I went to Montana, cause…

I’m not totally sure why Montana. Part being a fan of Joe Montana as a kid. Part wanting to see a state and park most people don’t consider when thinking of trips. Part needing to do something really random after the month of movie production we had. In many ways, saying I was going to Montana was more foreign and exotic to everyone than saying Thailand, Peru, or Egypt.

I had 3 full days and I mentally broke it down as Macro, Micro, and Intro…

Day Zero: Arriving

I’ll admit that as the trip was approaching I was actually getting a little worried. Going to a small, rural ‘murica town… hiking alone through an enormous park. Was this the smartest thing? Was this a horror story/hate crime waiting to happen? Reading articles like this didn’t help. Hypersensitive? Maybe. Unnecessary caution? Definitely not. So the first thing I did upon arriving in Kalispell was to make myself feel the most at home and normal as possible. This obviously meant…

…going to Walmart to buy supplies and food for the trip.

…and eating at McDonald’s. Yes, that’s Ice. McIce?

And watching a movie at the local (only) cineplex. I chose Guardians. Somehow doing these very normal things put me at ease and less “fish out of the water”. Was it narrow-minded of me to think that being one of 3 Asians that I saw meant I was in danger? Possibly.. but I was also definitely getting stares. Overall though, everyone I came across was very polite. My goal was to be super nice and friendly considering I might be the only Asian some of these ppl would see in years. Wanted to rep us well. Ok, let’s put the race stuff and apprehension behind. I was in Montana!

Day One: Macro

I spent the first day doing the main drive through the popular portion of the park. This was called “The Going the Sun Road” and it took the whole day. If I had just driven straight through and back, it would’ve been “only” 4 hours, but I was literally stopping on the side of the road around every bend, the views were so incredible.

I wanted to get a general sense of the park first. Get the birds eye view, the postcard shots. The touristy views. I felt like that was the best way to start, and there was definitely much to capture.

I feel like we all have a family photo like this at some national park huh? Opted out this time =1

Lake McDonald, a 10 mile long lake, greets you into the park. Driving along side as you enter The Going The Sun Road.

First selfie of the trip

Of course these photos can’t truly capture the true scale..

And the grandness. (is that a real word?)

IMG_3738 IMG_3755 IMG_3756 IMG_3797aIMG_3827 IMG_3833

Day Two: Micro

After seeing the park on a grand scale, I wanted to get more intimate. Be right beside the trees, lakes, and streams. Get up in there. So the second day I planned a hike. Originally I had wanted to do some of the more populated hikes because it was encouraged and printed everywhere not to hike alone. And about half a mile into the forest I realized why.With bears being an actual threat, and barely anyone on the trail, I was so deep in there with no one around… if something were to go terribly wrong, I was screwed. Luckily I caught up to a family doing the same hike, and I sorta hovered around them. And the longer I was in there, the more comfortable I felt. The apprehension started fading as the excitement of the trail started taking over.

I chose an 8 mile hike to Snyder Lake (4.4 each way) with a crazy 1000ft incline the first mile, and leveling out through some lush vegetation, which lead to an amphitheater of mountain peaks.



Day Three: Intro

After putting myself through a 6 hour hike the day before, I wanted my last day in the park to be more relaxed. This morning I packed a book and my journal. I hit up the easier more touristy hikes (didn’t wanna push my luck going solo deep into the mountains again) and I didn’t rush from one stop to another.

I wandered, I sat, read, wrote. Introspection was the theme of the day right? It was a nice feeling, on this third day, feeling like I knew the park well (although a infinitesimal portion of it), and it was a solo day w/in this solo trip, if that makes any sense.

The very popular hike to Hidden Lake viewing. Trail down was unfortunately closed, due to bears. Ugh, thanks a lot bears, ruining my photo opps.

One of my favorite hikes of the trip. The Highline.

do you know how hard it was to get this photo while hiking alone?? haha


Day Four: Departure

My last day was actually almost a full day, since my flight left at 6p. I felt I didn’t have enough time to go all the way back to the park so I decided to check out a local resort town called Whitefish. Usually known for their skiing, most people were there enjoying the “beach”. I had one of the best breakfast dishes in my life (hashbrowns never as perfect as in these “buffalo pies”), took a paddle board around the lake, and spent my last $1.50 of cash on a scoop of huckleberry ice cream.


Everyone asked before I left if I was going out there to find myself, to look for something I was missing. I guess even though I said no, there was a part of me who was hoping for some kind of new insight. But I realized that that was impossible. 4 days in a place and lifestyle not remotely close to the life I live the rest of the year could not change me. Even if I like how simple life was during this trip, and how simple it could be, I know that in reality, it cannot. Not for me at least, not in my current stage of life. So if anything, I know what life could be like, and I still choose to reject it =\. I choose to only take part in it a few days of the year, and the rest, I want the chaos, the crowds, the challenges and uncertainty. I guess that says something.

In the end, it was a great trip. Awesome knowing I could do it, grateful knowing I have the means to, and I would definitely suggest everyone to put it on their list. There are a TON more trails, I didn’t even scratch the surface with these photos and hopefully I can return again someday. Thanks for reading.


30 thoughts on “I went to Montana, cause…

  1. Sounds like a really nice vacation! No, really.
    For me (and I imagine you may be similar to me in this), being away from everything else replenishes that tired, introverted side of oneself which NEEDS some peace and quiet in order to fuel the go-get-’em, extroverted side.
    Being alone recharges me. It’s so great that you took the initiative and just WENT for it, making time for some mental peace among all the other things that needed to be done.

  2. Just added “solo trip to Montana” to my bucket list! Thanks for the breathtaking photos and the always honest and insightful peak into your brain 🙂

  3. This is such a nice read! It sorta made me kinda sad because I don’t think I will ever have the means or the opportunity to do something you did =/ Everyday I chase my kid around the house & spend just a little bit of time with my husband since he works full time and goes to grad school. {btw, my daughter and I absolutely love it whenever there’s a new Wongfu vid in our subscription box. We would sit on the couch with our snacks and watch your video on the big tv ^_^} Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I were single – all the things I’d get to do, accomplishments I’d achieve, places I can visit, etc. But then, when I look at my life, I’m so thankful for all that God has blessed me. Hope you had found some new perspectives from this trip! But don’t ever give up on the peace of mind – you can overcome much more when you have perfect peace!

  4. I knew it’s hard to take photos while you’re hiking alone. But… I think it’ll be very pretty if you take some timelapse clips here 😀 Next time maybe?

  5. Thanks for posting this. Today I went on a drive and hike at Sequoia National Park in the Giant Forest. It was surreal – the fog, rain, and ancient trees. I only had a few hours there, so my time was like your Day Three. I’m still processing it all. I didn’t find any “answers,” but I appreciated the perspective it gave me. It’s strange and otherworldly being surrounded by living things that are so very old. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It was reassuring to know someone else who has had to travel solo. Thanks for that, Phil. 🙂

  6. I love hearing your voice come through your writing, it really feels like i am right there with you experiencing the adventures. Thanks for keep us updated you are so insightful!

  7. Oh, Phil… I live in Montana. You didn’t have to hike alone! 😦 I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip, though! I love Montana… no matter where I go, I always end up coming back here. There is such a simplicity to life, a beauty to nature, and a small-town “everyone knows everyone” feeling throughout the entire state. Thanks for stopping in! It really is a place that every person should experience in their life. 🙂

  8. I plan to do to something like that, but for an entire year. First stop before leaving my country will be Torres del paine for a couple of weeks, and then i will go alone to the other side of the world for a year. I want to face communication problems, cultural differences, racism even, but most of all, the hospitality that i know i can find in people, the places that i want to see for my own, how different the forest must be there than to the ones I’m used to here.

    Sometimes we need to go far to be able to go deep.

  9. I’m glad you had such a great time on this trip! (Also, excellent use of your selfie stick for good and not evil.) Definitely let me know when you’re back in DC and we’ll take on The District together this time. 🙂

  10. This reminds me of a solo trip I took to SoCal recently. The days were simple, planned on a whim, and with the biggest worry being “what will I eat tonight?”. Just like you, I returned to a busy life in a big city (Toronto), rejecting the simple life.

    A nice thing about such trips though is that little things (like this blog post) occasionally remind you of said trip, making you smile, even if just momentarily. Thanks for sharing Phil!

  11. What?! You came to Montana? I live here – I could’ve showed you around. 😉 😉 funny, I had all the same initial concerns when I first moved to Montana (yes, I’m asian). I took a job here figuring I’d never have any other reason to visit Montana…haven’t left yet. Montanans are very nice and polite for the most part. I’m usually in the liberal bubbles of Bozeman and Missoula though. I still remember looking up the state demographics before I took the job and calculating out something ridiculous like there being only 17 black people in Montana.

    I actually visited Glacier NP/Kalispell/Whitefish for the first time this May/June. Kalispell is definitely very different from Missoula/Bozeman. And yes, apparently skinheads have moved there. I felt kind of weird being there. But–and I learned this only after I left–there is a hiking trail in Whitefish named after the first Asian American smokejumper, Danny On! I had some pretty fantastic breakfasts in Whitefish, must have been the same places.

    If you come to Montana again, visit Yellowstone NP and check out Bozeman. There are a lot more Asians and other people of color who have moved to Montana in the last 5 years since I moved here! Of course…most of the Asians are foreign-born… Also, people are obsessed with sushi and Thai food here. Kind of ridiculous. They starve for “ethnic” food here.

    Well, I could go on but probably no one will read this. Just found it interesting to read about your experience and perspectives in visiting Montana. Also, you caught some great shots of Glacier. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Wish I could have gone with you. I love hiking! Used to do it a lot with the family as a kid. 🙂 Your last paragraph totally resonated with me. No matter the peace, quiet, and sunshine, somewhere deep within is a yearning to keep pushing and striving. Maybe to realize your ambitions, to make things come to fruition…In the end, you just cannot stop, because it is how you exist. Sounds like you had a good vaca. Wish I could do something similar to replenish as well. Life just keeps goings nonstop. 🙂 But what is life without the daily grind?

  13. I’m so glad I read this. I’m at the point where an existential crisis is looming in the distance, but it’s like I’m trying to make those storm clouds disappear by just *doing* something, anything really, to delay the inevitable. And I think a trip to somewhere else by myself is in order. I don’t know where I should go, or why I should go, or what I’ll become as a result of the trip. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We all feel like we need to escape in order to rejuvenate or replenish whatever little is left of us inside. I don’t know how reading this will help me get a job or figure out the next steps in post-grad life, but I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in wanting to go somewhere else in order to discover more about myself.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Phil. 🙂

  14. Thanks for penning down your journey and reflections Phil, not to mention the photos which drop the jaws of city-dwellers such as myself. Always looking forward to your intimate sharings. Love from Singapore

  15. “Even if I like how simple life was during this trip, and how simple it could be, I know that in reality, it cannot. Not for me at least, not in my current stage of life. So if anything, I know what life could be like, and I still choose to reject it =\. I choose to only take part in it a few days of the year, and the rest, I want the chaos, the crowds, the challenges and uncertainty. I guess that says something.”

    reading this part made me sort of relate myself into it. BUT I would rather choose that so called “simple life” that is mentioned. I would love to have the chance to explore the world instead of going through all the so challenges I’m having now.

    I guess, it’s fair to say that I can do such trip one day in the future, for that I just entered my 20 so I have plenty of time. “I’m still young, I can do all these later” but I guess majority of me just want to escape certain realities. I’m graduating from high school soon and well since I can’t pursue for college. I have to enter working force earlier, and I don’t feel ready for it, plus I have yet to know/discover what I want to do in my life. I’m kinda wishing that I can just a simpler life, but I can’t..

    But anyway I’m sorry for all the rants I made here. Thanks for reading anyway. :/

  16. once i went for a solo trip, a much longer one for the period of 6 months. I left the job i dread, some parts of me also hope that the trip brought out some insights about myself.

    i think at the end of the day it did. I went back coming to terms with reality not in a bad way, but with an open heart and knowing that once again I will be around people who do matters. I read somewhere that its human instinct to feel connected to other people. maybe to me that is the most important thing, to stay close to people who matters.
    However, there are times when i start to wander again haha so i guess looking at your entry and the comments, we all faced the same doubts eh!

  17. I guess we all needed some alone time to retreat back to ‘the cave’ especially after some chaotic/stressful period. A place where we can focus on ourselves instead of managing/pleasing others. No one to judge us or rather we don’t really care while no harm’s done… Let our brain space out and still be fine… Be in touch with Mother Nature and get awed by the amazing ‘grandness’ and come back feeling empowered, rejuvenated and then brave ourselves to take on what’s ahead. Your journal reminded me of this journey. 🙂

  18. Dear Phil,

    So honestly relatable. I always imagined traveling somewhere by myself and the kind of landscape pictures I would be taking.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  19. Phil,

    For some reason, reading this post and watching your video made me feel really emotional. I guess it’s because I can almost feel your emotions through your video. The sensation of awe, freedom, adventure and fear all mixed in together. And one of my favorite songs (my heart skipped a beat when I heard it).
    I am such a huge fan of yours, seeing how much you’ve grown in your work, the amazing scripts you continue to churn out, I feel like a proud mama bear even though I am 7 years younger than you haha. I don’t really know where I’m going with this but I guess I just want to say keep doing what you do, both work and play =). You are so inspiring.

  20. did not read your article XD but saved all the photos, soooooooooooooooooooooo beautiful and make one feel happy!!!!!

  21. Your photos and video are absolutely stunning! I’ve decided to challenge myself to do more solo vacations (to prove to myself that I’m perfectly capable of being independent – the most difficult thing I’ve come across so far is dining alone … still working on that); so far my list has been mostly major cities but your post has made me realize that I really ought to consider off-the-beaten-path destinations as well. Just curious if there’s anywhere else you’d recommend or that you considered before settling on Montana?

    PS who knew Huckleberry was more than a cartoon character (oh … and that literary figure too I suppose).

  22. It’s so nice to be able to travel by yourself. Random question but have you ever feel stuck in your own world ( like because of what you do, you hang out, talk to and work with the same type of people most of the time)? If you have, do you want to find a way out or you like being in your world?

  23. Creeping through your blogs and saw “Kalispell” and thought it was too strange to speak up… It’s such a random, tiny place in the grand scheme of things, and I’m actually heading there in July… I love city life way too much, so it’s made it hard to visit the family I have up there. But I know it will be great to see them this summer too. And pretty, judging by your pictures. Maybe, I’ll be so inspired, I’ll blog about it someday too 🙂

    Can wait to read about your next thoughtful adventure.

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