By Lisa Bickell

The winter has been long in Missoula. And while I have loved the snow, it is a relief to see it retreating into the higher elevations. And with a break in the cold, rainy spring, it was time for an adventure.

My kids have never been to the saddle of Mount Jumbo. I know. Ridiculous. They might know the chain of lakes in the Clear Water Valley better than they know the high meadow in our back yard. So on a sunny Thursday, it was time to go.

We had to leave right after work so we did a bit of planning at breakfast. We pulled out the map and scoped out the trails.

All four of us spent the day thinking about the trip. For my husband, it was about which trail would get us up quickly with the least amount of whining. For me it was what we should pack for a picnic dinner. For the kids? Well, they just anticipated adventure! When 5:00 rolled around we loaded up our backpacks with gear and dinner and headed out. We checked out one of the Montana Natural History Center’s backpacks to add some cool naturalist tools to our trip.

Once we were out of the car and climbing up the trail, it was clear that a quick evening expedition was exactly what we needed. It was fun to escape on a mini trek, squeezing in meadowlark song, green hills, and winding dirt trails in between the office and bedtime stories.

boy and girl walking on a grassy trail

The trail was lined with wildflowers: arrowleaf balsamroot,

arrowleaf balsamroot

prairie smoke,

prairie smoke

larkspur, buttercups, and shooting stars.

girl with purple shooting stars

We found rodent holes that just weeks ago were under dense snow. The kids ran up rolling hills and down into narrow draws. We stuck our noses deep in the bark of ponderosa pine, warm from the sun, and inhaled the sugary vanilla scent.

girl smelling ponderosa pine bark

We started late, which meant that our adventure was cut short by homework, baths, and bedtime. But it was exciting. To spend the day planning for an expedition, and then as a family spend our dinnertime in the shade of a pine.

There is so much to do in a week with school, sports, work, and housework, it is easy to forget how simple–and essential–adventure can be.

family hiking in the outdoors