Paradise Valley, Montana

by R. McKinnon Baxter

Montana, my dear… I have just spent a few days in your Paradise Valley, home of Pray, Emigrant and Gardiner. Your beauty welcomed Jenny and me as we made our maiden voyage into Paradise.  We chose Paradise for the obvious reason; because it was closest to our home base of Bozeman, only about 45 miles southeast.  If Jenny had trouble, we were not far from home… With the exception of a derailed sliding door, Jenny loved traveling through your valley, and I would have to agree.  It’s no wonder that notable folks like John Mayer, Dennis Quaid, Margot Kidder and Jeff Bridges have made your valley home, at least for their quietest times of living. Your Yellowstone river is impressive… the beauty of it alone is a spectacle, but we could not help noticing the rabid fans floating it, as they fished and otherwise explored its wonder.

Yellowstone River Paradise Valley

Yellowstone River Paradise Valley

It was July 5th when we rolled into Paradise, and we had just spent the night deep in the mountains of the Gallatin Mountain range. It was raining as we entered your valley of Paradise, and we had just picked up some ice because Jenny’s refrigerator was acting up a bit.  Some kids were selling BBQ ribs out in front of the local Albertson’s…   Smart salespeople these kids… they said, “you want some ribs!?” to which I replied… Sure!  Then came the “catch”… “Fifteen bucks!”  Well, I must admit, the ribs looked and smelled good, but I was still recovering from the massive feast of slow roasted pork tacos and ribs I was fed the night before at Jack’s place.  As cute as the kids were, I could not help but retreat from their bait and switch, charitable cause or not.  Anyway, Jenny and I got our ice, and moved on.  The light rain did not bother us as we meandered along your Yellowstone.  I guess you could say the rain sort of endeared us to you… as if we were wrapped in a cozy blanket as we moved along East River Road.  We had to stop a few times to capture your beauty…

Paradise Valley and Emigrant Peak

Paradise Valley and Emigrant Peak

I’ve always loved seeing the large round hay bales in your fields.  They remind me, for some reason, of children’s building blocks, and I often feel compelled to just run out there and in some way, shape of form, play with them like the kid they make me feel.  Those sprinklers in the background conjure up memories of being in my childhood yard again running through them as that 8 year old who finds such complete satisfaction in the simplicity of such a thing.

As we moved on through your Paradise, we passed through the little town of Pine Creek, which sadly burned last year in a short, but devastating forest fire.  We didn’t stop, but promised the town we’d return to pay our respects at the Pine Creek Lodge and Cafe.  We passed the Pine Creek Campgrounds and we thought about saying hello, but were not in the mood for the party that was sure to be transpiring on the holiday weekend.  So we moved on to Chico Hot Springs, perhaps a little more our style on this particular day.

chico hot springs paradise valley montana

chico hot springs paradise valley montana

Jenny and I liked Chico for two reasons.  One, well, we had both tied one on the night before on the 4th… and we needed a little mineral water and TLC… this in part because our host was so insistent that we partake, and, well, it was in fact our inauguration day… the day we both opened up our stress bottles and allowed them to release into… well, wherever it wanted to go, as long as it was not inside us anymore.  You see, Jenny had been sitting in a yard, alone, neglected for 7+ years, and she was crying to get out and see the world again.  I guess you could say I rescued her… and, well, I guess you could say she rescued me as well.  Anyway, I’ll save all that for another time.

So we liked Chico Hot Springs for the relaxation, but we also liked the fact that we could borrow her wireless internet for a few hours, so I could check in on my work.  After checking in on things, I realized we’d better find a place to sleep for the night.  See, we noticed a sign as we pulled into Chico… “No Overnight RV Campers Allowed”… they might as well have said no long hair and no entering without your shirt on as far as we were concerned, but in some small way, we agreed it was understandable.  That said, I warmed Jenny up, and we headed down the road.  I had chatted with a guy while soaking in the hot springs who was staying at the Pine Creek Campground.  While he admitted his party were enjoying their evening margaritas, it sounded like a spot we might enjoy checking out, so with that, we headed out.  Before we reached the turnoff though, we came upon Mill Creek Road and something told me to turn right… maybe we would find just the perfect spot I thought.  A place for just the two of us.

Mill Creek Road Paradise Valley Montana

Mill Creek Road Paradise Valley Montana

We found the secret spot.  Right on the creek, surrounded by trees… magical.  Truly a perfect spot in all respects, and of course we were most likely trespassing.  But Jenny and I made an agreement at the beginning of our trip.  We would be asking for forgiveness instead of permission.  After all, we were rebels, Jenny and me.

While perfect in all respects, our secret spot did have one minor flaw… no cell signal, which meant no internet.  It was still early, and I wanted to get some work done on the net, so we said a temporary goodbye to our new found spot, and headed back to Chico for a little work session, with plans to return by nightfall.

While back at Chico, I decided to look up an old friend of mine named Jessie, who I believed lived in Pray, or Emigrant, and was probably very close.  Jessie is a writer of novels and she had fairly recently relocated to the area to write, and relax.  Her story reminds me also of John Mayer, who found that 15 acres on the Yellowstone river in the Paradise Valley suited him as well after some much needed R & R after he developed nodes on his vocal chords subsequent to his profound career as a singer songwriter.  And R & R he got in your Paradise, Montana… once again, proving you are a mother and healer for so many who need you.

When I pulled up to Jessie’s place, I was most impressed with her choice of home and work. A small and quaint log home along Six Mile Creek that meandered down from the most impressive twin peaks that came into perfect frame within her home.  The sound of the creek would have drowned out any noise pollution, if there had been any, but it was so quiet and peaceful there, that no drowning was required.  We sat outside and talked shop as writers and thinkers of the world and watched the sunset.

Six Mile Creek Paradise Valley Montana

Six Mile Creek Paradise Valley Montana

Jenny had all of a sudden developed a problem with her sliding door, and I had to enter and exit from the passenger doors.  I promised her I would take care of it ASAP, and I know she believed me, and rested well because of it.  With door problems though, Jessie insisted that I stay that night.  We had some amazing garlic pasta, red wine and some great conversation.

The late night coffee kept us running with our ideas of changing the world… or at least understanding it.  When the night began to expire, she gave me the spare bedroom with the best acoustics for listening to the creek run by the cabin.  There is nothing quite like that sound.  Only you, Montana with your abundant rivers, creeks and streams have these talents, and it is something I most admire about you. The next day, after a little coffee and eggs, I pulled out my little baby girl… T.  T is my sweet Taylor guitar, who relies on me to someday raise and develop her to sing like a bird.  She’s a baby, as I am a baby when it comes to music, playing and singing, but together, nothing can stop our future making music together.  This was T’s and my first opportunity to play and sing on our journey across Montana, and this log cabin porch, on this sunny Sunday morning, seemed quite the appropriate place to start.  When I started playing for Jessie, she asked to excuse herself for a second and came back with her camera.  She said that “something happened” when I started playing and singing a song from Train… Meet Virginia.  She wanted to capture it for me, to see what having my baby girl in my arms did for me.  Later, she admitted that the pictures just did not do the moment justice, but nevertheless, her comments and recognition of the shift that took place when I was with my little girl, spoke volumes to me.

Playing for Jessie  in Paradise Valley Montana

Playing for Jessie in Paradise Valley Montana

After playing for awhile, I sensed Jenny growing restless, broken door and all, so I thanked Jessie for her hospitality, wished her the best on her latest series of novels, and we hit the road.  As promised, we stopped in at the Pine Creek Lodge and Cafe, had a bison burger, and I took some time in attempt to fix Jenny’s door… to no avail.  Nevertheless, she appreciated the attention, and we decided to head back to dodge for a proper fixing, and a refueling for our next venture west.  Where exactly?  Jenny and I were not sure, and quite honestly, we didn’t care.  Being on the road was proving good therapy for us both, and the wind seemed to be blowing us in all the right directions…

R. McKinnon Baxter, an Automated Business and Online Marketing Expert, has sold nearly $50 Million in products online over the course of 12 years. Today, he enjoys his life as a Travel Writer along with the freedom of the mobile working lifestyle driven by his automated business model and strategies. To learn more about McKinnon’s principles and methodologies, visit


  1. Hello!

    I loved your post and pictures! I grew up in Montana. My parents still live there, and my dad loves to fish on the Yellowstone. I just started learning to paint, and I am about to attempt my first landscape. Do you mind if I paint one of your pictures? I want to paint Montana, but it may be a while before I get out there to take more pictures, and I need one for my class!


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