Trails have more room for bikers in Waterton Lakes National Park after Labor Day, when summer crowds have left but the scenery remains vibrant.
written and photographed by rob chaney
The screaming outside our hotel window lasted well after dark, but that’s what we came for.
Montana’s backcountry gets rowdy in September, just when all its spectators give up and go back to school.
When else can you walk into the Mammoth Inn in Yellowstone National Park and get a room that wasn’t booked months in advance, and have bull elk bugling their virility right outside the lobby?
Labor Day signals many changes on Montana’s landscape. The forest fires of August usually hit their season-ending event (the first real rain since late June). The all-day daylight of the summer solstice shifts to the more balanced light and dark of the fall equinox. And the highway system sheds its overburden of recreational vehicles with out-of-state license plates.
Before my children reached high-school age, I often pulled them out of class for September adventures I figured were at least as educational as whatever was on the blackboard. Teenaged attendance policies make that much more problematic.
But I digress … consider the opinion of Steven Gnam, a professional photographer from Whitefish who finds September a sublime time of the year.
“I make it a point of getting out then,” said Gnam, whose work has been published in Outside and Backpacker magazines, among others. “After the first frosty night, which seems to come in late August or early September, a lot of the mosquitoes and biting flies are absent in the high country.”