BOZEMAN — It takes a lot of work to keep the road to Hyalite Canyon, one of Gallatin County’s most-traveled and scenic sites, open — especially in the winter.
We don’t always get beautiful days in Gallatin County this time year, especially up in Hyalite Canyon, where the snow is thick and the plow drivers are constantly working to keep that snow at safe levels.
Authors like Terry Cunningham, whom you know as the deputy mayor of Bozeman, are looking to help the Friends of Hyalite keep it that way with his new book.
“I always thought that I might have a novel in me,” Cunningham says.
For Cunningham, that novel started back in 1993 in the mountain ranges of Colorado.
“My wife and I were in Ouray in Telluride, Colorado and came upon a couple of really interesting things,” Cunningham says. “One was a shack at the summit of Ima Jean Pass which is at 13,000 feet...a crumbling old shack with a mailbox there and I thought to myself, ‘A mailbox? How does any mail ever get here?’”
“Here” meaning near the Red Mountain Pass — one of the most avalanche-prone areas in America. Cunningham says the thriller novel, aptly named “Red Mountain Pass,” found a home on his desktop.
And that old mailbox also led to a thought: what about snow plows back here in Montana?
“A snow plow plays an integral role in the story and the Friends of Hyalite pay for the plowing of Hyalite Canyon,” Cunningham says.
Friends of Hyalite vice-president Peter Bennett says there have been at least 10,000 cars up that road since Thanksgiving.
“We contribute about $13,000 a year, on average, towards the plowing of the road so that’s a pretty good chunk of change that we have to come up with,” Bennett says.
So that was it.
With each book sold, Cunningham made a vow: three bucks each to help the Friends plow Hyalite.
“It was his idea,” Bennett says. “We’re really grateful that he’s doing this for the Friends of Hyalite. I think it’s a great project.”
“I sent them a check the other day for $250,” Cunningham says. “We’ve guaranteed them a minimum of $500. I’m hoping to exceed that and it’s been a great partnership.”
As for another book?
Cunningham says his author days may be behind him. But putting his novel to use like this means so much more.
“Being able to use the proceeds from this book to help others enjoy, that is really special for me,” Cunningham says.
The Bozeman Ice Festival, cancelled due to COVID, aims to match donations made by up to $2,500 if collected by the end of the year, including from “Red Mountain Pass."
Copies of “Red Mountain Pass” are on sale at Country Bookshelf in Downtown Bozeman.