All the way back in January, Marie and I reached an agreement to buy a cabin in Silver Gate, Montana, just outside the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. We were thrilled. But the deal included an unusual concession: we had to wait until mid-August to take possession of our new home. The sellers were using the cabin as a vacation rental and they wanted to honor their next six months of reservations.
Trust me, I’m not complaining. Living next to Yellowstone is a dream come true, and having to wait a while to move in was a relatively small sacrifice. But WOW did those months go by slowly. I felt like a little kid counting down the days until Christmas morning, only stretched out over an excruciatingly long timeframe.
Marie and I continued to enjoy our apartment in Longmont, Colorado, but my heart had already moved on to Montana. The amazing couple who sold us the house (and still live in their original cabin next door) would occasionally send us photos and videos of wildlife in the area, and each image of a moose or bison or pine marten walking through our yard would ratchet up my already-stratospheric level of anticipation.
We knew we’d miss a lot of things about Colorado – like being close to family – and we did our best to take advantage of our remaining time. In July we visited Rocky Mountain National Park early enough to see the sun rise at Dream Lake. I’d recently found a photo of my mom at Dream Lake in 1962, and in a world that seems to be changing very quickly it felt reassuring that the landscape around the lake looked almost exactly the same.
Also in July my niece Elizabeth and her husband Erik had a reception to celebrate their marriage. Thanks to COVID, only close family had been invited to their wedding ceremony back in October, and it meant a lot to them to be able to bring together a larger group.
Finally our interminable wait came to an end. It was time to pack up and move. Despite all our efforts to streamline our possessions over the years, Marie and I managed to completely fill a 16’ moving truck. Our new cabin came furnished, which threatened to more than double the number of things we own. Thankfully my sister Ann and her husband Dan happened to be in the process of building their own mountain cabin (in Colorado), and they were able to use most of the furniture and household stuff we didn’t need.
Ann and Dan were nice enough to drive with us from Colorado to Montana, where they helped unload and then reload the moving truck with everything they’d be taking back with them. Thanks mostly to them, the move went about as smoothly as we could have hoped. And having Ann and Dan join us for our first few days in our new cabin made the whole experience even better.
At first it didn’t seem real, after so much waiting, to actually be standing in our Montana home. Marie and I were both worn out from the move, and it took a while to shift out of task mode and start to appreciate our new surroundings.
Jill and Greg, the couple who sold us the house and are now our neighbors, went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. They let us move in a day early, left the place in immaculate shape, patiently answered all our questions, and went out of their way to introduce us to others in the (very small!) community. They seemed to think of everything. Walking in the door for the first time we found a welcome note, a stuffed animal pine marten (our unofficial home-buying mascot), and a package of helpful information – detailed maintenance instructions, key contacts, receipts for recent work, etc. We really couldn’t ask for better neighbors.
Living so close to Yellowstone is incredibly fun. Every single morning since we arrived I’ve driven into the park before dawn, usually with Thunder – our Border Collie – in the back seat, happily sticking his head out of the window. Late summer is typically a slow time for spotting wildlife in the park, and this year has been no exception. So far my photos have been less-than-impressive, but the early morning drives through the park have still been a highlight of each day.
At the end of August my mom came for a really nice visit. Apparently she’s a good luck charm for wildlife, because on her first morning we found two grizzlies squaring off over a bison carcass (with breaks for a backscratches on a tree), and on her second morning a lone wolf crossed the road in front of us. When we weren’t out looking for animals we managed to fit in hikes to Warm Creek, Trout Lake, and Bridal Falls. At age 82 my mom had no problem hopping over boulders and wading through creeks.
Temperatures have already started dropping, and before too long Silver Gate’s seasonal residents will begin snow-birding back to their homes in warmer climates. Only about 10 people – now including me and Marie – live here year-round. I’m not excited to have to shovel our driveway or walk our dogs in the frozen pre-dawn dark, but I can’t wait for the wildlife activity to start picking up again.
The rush of actually being here in this amazing place hasn’t even begun wearing off yet.