Fall in Montana

Here on L+L I tend to wax about the seasons, from spring resolutions and emerging flower blooms to summer days spent on the Many Glacier Hotel deck with a huckleberry margarita. Life under the Big Sky is not about shopping malls, the latest television programming, or the hottest night club (I don’t believe there are actual clubs in Montana. Also, I should mention that I’ve never been to a club so I’m no expert). Here in Montana, it is the seasons that matter, the changes in the environment that garner the most excitement and anticipation.

From my perch, west of Whitefish, the hillsides are transformed into highlights of yellow. The needles of the larch tree are blazing from green to gold and the leaves of the aspen are now in their full fall buttery glory. We have a few mountain maple trees in our yard and those leaves are on fire with jewel tones of red and orange. Sure, we don’t have the variety of fall colors compared to the deciduous forests of the Midwest and Northeast, but don’t doubt that fall in Montana doesn’t dazzle.

There is something so utterly romantic and ethereal about following the seasons, the changes they bring about and how it guides your own body through each day. Being aware of the subtle changes of the sunshine, the movement of the clouds, is an experience I wholly cherish. And then, there are the mountains. Stationary as they may be, there are constantly changing wardrobes. From a coating in sugary white to the explosive greenery in springtime, the mountains always boast the best change, the best outfit for the season. I try and follow their lead when the seasons roll from one to the next, but once fall appears, I feel less like a mountain and more like the  leaf from the maple tree, cast aside after a summer of brillance.


I don’t mind the weather because the cooler temperatures and precipipation is delivering snow to the high country. Ski season will be here soon. What I struggle with is the darkness. After summer, where the daylight is manic in length, it is a crushing blow to have darkness settle into the valley by 6:30pm. The morning light doesn’t make its appearance until after 8 am. With the darkness, the density of low clouds clinging to the mountains, it takes all of my shaky will to accomplish anything productive from doing laundry, writing a pitch for a magazine, or even getting dressed like a normal, adult human being. Like the bears, I just want to hibernate.

I have to be careful that I don’t fall too far in fall. In the summer, with its extreme hours of daylight, I operate in a state of near-mania. Waking at 5:30, the sun is already shining over the mountains and it doesn’t set until 11pm in July. I challenge anyone in Montana to go to sleep before 10pm in the summer. It is impossible and there is just so much goodness in the mountains that it is hard to think of any indoor activity from June through September. But when the calendar celebrates the autumnal equinox, all those hours of daylight disappear rather quickly. Forget waking at 5:30 with the sunrise. The sun doesn’t even bother to peek her head over the mountains until mid morning. And in the evening time, bed by 8:30 is not out of the question as the sky mutes into darkness around 5pm. I love fall for the colors, the harvest of squash and apple cider, Thanksgiving celebrations and all things pumpkin, but I constantly fight the fall blues.

I know that ski season is 6 weeks away but it is a long, dark wait.

This season, I am acutely aware of the changes on the hillsides and the changes within. Reading is good — no doubt — but I’m making feeble attempts  that I don’t do it all day in bed. Is it bad that I count a measure of success when I leave my bed and venture into the living room and read a few chapters on the couch? With the extension of nighttime, reading becomes my obsession.

And the upcoming ski season? Well, I’m not getting any younger and the competition is certainly not getting any slower. Lessons learned from last year are guiding me and I know how to train my body and mind for a more successful season of racing. While I loathe the gym and avoid it entirely in the summer in exchange for the trail, this is the month where I must put in time in the weight room. Also, this house is equipped with a long driveway, some steep hills, and  rock staircase, so I’ve also got my own in-home outdoor gym. I alternate gym days with outdoor training days and it is the cat’s meow.

Like any season of flux mixed with the anticipation for a better time, I am taking my fall melancholy with the good. I’m learning to accept my body’s strong urge to hibernate. I celebrate the magical days of sunshine and golden leaves with a hearty dose of apple cider (and hearty does means a 1/2 gallon a day in my book. A bit more if it is mixed with champagne). I relish in the pages of new books, increasing my spending allowance on hardcovers. And, the cool temperatures mean warmer clothes, which only means…NEW LONG UNDERWEAR. So, I’ve made a  bit of deal with myself (I’m at a constant bidding war with myself) that if I make a strong, disciplined effort at training and not succumbing to EIV, then new long underwear from Patagonia will be my handsome reward.

Sometimes, these small deals are exactly what it takes.

Cheers to the newest season, fall. Maybe it be warm, hearty, and full of golden light (in between the days of gray and cold rain).


7 thoughts on “Fall in Montana

  1. Heidi Marcum

    And we are summer-mania soul sisters! I say why fight hibernation? (Maybe just postpone it til daylight savings ends – when it is truly dark and deeply chilled.) Like a bear entering her den, or a caterpillar a chrysallis, new life eventually emerges, even sweeter than before. We need this time to regroup. If this is what the rhythm of the season is invoking in you, then follow it! Especially when you have the luxury, for you may not always.

  2. Nancy

    You expressed so eloquently all I’ve been thinking recently. Relieved to hear even young folk take to their bed at 8:30..sometimes it just feels right.

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