When we got the “save the date” postcard from my nephew this winter for his upcoming nuptials in the bride’s hometown in Australia, I knew it would be difficult to convince my husband that we had, if not and obligation, a familial responsibility to attend this wedding of my only sister’s oldest son if at all possible. We both have always wanted to visit the island continent, but we had already scheduled, and paid for, a Safari to Kenya and Tanzania this coming fall. One overseas trip a year is not only a strain on our travel budget but a major undertaking as well. Fortunately, there was also to be a reenactment of the wedding ceremony two weeks later in my nephew’s hometown in Northern California. A viable and less costly alternative, but still a hard sell for my husband who has never been a big fan of weddings, especially those involving long distance travel. I had to find a way to turn this familial responsibility into an opportunity that would appeal to my husband. Time to pull out the maps of the Northwest, check distances, price options and put together a short vacation that we both could enjoy.
After some on-line research, phone calls, car rentals, plane reservations and a few unencumbered days built in for exploring, I came up with a ten day trip that would cost us much less than the price of two round trip ticket to Australia. I was able to include a visit with a favorite 95 year old uncle in Montana and a two-day stay at the Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park (something we both have been wanting to do for many years) and catching up with my cousins and celebrating a Martini Friday in their beautiful log cabin along a rocky stream in the mountains between Missoula and Helena. We wandered the roads less traveled in Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington and Oregon, before arriving in Alturas, California the day before the ceremony. We had time to relax a bit at our motel before heading over to my sister’s where we were able to meet the bride and her parents, who had only recently arrived themselves. The wedding the following evening came off without a hitch, the cake my sister baked for the reception was beautiful and delicious, and close family and friends met back at the house for the requisite drinks and conversation.
The plane tickets were by far the most expensive cost associated with attending this family event. But by building in a short vacation in the region at the front end, we were able to not only honor my nephew and his bride, but to get more bang for the buck from the price of the airline tickets. We were able to see the incredible scenery in Glacier. The clear mountain lakes, the long rushing waterfalls created by the melting glaciers, beautiful vistas and the wildlife we saw helped to calm our souls. We were inspired by hikes we took to Avalanche Lake, Granite Chalet, and Benham Falls. On the morning we left my cousin’s cabin in Montana, were delightfully surprised to happen upon an old fashioned cattle drive right down the middle of the highway. Cowboys and girls on horses keeping their charges headed in the right direction and away from the cars that were using the same road. Throw in a few historic landmarks, national forests, monuments and interpretive centers and my husband almost forgot the reason we were there in the first place. All in all it was a wonderful adventure, one I will always cherish.