Recently, Emilie and I visited Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, a place where beauty and enormity combine to defy a concise explanation. At 1,500 square miles, it’s the largest wilderness complex in the lower 48. Countless towering peaks form a number of different ranges that remind one of their minute stature in the face of Nature. I was most confounded by its remoteness despite its size and proximity to Glacier National Park, where more than a million people visited during July of last year, alone. The Bob’s grandeur — which measures to Glacier’s own in every respect — remains isolated. Before we even entered, driving north along its eastern corridor, I was dumbfounded by the jagged ridge line of peaks that strung the entire horizon. I wondered: How could I not know this place?
We car-camped for two nights on the West Fork of the Teton River, in the Lewis and Clark Wilderness area of the complex. The water was as clear as I’ve ever seen, anywhere. The area was stripped bare by a fire that burned nearly 30,000 acres in 2007. We were hardly inside the northeastern area of the complex, little more than an hour’s drive from GNP, yet saw almost no one for our entire stay. Only one person shared our campground over the course of two nights. We attempted to hike Mt. Wright to view more than a hundred peaks stretching over every which horizon, but were turned around by a thunderstorm. But the views, even from little more than halfway up, still impressed.
When I returned to Missoula, a neighbor and videographer who travels to outdoor havens across the globe told me the Bob is one of most beautiful places in the world. He called it “undervalued.” But I now realize that its obscurity speaks volumes to what makes Montana so special. Though relatively unknown, it’s best the Bob remains WILD.