This article is courtesy of www.makeitmissoula.com

By MARGARET DEWILLIAM HORTON

Although I don’t live in Missoula, throughout the past many years our family has spent a lot of time here. We initially arrived as visitors and vacationers. What began as a convenient stop to meet up with relatives and friends became years of purposeful journeys to a place we fell in love with. A place that made us feel at home even though we couldn’t call it that. It didn’t take long to realize that this town has distinct qualities and a culture we have yet to find elsewhere.

We became dedicated fans and repeat customers of restaurants, art galleries, Farmer’s Markets, clothing stores, kitchen stores, book stores and breweries. We’ve attended concerts, festivals, Osprey games and Griz games. We have hiked, fished, rested, tasted and enjoyed. While walking neighborhood sidewalks, campus pathways and exploring nearby trails, I have indulged my love of photography in an attempt to capture what brings us back.

For the past few years we’ve arrived in town as parents of two University of Montana students. When the time came for our boys to consider college options, our best parental advice was to ask where they wanted to live for (at least) the next four years. Academics were important but the environment and community itself seemed equally so.

We encouraged them to think about the feel of each campus — its town, city, and surrounding area.  Would activities they already enjoy be accessible? Would they get around by bike, car, bus or on foot? What kinds of things could they learn outside the classroom? Were certain opportunities available in one place but not another? Would they leave in a few years with a better understanding of how they wanted to spend the rest of their life?

Growing up, all of my boys had some of their most memorable experiences in Missoula or nearby. Our family made many a road trip from our home near the Puget Sound intending to explore a park or hang out with the Montana cousins, and learned a little geography, history, geology, biology and more along the way. Sometimes the scenario was that Marc drove while I paged through books about flora and fauna or Roadside Geology, pointing out items of interest here and there. I’m just about 90% sure that the three in the back seat did not appreciate this at the time, but it may possibly have made a difference because……here they are.

In 2003 our family spent an unplanned week in a Missoula hotel. Although we had intended to spend time in Glacier, due to wildfires in the park that year, we weren’t able to venture north. The boys still talk about that vacation…..a spur of the moment kind of week spent finding more than enough to entertain and refresh, all within easy reach.

My youngest reminded me that other than where he grew up, Missoula is the one place our family has spent the most time. It came as no big surprise then, that when thinking about college, two of them chose to live in Missoula and attend the University of Montana.  We couldn’t be happier for them.

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