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Old 03-26-2018, 02:55 PM
 
Location: AK
339 posts, read 538,181 times
Reputation: 127

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Hi all,

I live in rural AK and love it. But we're thinking about moving to the lower 48 to be closer to family. I first looked at Washington but was pointed toward MT.

Can you recommend some great small towns to consider? We were told the Yaak area is great.

We'd like to keep these benefits of where we live now....
-phenominal fishing and hunting
-low crime
-nonjudgmental unpretentious people- we're not rednecks (we're clean and have jobs), but also don't care if you wear a sundress with mud boots.
-extremely friendly and welcoming community
-little traffic
-great schools (we're both teachers)
-snowy winters
-lots of open country to explore through hiking and snowmobiling
-beautiful scenic landscapes
-small population (3000)
-walkable downtown with local shops
-kids/teens that are happy and healthy

It was very easy to make friends where we live, and that's the most important thing for us. A welcoming community. We lean a bit liberal, but are not anti-gun. We probably wouldn't do well in a super conservative town.

Would also like our future (potential) home to have-
-LESS mosquitos than Alaska, and less carnivores to worry about in our backyard (we have grizzlies frequent our neighborhood all summer)
-More options for hiking trails, snowmobile trails, and lots to explore in the surrounding area (weekend trips)
-Affordable real estate
-Good atmosphere/available jobs for teachers

Ideas?

I am thinking my ideal town is nonexistent, but it doesn't hurt to ask. TIA.
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Old 03-26-2018, 08:35 PM
 
541 posts, read 244,371 times
Reputation: 716
Small town Mt. - liberal - might be a tough ask. Might try lower, maybe some of the bitterroot valley
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Old 03-26-2018, 10:24 PM
 
Location: North Dakota
7,978 posts, read 9,477,363 times
Reputation: 11764
Quote:
Originally Posted by puff5655 View Post
Hi all,

I live in rural AK and love it. But we're thinking about moving to the lower 48 to be closer to family. I first looked at Washington but was pointed toward MT.

Can you recommend some great small towns to consider? We were told the Yaak area is great.

We'd like to keep these benefits of where we live now....
-phenominal fishing and hunting
-low crime
-nonjudgmental unpretentious people- we're not rednecks (we're clean and have jobs), but also don't care if you wear a sundress with mud boots.
-extremely friendly and welcoming community
-little traffic
-great schools (we're both teachers)
-snowy winters
-lots of open country to explore through hiking and snowmobiling
-beautiful scenic landscapes
-small population (3000)
-walkable downtown with local shops
-kids/teens that are happy and healthy

It was very easy to make friends where we live, and that's the most important thing for us. A welcoming community. We lean a bit liberal, but are not anti-gun. We probably wouldn't do well in a super conservative town.

Would also like our future (potential) home to have-
-LESS mosquitos than Alaska, and less carnivores to worry about in our backyard (we have grizzlies frequent our neighborhood all summer)
-More options for hiking trails, snowmobile trails, and lots to explore in the surrounding area (weekend trips)
-Affordable real estate
-Good atmosphere/available jobs for teachers

Ideas?

I am thinking my ideal town is nonexistent, but it doesn't hurt to ask. TIA.
I hate to break it to you but I'd give Montana (and especially western Montana) a pass. If you're a teacher be aware that Montana is one of the lowest paying states and cost of living is high. It's a minority but there are lots of very loud, close minded, and unwelcoming people, especially in western Montana. It's extremely (read still living in the 1800s) conservative in many areas. There are also many pretentious places. Montana has a lethal mix of ultra conservative and ultra liberal people that mix like oil and water.
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Old 03-26-2018, 10:31 PM
 
4,512 posts, read 4,459,339 times
Reputation: 2855
Yaak the town has about 250 people. Schools? There may be none. Might go to Troy. Troy schools are low rated.


If you want NW Montana, maybe look at Thompson Falls. School ratings there might be called "ok".


I'd probably look at Stevensville, Dillon, Manhattan, Big Timber, Columbus. Small towns that are generally well-regarded with some of the better / best schools in small town MT or MT period.


I am guessing that you don't want the resort towns. They might have good schools but maybe not enough friendly, relaxed folk?


What kind of housing budget do you prefer / need?


Other places that could be worth a look: Buffalo WY (or Douglas or Saratoga or Powell. WY schools get tremendous funding from energy taxes), Spearfish or Belle Fourche SD, Sagle ID or maybe Driggs ID. Or Joseph / Enterprise OR? Or Elgin, Union, North Powder or Haines also in interesting, little known NE OR.

Last edited by NW Crow; 03-26-2018 at 11:26 PM..
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Old 03-27-2018, 06:40 AM
 
Location: North Dakota
7,978 posts, read 9,477,363 times
Reputation: 11764
Quote:
Originally Posted by NW Crow View Post
Yaak the town has about 250 people. Schools? There may be none. Might go to Troy. Troy schools are low rated.


If you want NW Montana, maybe look at Thompson Falls. School ratings there might be called "ok".


I'd probably look at Stevensville, Dillon, Manhattan, Big Timber, Columbus. Small towns that are generally well-regarded with some of the better / best schools in small town MT or MT period.


I am guessing that you don't want the resort towns. They might have good schools but maybe not enough friendly, relaxed folk?


What kind of housing budget do you prefer / need?


Other places that could be worth a look: Buffalo WY (or Douglas or Saratoga or Powell. WY schools get tremendous funding from energy taxes), Spearfish or Belle Fourche SD, Sagle ID or maybe Driggs ID. Or Joseph / Enterprise OR? Or Elgin, Union, North Powder or Haines also in interesting, little known NE OR.
Wyoming is losing population and going through a budget crisis. Best do your homework carefully. South Dakota has even lower pay than Montana and I think Idaho is also pretty low. These may be beautiful places but you can't eat scenery. I'd consider looking somewhere like Minnesota or Michigan instead.
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Old 03-27-2018, 11:27 AM
 
Location: AK
339 posts, read 538,181 times
Reputation: 127
Hey thank you! After your responses and talking to folks in the Washington forum, I think we've got it pretty good here in Alaska and I'd better stay put. We can always vacation to MT and WA. My husband is from the midwest and that part of the country isn't appealing to us.
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Old 03-27-2018, 11:52 AM
 
Location: East Helena, MT
843 posts, read 647,101 times
Reputation: 2351
I wouldn't listen to all of the negative people on this forum. The Montana they talk about, I have never experienced. Maybe it is because I live in a small town, next to a bigger town. We live in East Helena, which is 3 miles away from the state capitol, Helena. If teaching is so horrible, why do we have multi generational teachers in our district? We have several mother daughter teachers in our district, and tons of husband and wife teachers. You would think that if Montana was so horrible, they would have left, or convinced their children to follow another path.


The main problem I think you will find is a lack of teaching vacancies in the smaller towns. The teachers there really love their jobs, and the only time their is a vacancy is when someone retires.


Maybe it is because we moved here 4 years ago, so we don't know that the "good ole days" was like. Montana has been wonderful for my family, I wouldn't trade it for anything. My family is thriving here.


Real estate is very reasonable, compared to the rest of the United States. We have a friend that just had to relocate to Colorado due to work. To purchase a comparable home to what they had here, it was going to cost them 200k more. They wound up purchasing a home with no property, with significantly less square footage, to get one with the same price. Homes in the Helena area are less than the part of Florida we came from.


People here don't really care about your politics. Most people in Helena lean very liberal, my family is very libertarian, we haven't had any problems. Families here are very involved with their kids. In Florida, when there was a school event, no one showed up. During parent teacher conferences, it would be a ghost town. Here, the school bakes cookies for the parents, and the school is over flowing with people. You can't find a parking spot anywhere. You have to park way down the street. In Helena, they think there is a crises because the graduation rate is 90%. In Florida, they would kill to get 75% of kids to graduate high school.


I guess it all boils down to who you are, and where you come from.
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Old 03-27-2018, 02:59 PM
 
Location: Wyoming
9,639 posts, read 17,873,989 times
Reputation: 14466
Quote:
Originally Posted by NDak15 View Post
Wyoming is losing population and going through a budget crisis. Best do your homework carefully. South Dakota has even lower pay than Montana and I think Idaho is also pretty low. These may be beautiful places but you can't eat scenery. I'd consider looking somewhere like Minnesota or Michigan instead.
Most of the population loss in Wyoming has been in Gillette and Casper, which wouldn't meet your other needs either. However, it is true that school funding is getting tough throughout the state with the downturn in coal mining. I think the governor is set to sign a bill into law that reduces state school funding for the upcoming year by around $25 million, and that comes after a $75 million cut last year, iirc. These are hard times for Wyoming K-12, but not catastrophic. Wyoming has been a leader throughout the west with teacher pay in recent years. That probably won't change, at least not soon. It can be difficult for teachers to land jobs here, however, due to the relatively low cost of living and high teacher pay.

Someone up topic mentioned Buffalo, WY, and I'd have to agree it would be a great spot for you to consider (if you're still considering a move). It's right at the base of the Bighorn Mountains (highest peak 13,100'). Highway 16 starts climbing at Main Street and continues climbing right up and over Powder River Pass. It's really a superb little mountain range that's ignored by tourists and most others in Wyoming. Population is about 5,000 or so -- a quaint little historic town, center of the infamous Johnson County Range Wars. Residents seem friendly and community-minded. It ain't liberal, but few small towns are anywhere in the Mountain West.

Douglas was also mentioned, and I'd have to agree with that recommendation as well. It's a little larger than Buffalo but doesn't have such close access to the mountains. It does have some great fishing, however, either in the river that runs through town or at the nearby reservoir. My wife was telling me the other night that it's booming from a new oil discovery, so they might be looking for teachers. Please treat the boom as hearsay, as I hadn't heard anything previously about it. My wife was told by someone moving there who said housing was scarce and expensive due to the boom, but jobs were plentiful. Its closest mountains are the Laramie Range, and Laramie Peak is a landmark seen from town and for many miles in any direction. Other than some fantastic fishing I experienced from a private cabin up there decades ago, I've not spent any time in those mountains other than passing through them on my way to UW in Laramie.

I've done a little fly fishing near Dillon and Twin Bridges, MT, and can report that it has some fantastic Blue Ribbon trout streams (Big Hole, Beaverhead, Jefferson). Mountains are nearby, but we never got into them. We flew in and flew out. My granddaughter attends the University of Montana Western in Dillon, so maybe that would also be a place you or your wife could teach. (????) It seems like a nice little town.

My pick from these would be Buffalo, but that's just me.

Last edited by WyoNewk; 03-27-2018 at 03:10 PM..
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Old 03-27-2018, 04:33 PM
 
Location: North Dakota
7,978 posts, read 9,477,363 times
Reputation: 11764
Quote:
Originally Posted by puff5655 View Post
Hey thank you! After your responses and talking to folks in the Washington forum, I think we've got it pretty good here in Alaska and I'd better stay put. We can always vacation to MT and WA. My husband is from the midwest and that part of the country isn't appealing to us.
It wasn't appealing to me either but I also learned never say never. I made a leap of faith and it's been incredible. Montana is a wonderful place to vacation. I go to visit family all the time. I hope deciding to stay works out well for you.
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Old 03-29-2018, 11:34 AM
 
Location: AK
339 posts, read 538,181 times
Reputation: 127
ericsvibe and wyonewk, thanks for the helpful suggestions... I know everything is dependent on jobs. But we'd like to know our options, get things narrowed down, and visit some areas to find out if they appeal to us. Then we can get in touch with school districts and keep our eyes peeled for openings. We both have a lot of experience (10+ years), varying experiences and solid references.

Having the ability to drive to explore so many National Parks and forests, so close, really appeals to me.

Buffalo WY and Yaak country both look like they get a bit of snow and not too much rain.

Both those areas.. any idea how the kids get along? I've found that in many rural areas, kids complain there is nothing to do, and there are a lot of drug/drinking/depression issues with teens. In other rural areas, parents teach kids to hunt, fish, trap, bike, hike, snowmobile, etc. and kids are immersed enough in the outdoors that they are happy and healthy. What's the deal with WY and MT?
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