It was a refreshing experience. Last week I was afforded the opportunity to take my 12- and 16-year-old daughters to the place I love:... Caleb’s Corner: Creating memories in Northwest Montana
Aksa Soptelean-Rivas, 12, and Vida Soptelean-Rivas, 16, relax next to a creek below a waterfall near Marion, Mont., on Weyerhaeuser land in August 2019. (Caleb M. Soptelean photo)

It was a refreshing experience.

Last week I was afforded the opportunity to take my 12- and 16-year-old daughters to the place I love: Northwest Montana.

I had taken them there for the first time two summers ago, and we watched our first rodeo together in Polson, hiked on the Beardance Trail down to Flathead Lake — the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River — and hiked part of the Highline Trail together in Glacier National Park.

This time, we explored the mountains, a cave and a waterfall and row-boated on Little Bitterroot Lake while staying with friends near Marion, which is about 22 miles west of Kalispell, the state’s seventh largest city with a population of about 24,000. My friends recently purchased a house and cabin on 20 acres, and I got to stay in the cabin. My girls spent three nights of five in a tent in the front yard and loved it.

I visited several old friends, including two former landlords and a former pastor who looks to be near death but has peace in his heart. That man, Mingo Guerrero, a Sephardic Jew and Apostolic Pentecostal pastor, strongly impacted my life after I met him in 2010 while working as a reporter for the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell.

My daughters and I visited Kootenai River Falls and walked across a suspension bridge between Libby and Troy. My oldest daughter, Vida, is afraid of heights. I encouraged her to walk across the span, and she did it! I had been there several times, the first was with my parents when I was a student at the University of Montana in the early 1990s. While in that area, we also visited Ross Creek Cedars, which was another first for all of us. The interesting shapes of the trees were a delight, and we all were pleasantly surprised to discover a rock garden near the end of the loop trail. My youngest daughter, Aksa, especially loved creating monuments out of stone.

The final day of our vacation included another hike on the Highline Trail. I had planned to take them to the Many Glacier area on the east side of the park to hike the Swiftcurrent Trail, which leads to Red Rock Falls, but Vida especially wanted to hike the Highline again. That trail, which is across the road from a visitor’s center that is located on Going-to-the-Sun Road at Logan Pass, is probably the most iconic trail in the park. The Highline follows along the Continental Divide, also known as the Garden Wall. Because of Vida’s fear of heights, which I discovered two years ago on that trail, I was surprised to find out that she wanted to hike it again. She wanted to go farther than we did previously. We couldn’t find a place to park, so we proceeded down the road to the east, where we found a spot about a half-mile away. The girls were eager to hike the trail again and were willing to hike up the road to get there. We saw a mountain goat alongside the road and one on the trail, which features 100-foot drop-offs or more down to Going-to-the-Sun Road below, and plenty of wildflowers. All told, we hiked a total of 4.5 miles. We created memories they’ll not soon forget.