Glacier National Park has had a record-breaking year based on the number of tourists visiting this last summer. I was one of those tourists back in August, and I took advantage of the trails system, logging many thousands of steps and breathing in clean air and summertime scents. Yesterday, I walked the trail near my house in Montana City, appreciating the fall sights and sounds and thinking about our distinct seasons. While summer is my favorite season, September is my favorite month, the crown jewel of Montana’s calendar.

September has so many things going for it, including and especially the fall weather. I love summer, and for me, the hotter, the better, but only if I’m able to be out in it. If I have to do adult things, like work and wear closed-toe shoes, then September is perfect. It’s cool enough to be comfortable with a light jacket or sweater, but rarely is September cold. The changing weather brings with it the smells of fall harvests and the colors of changing vegetation. I’ve never been to the east coast during the fall, but I can’t imagine it could be much better than Montana in September. I have a quaking aspen tree in my yard, and the changing colors, bright yellow, orange, and red against the white bark and blue sky are magnificent. The late afternoon sun warms everything perfectly, and a light breeze blows leaves and fall debris down the trail.

The sun in September is warm, and though our hemisphere is moving further from it, it appears huge, especially in the morning when it rises in the east. During fire season, and sometimes even with no fires, the sun will take on a reddish-golden hue, a warm, comforting color. At the same time, the moon appears larger than ever, too, and fall evenings feel like they’ll last for hours. Darkness comes earlier than before, but there remains enough evening to watch the sunset and appreciate its beauty.

That’s another thing about September that I love: it’s a slow month. One of the months with 31 days, September seems to take longer than even that. Everyone is finally back at work, back at school, and vacations are over, and the summer—with its fast pace and frenetic activities—is only a fond memory. September lets us slow down a little and savor the hard work and hard play of summer months before we too soon enter holiday season followed by a new year. September helps us pause and reflect on our progress in a year that was just recently new.

Despite being a pacifist, I happily watch disoriented wasps fly around seeking mischief, knowing that their days are numbered and the myriad other creepy-crawly things that share our world will return to their winter hideaways. Birds begin to flock, sometimes great numbers of blackbirds or others taking up residence in a yard or field during the evening hours, and it’s fascinating to think about the communication and navigation skills of birds that migrate south for the winter. Unlike the first robin of spring, I never know when I’ve seen the last robin of fall, and I like it that way.

Other months have glitz, like Christmas in December, New Year’s Day in January, and Valentine’s Day in February, and some months offer hope, like March, April, and May. The summer months offer long days and warm nights and lots of reasons for summer parties, but September is the month of respite and reflection, leading into preparations for the cold months to come and the quickly approaching holiday season. Solid and consistent, not flashy or showy, September is nonetheless Montana’s month of sublimity. It doesn’t get any better than this.