“But until then, and right now, the sun is bright, the air is cool,
my head is clear, there’s a whole day ahead of us, we’re almost to the mountains,
it’s a good day to be alive. It’s this thinner air that does it.
You always feel like this when you start getting into higher altitudes.”
~ Robert Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,
We often lose sight of the fact that the entire state of Montana is in what many call “high country.” In fact, the lowest spot in Montana is way off to the northwest, at the border near Idaho where the Kootenai Falls drops to the river of the same name at 1,820 feet above sea level. Our lowest elevation is higher than the lowest elevation of 45 other states.
What does it mean to live in “high country?” As I write this a winter storm approaches off to the west, one of several to follow, no doubt. This reminds me of our relative isolation in the minds of most Americans, which must certainly be high on the list of reasons that our population still hovers at about one million, though we are the fourth largest state in land area.
But, as a Gallup Poll assessed a few years back, Montana and Alaska were the states where people were the most happy…and content. Mountains, cooler temps and low populations were all cited as significant factors.
Can life be better in the high country? Ask the residents and our 12 million annual visitors, and the answer becomes as clear as winter ice on the Yellowstone. There are many fine states, as Steinbeck noted, but there is no place in the lower 48 that matches Montana for landscapes, wildlife, outdoor recreation, and indoor peace.
Take it from us. Life in the “high country” is as good as Pirsig noted, and every day in Montana is a good day to be alive.