Libby: We’re Home

It is a weird morning here in Libby. Smoke from the wildfires in Washington and Oregon has blanketed the area and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has classified the air as hazardous. Looking out the bedroom window is eerie. Normally we have a view of the mountains (over the Sears), but the smoke/fog is so thick that you can’t see beyond downtown. So, we’ll be staying home today (except maybe a grocery trip). 

We have been in Libby, MT, for a full week now and it already feels like home in the same way so many of our favorite places – Budapest, CDMX, Osaka – have felt like home to us right away. We made the right choice picking this itty-bitty town in the northwest corner of Montana to be our first one-month stay of this leg. 

Libby is in the Cabinet Mountains on the Kootenai River, two hours west of Glacier National Park, maybe 90 minutes away from the Canadian border (which we’re still not allowed to cross). Although it is even smaller than the little town I grew up in (Libby population: 2,700), Libby definitely punches above its weight as a tourist hub for skiers, anglers, hunters, and hikers (the latter describing our interest).

We chose Libby based on the affordability of the Airbnb apartment we found here and its access to miles and miles of gorgeous mountain hiking trails. And because increased rural seems to equal increased safety during the pandemic. When we arrived last week, there were only 3 active COVID cases in our county here (Lincoln County). Though that number has quadrupled in the past week, it is still far lower than our College Town USA county back home.

Our apartment is in downtown Libby, above a really cool single-screen movie theater. Yes, we do get a little noise from the movie that plays five times a week (Christopher Nolan’s Tenet for the next couple of weeks) but we have a free admission pass (we thought the movie was so-so, but it was so nice to be in a movie theater again for the first time since February). It is actually quieter than when we lived above the nightclub in Medellin and we’ve always managed to fall asleep before the movie ends at 9:40. The apartment is very comfortable and well-equipped. It even has an air fryer!

We’ve already enjoyed a picnic and several nice walks and hikes in and around Libby – at the city park, at the school, next to the river, at the Kootenai Falls, along Flower Creek, and yesterday morning to Leigh Lake.

The Leigh Lake hike was a real highlight – though only three miles out and back, it took us nearly three hours! I don’t think we’ve ever spent three hours on a three-mile hike before, but there was A LOT of climbing involved. We came home to enjoy a traditional “soccer breakfast” while watching Liverpool’s first match of the new EPL season, a nice continuation of our usual traditions.

Friday night, we enjoyed our first dinner out since our anniversary six weeks ago. We went to a self-described gastropub with patio seating on the highway, and it was fabulous. The first two special cocktails on their seasonal list seemed made for us (and then they were made for us, because of course we ordered them), our food was great, and we even ordered dessert, carrot cake, which is one of my favorites (though it wasn’t as good as the carrot cake my mother-in-law made for us when we returned to Missouri this summer OR as good as the Back to the Future-themed carrot cake my best friend made for my 28th birthday; but it was still good). 

Chainsaw Carving Competition downtown, with carvers from around the world

We’d planned to go to the local (women-owned!) brewery for our first night out here, since it is just three blocks down from our apartment and also has a patio, but there is a CHAINSAW CARVING CHAMPIONSHIP going on right in front of it, so it was a little loud and busy. But next week, for sure, we are brewery-bound.

Libby is really working out great for us, just as we predicted. We both are feeling relaxed and comfortable and enjoying our time exploring this beautiful place, and working plenty too, of course! It feels like we are back to our nomadic life here.

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