Rachel and I made a decision recently. Maybe the trickiest decision we’ve ever had to make. We’re going to leave Montana and move back to Michigan.
We’ve been living in West Yellowstone for the past six and a half years, and we’ve loved almost every moment of it. The mountains, the elbow room and the grandness of the scenery has worked its way into our souls. We have grown used to wilderness in our back yard — buffalo, elk, foxes, deer, coyotes, eagles, cranes and more often grace our views. We love the people in Montana, I always felt like the upper midwest was very friendly and welcoming — until I spent a lot of time in MT. It’s a state full of people who want to live here. You have to want to, because there’s not a lot that’s easy about it — the winters are long, the cities are few and far between and it’s just not a terribly hospitable place.
But that doesn’t even enter into why we’re leaving. We’ve got two little ones, and with all of the family back in MI, we’re lucky if we get to see them more than once a year. We don’t want Henry and Hazel to grow up not knowing their wonderful grandparents. We also lost Rachel’s dad, rather suddenly, this spring — if there’s anything that will get you to appreciate your family and want to be closer to them, it’s the unexpected loss of a loved one.
It’s also not just the family that is bringing us back. The solitude I’ve cherished for years has started to feel more like isolation. The things that I loved to do when I moved here — fish, hike and spend all day outside — are just harder to do, and seem less important now that we’ve got kids. Both kids love to be outside, but the winters here challenge that. We’ve got an hour, maybe two, each winter day that we can take the kids out before they turn into popsicles… then we still have another 15 hours to fill. With very little in the way of indoor activities, it’s hard for me to imagine keeping the kids entertained without an excessive amount of TV for many more winters.
We’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about the schools here. While the class sizes are tiny, some things just don’t add up. From what I’ve heard, West Yellowstone graduated 7 kids last year, three of which were pregnant or already had children. I don’t like those odds.
We wanted to live here, maybe we still do, but after a few years of looking for a house, we just can’t justify buying a house in Montana. All we could afford here would be a tiny modular house packed into a neighborhood with a bunch of other houses and no yards. For the same price in Northern Michigan we can buy a 2k sqft home on five acres. It just doesn’t add up.
We’re going to miss the hell out Montana. We’ll miss the Madison, the buffalo, the people, the Big Sky. We’ll miss the mountains and the crisp, blue, frigid and sunny winter days. We’ll miss the idea of raising our kids in the mountains, the Rockies — Montana, damn it.
But we’ll also love having a reasonably-priced grocery store closer than two hours away. We’ll love kids museums, being able to grow a garden, having family and lifelong friends nearby. Things like take-out food or, god-forbid, delivery have been so absent from our lives out here that they’ve become worthy of moon-eyed, late-night conversations. We’re not moving into a city (we’re hoping to land outside of Traverse City), so we’ll still have the elbow room we’ve grown to love, but we’ll also be much closer to the other things that we love.
So we’ll miss the Subalpine Firs and Ravens, the mountain streams and the solitude, but we’re moving to a land of great lakes, broad-leafed trees and opportunities for the kids.
See you all in the mitten.