Big Sky Country – Part 2

Last month, I wasn’t in Montana on vacation – I was there to learn about the impacts of climate change for work during the Society for Environmental Journalism conference. I know I rarely overlap my day job as a public radio producer for Marketplace’s sustainability desk on this blog but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show you the amazing beauty in America.

On my first full day in Montana, I was lucky enough to be part of a group of journalists who went to see Glacier National Park. The bus left at 6:00am and we drove three hours north to see this pristine land. Some background…

You can understand why, SEJ had their conference in Montana. It’s hard to deny the climate is changing when scientists and park rangers who work in the parks see it for themselves.

We arrived early in the morning to Lake McDonald which is the largest lake in the park. I admit it felt magical being there so early – the fog hadn’t yet burned off and when I looked out on the lake, all I could see was white.

We were lucky to have park guides and experts give us talks at our stop. We learned about the history of the park and how fires, melting of glaciers, and the changing climate has taken its toll on it.

But the one scene that truly took my breathe away that morning was when the mist started to burn off and we looked out on the lake to the Continental Divide – suddenly we saw a peak. It was breathtaking.

From here, we drove towards a river where we had lunch and took in the fresh air – a rare treat for an Angeleno like myself. The talks we had were very informative but I admit the hike we went on really put everything in perspective for me.

Here are some photos from the short hike we took on the Avalanche Lake Trail. Alas, we were behind schedule so we didn’t make it to the lake but I promise that the following photographs are still impressive.

I couldn’t believe how lush the trail was. The water was so clean and there was a lot of vegetation – I felt like my life was in technicolor because the color of the moss was so vibrant and the water was so clear. I could see the colors of the rocks and pebbles beneath the water.

On our way back, the fog had finally burned off so we went back to Lake McDonald to get a clear view of the Continental Divide.

Does he photo look fake? I swear to you that it isn’t. It’s a scene I had seen many times in nature magazines and websites but to see it in person – it felt unreal.

Being from Los Angeles, I joked that I felt like I was staring at a Hollywood backdrop. Why? Because it looked perfect. I had to take a wide shot to show people back home that what I saw was real.

I admit while snapping photos, I wondered how this scene would have looked 25 years ago – more snow on the peaks? More water in the lake? It all felt so fleeting standing there looking out on the lake. Not all of us will see the direct effects of climate change like this. Some of us will see the summers getting hotter or winters getting longer. Others may see the change through food production or rising costs of energy. My question is, what happens next?

Big Sky Country – Part 1

You learn the best stuff from strangers. I’m serous. On my flight to Missoula, Montana, I started a conversation with the woman next to me. Turns out she was traveling to see her son in Montana and was going to stay a week. As we got to talking, she started giving me tips on what to see and eat. Ah yes… the eating part really perked my ears.

I asked her if I could eat just one thing in Missoula, what would it be? Without hesitation, she said, “Huckleberry ice cream from The Big Dipper.” Then suddenly a woman and man from across the aisle nodded their heads in agreement and chimed in about how good the ice cream was. I was sold.

To be honest, I never had huckleberry before. Apparently, they are not as common as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Huckleberries grow in a few places in North and South America. And over 10 years ago, they were in short supply. They say the berry is almost like a blueberry but it’s a bit more tart. And so, I went on my way in search of huckleberry ice cream in my free time.

On a Friday evening, I took a walk with colleagues who tried to help me find this place. And on a quiet street corner, this little ice cream stand was illuminated by the neon signs – it was The Big Dipper.

On of my favorite signs was on the window that said, “Great Cones Oh Boy!” There was something really nostalgic and innocent about that sign that made me realize why ice cream is like a comfort food for me. Here’s a closer shot of it.

But you’re wondering about the actual ice cream… huckleberry ice cream. I ordered a scoop of it in a cup and had it right before I went to dinner. I know that’s not a good thing but when you’re in Missoula, Montana and you stumble upon the food gem all the locals talk about, you throw caution to the wind and order up. Here’s what I got:

The ice cream is super creamy but not overly sweet. At first you get that sweet blueberry flavor but immediately after that sets in, there’s a tart flavor that washes over it. It’s actually nice that the flavor of the cream then takes over at the end just leaving your mouth salivating for more.

So for those taking a trip, be sure to talk to those around you because they may very well have a tip that will take you to unexpected places and flavors.

Thoughts from the Big Sky Country

Writing you straight from Missoula, Montana. I arrived here on Wednesday night for the Society for Environmental Journalism conference and my schedule has been chock full of events. The state of Montana has been called “Big Sky Country” and I can see why. The crisp fall air and clear blue skies are not to be taken for granted.

On Thursday morning, I woke up at 4:45am to go on a day-trip to Glacier National Park with a group from SEJ. It took a little over 3 hours to get there and back. Yes, it was a short trip to see one of America’s treasures but it was better than nothing. I mean, check out how I started my morning…

More photos to come but I wanted to give you a preview.