Big Sky Family Retreat

It all began with an invitation from Aunt Janet. She and husband Frank asked if the family would like to use their Montana condo for a week. There was no hesitation! Mom planned to take my youngest brother and sister and invited me to tag along. At that point, I was a stay-at-home mom to Daughter A (only 2 years old) and (secretly) pregnant with Daughter B. The five (six) of us packed up the van and were off on our new [mis]adventure!

About two hours later we realized we had missed the turnoff to Pocatello and were headed to Boise. We saw a highway headed east, so that seemed our best hope, and off we went! This was back in the “dark ages” pre-cell phones or GPS. We were really “winging it” without even a paper map. All part of the adventure! Luckily, that highway took us to Idaho Falls, and then we made our way to West Yellowstone which begged a visit into the iconic National Park. Here are my vintage photos, circa July 1993.

More adventure ensued – including our infamous family story when Mom decided to throw caution to the wind and drive on the wrong side of a winding two-lane mountain road to bypass an endless “wildlife sighting traffic jam” (it turned out to be a mama bear with 2 cubs). Miraculously, not one car – nor wild animal – came toward us for those 15 harrowing minutes! We survived to tell the tale (but I obviously still harbor some PTSD over it). πŸ™‚

After departing West Yellowstone we headed north on US-191 along the beautiful but treacherous Gallatin river canyon as dusk turned into darkest dark. Once again, we felt a rush of anxiety as we viewed small white crosses along the road, indicating where unlucky travelers met their fate. Happily, we made it to our lodging unscathed.

I’ll never forget waking the next morning to those stunning panoramic views! It was love at first sight – forever and always.


Aunt Janet invited us every summer for several more years. We made treasured memories of swimming, hiking and relaxing in that quiet mountain oasis. It was a sad day when Janet’s condo was sold. We were thrilled when Mom and Dad decided to invest in a timeshare so our Big Sky family tradition could continue uninterrupted!

When I joined the Choir in 2008, my summer schedule and commitments of rehearsals, concerts, weekly broadcasts, and tours usually prevented me from visiting Big Sky. I’ve mourned that loss. However, this year a marvelous window of opportunity opened – Independence Day fell on a Thursday night, which meant no Choir rehearsal – so we leaped! πŸ™‚ Jeff, Daughter B and I scored some budget flights to Bozeman (less than one hour away from Big Sky). This meant we could skip the 8-hour road trip each way – and without those two travel days we had a chance to spend four whole days on our beloved mountain (and still be home in time for Sunday morning Choir).

β€œI went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Over the past two and a half decades our family has watched this sleepy little mountain retreat be discovered, and experience urban creep. There are more cabins, homes, and development than ever before. The lower village has a new hotel, sporting goods store, a movie theater, and many boutiques. It is sad to see modern development – and particularly a loss of Mother Trees. But, the comforting ancient spirit of our forest and Lone Peak remain.

The Mountain resort offers many adventure activities now. My parents treated us to a family package! We rode the chairlift and experienced two separate multi-zipline courses flying through the trees and over deep valleys. We also learned how to use crossbows. What a fun day! I took a lot of video clips and snapshots, and a professional photographer captured even more of the memories. Here’s the video!

Thanks, Mom & Dad, we love you!

Dear Big Sky, missing you already. Love, Holly


  1. What a wonderful vacation. That scenery is so beautiful. You are all brave doing that zip line. I’m not sure I would be so brave. Looked like you had a really good time. Love to your Mom and the rest of your family, Lynne


    1. I was terrified the first time I jumped off the zip-line platform, certain I was leaping to my death… but, after my first ride I realized how safe it was and I got braver and was giggling all the time like a little girl. I bet you would love zip-line Lynne! πŸ™‚


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