“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from… ” -Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
We were looking for an adventure, one of the sort-of-impulsive variety. And in a matter of hours it was decided we would journey west, truthfully a dream realized. Luke’s 30th birthday provided a valid excuse. This is the type of thing that happens during deliriously steamy summer days in the city.
We descended on Missoula in the evening hours. There was something startling about the isolation as we soared above the western part of the state-nothing but trees and mountains surrounded us. But that deep blue of the distance as Solnit describes, “…nameless places awaken[ing] a desire to be lost, to be far away…” was exactly what we were craving. And so we gave into it. But first, a stay in the areas largest city.
After picking up our car we set out, inputting the address of our homestay into Google Maps, only to find that neither of us had service. Finally a use for my hoard of paper maps and guides. When was the last time you used a paper map whilst driving? But the trip was uneventful, and after a quick meal at The Good Food Store (everything else seemed to close around 9:00 pm), we found ourselves at a very cute home right outside of the town’s main hub.
But between the cats trying to get in our room, the unkempt conditions, and the bed held up by pieces of wood more suited for protest signs than their current role as bed frame which snapped in the middle of the night, our stay was sleepless. Our hostess had spent the night away, so, in the cold and dark of the early morning hours we gathered our things and left in search of coffee. The streets were bare at 6:30 am on a Saturday, but Zootown Brew glowed. Inside we were poured great coffee by the kindest Alaska transplant. Once enough time went by, we headed out in search of the Saturday farmers markets.
The farmers’ markets in Missoula are everything a farmers’ market should be– a motley crew of homesteaders, farmers, bakers, artists, and otherwise showing up to put their bounty on display. First we went to the official Missoula Farmers’ Market on North Higgins Avenue closest right on the railroad. First thing in the morning (I love a market that opens at 8 am), the mood was so calm; vendors quietly put out their products and got situated for the day. For late October in Montana I was surprised with the variety of food available. We sampled tiny apples, that I can’t name now, and purchased a bag along with other essentials including bread for Luke from a fascinating man who bakes traditional French loaves in an adobe oven following an introduction to the art from his French wife.
We took Higgins across town, taking detours here and there to see a bit more. The fog lifted from mountains around and the Sun warmed us. We reached the end of the road and were met with the massive Clark Park Market. Approaching midday, this market was a happy chaos. There were dozens and dozens of vendors and their adoring fans–the flower vendor with the last blooms of fall and the mobile butcher with the longest line, complete with a self-serve lamb bone broth station. Among my favorite vendors was Old World bakery. She made the most beautiful treats and brilliantly had a labeling system for which were free of common allergens. I wish I bought more, but the apple cake is still fresh in my memory.
Before long it was time to gather the last of our provisions for the drive north to the Flathead Valley: sandwich supplies, fruit, nuts, etc. I wish we’d had a bit more time in Missoula, but in hindsight, so much more awaited, the wild awaited… lingering just wasn’t possible.