Barbara Parent: Zig-Zagging Through Montana on 50 Horses

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Ron and I tuned into,“Yellowstone,” after three seasons were completed and the fourth recently streamed. A cool 14-million viewers across the country, the most popular cable series or so it’s written.

Friends and family were already hooked but it wasn’t until October when we got back from Maine and upgraded our cable that we pulled into the Dutton’s Montana Ranch.

The Thanksgiving weekend marathon brought us just so far with the back story and another 3-day binge got us up to and over the completion of the 4th season.

It was as if the hours and days that brought us into the thousands of Dutton Ranch acres could feel as real as crossing Montana on the back of a Harley 27 years ago.

Zig-zagging was more like it, although time passes and the roads traveled are fuzzy and it isn’t until checking the Montana trip’s two thick photo albums we see just how thorough the ride was. Glacier National Park was our destination.

Located in northwest Montana, it was two weeks after crossing the border from South Dakota that we reached the park.

This was long before Kevin Costner’s “Yellowstone” and while I knew the show wasn’t going to whisk me back to Montana perhaps I would recognize something from the 1994 trip.

The cities we traveled ring familiar in Taylor Sheridan’s dialogue: -Dillion, Billings, Helena, Bozeman and yet how naive of me to seek a familiar sight. The first three seasons were filmed in Utah.

I did read that the cast and crew packed up and headed for Montana for further episodes yet I doubt there will be any recognizable landscape in future viewings.  Really, how could there be when you’ve been close and up front to the real thing.

While Glacier was our destination, riding back into history was an unexpected adventure when we picked up a portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

It was a hot August day when we stopped at Pompeys Pillar, located 28 miles east of Billings. Ron and I climbed the 200 feet of wooden stairs adjacent to the rock, now under glass, and saw the etched: WM Clark, July 25, 1806. From this height we could see the flowing Yellowstone River just as Captain Clark must have viewed it centuries ago.

Clark stopped there after the expedition split into two parties. He and Lewis were to meet at the mouth of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers at what is now the Montana-North Dakota border for the return trip to St. Louis.

We hooked up with Meriweather Lewis at Great Falls and another 100 miles northwest at Cut Bank, a small strip wheat farming community. We were less than an hour’s ride from Glacier and 30 miles east of Browning, home to the Blackfeet Indian Nation, when we spotted the “Camp Disappointment” sign visible from Route 2.

It was at this site between Cut Bank and Browning that Lewis and three others made camp during their 12-day exploration of the Marias River.

Oh, Montana you have been on my mind.

Your Big Sky threatens a thunderstorm as we race to outrun you, passing mile after mile of, “No Vacancy”  and then,  Hungry Horse’s welcome just as you open up.

Glacier’s Road to the Sun, meadows of Indian Paintbrush, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, snow shoe hares, the first bite of a huckleberry filled chocolate bar.

That final stop as we head north to Canada The T-shirt I buy - “Babb, the last best place.” Brings me back every year since.


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