FOREST SERVICE CABINS are hot-ticket items come June in Montana – the remote cabins are open for rent, and make for amazing weekend trips to remote and beautiful parts of forest service land. Campers book months in advance to snag a reservation.
So when I was offered a last-minute chance to use a friend’s reservation at Windy Pass, I jumped on it.
I rounded up a crew for the trip and we planned to leave that day after work. Just a few miles from Big Sky, we’d need to take a high-clearance vehicle up a bumpy road to get to the head of the two-mile trail. With the long summer Montana days, we knew we could make it before dark.
Finally hitting the trail at 8:30pm, the sun was still well above the horizon as we trekked up the fierce elevation gain. Across streams and through the forest we climbed until the landscape opened up to a field of wildflowers and we saw the Windy Pass cabin perched near the ridge.
The view clearly called for a few verses from the Sound of Music, and my friend Tallie and I immediately broke into song. This was truly a Maria moment – never had I seen such lush rolling hills surrounded by mountains outside of that classic musical.
The cabin was one small room with bunk beds and two more cots in a small loft above. The moon was full and rising, and even as the sun vanished around 9:30pm, the moon lit up the night with an eerie silvery glow. Somewhere not so far off, we heard coyotes howling.
We had packed in takeout pizza from big Sky’s newest joint, Ousel & Spur, and dug into Fig and Prosciutto slices around the small cabin table before topping it off with homemade gingerbread. Not having to carry sleeping pads, pots, pans, or utensils – the cabin comes equipped with mattresses and cooking staples – we’d also been able to squeeze in a bottle of champagne, just in case the mood struck us.
At 5am, we woke and hiked another 15 minutes to the top of the highest ridge, and watched the sun come up over Paradise Valley below. I couldn’t think of anything better to celebrate in life than a Montana sunrise, so we popped the Champagne and toasted to the Big Sky.
Photos by Anna Middleton-http://annamiddleton.wix.com/photography