Mountains and their 12000'+ snow-capped peaks, only 20 miles away, rising dramatically from the rolling hills of the countryside. I had never seen an entire mountain range just erupt out of the plains before. They reminded me of the high volcanic islands I had seen in French Polynesia when I was younger: Mountains that just rose up out of nothing. But as I sat in my room by the window enjoying my evening coffee, I started to see something amazing. As the sun started to set, vibrant streaks of yellow and gold started to shoot out from the horizon, lighting up big puffy clouds against the deep blue of the evening sky. And with every passing minute, I realized that the Crazy Mountains were going to be caught right in the middle of this setting-sun light show and that I would have the perfect view of it from my room at the Super 8. But as the brilliance continued to unfold, and the golds started to blend with bursts of orange and red, I knew that as great as my window view was, I needed to get outside to see the whole thing.
Stepping out into the parking lot, I saw the sky was on fire with the setting sun, and the mountains were bathed in its light. And I certainly wasn't the only one that noticed. Families stopped for the night were out taking pictures of the show. Truckers were rolling into the oversized parking lot, done with their day and glad to be able to unwind with the sunset. Men and women on Harleys pulled in, and after getting their rooms squared away, returned to the front steps for quiet reflection and pleasant conversation. And as a freight train rumbled by in the distance, cutting across our view of the Crazies and completing the scene, I knew I had found someplace truly special. Whoever thought that the parking lot of a motel could be so magical?
And so I was curious: What was this little town out in the middle of Montana all about? What other wonderful moments and places and people did it have to offer? So I decided my trip into the Crazies would have to wait at least another day, so that I could take the time to properly see and experience Big Timber, Montana.