When my husband and I lived on the east coast, we’d make an annual winter trip to Vermont, cozying up in some bed and breakfast that we’d inevitably, and thankfully, be holed up in due to some record-breaking snowstorm. I loved these trips, for the respite from the city and for all the spontaneous stops along the way.

One year, we happened upon a small stretch of highway that was laden with local shops—Vermont Flannel Company, a country store that sold the best jerky and maple syrup, and a cookie shop. We were on the way home after spending a long weekend in subzero temperatures and that cookie shop smelled and felt like heaven. It was the kind of place that made you think buying an ice cream cookie sandwich was a good idea, mid-winter.

Even though we only went to the shop twice before we moved out West, my husband and I still talk about that trip and those cookies. That memory—racing to eat the sandwiches before the heat flying from the dashboard melted them—is a loving one, a moment of pure joy. There’s something to be said about a dessert that can make you feel alive.

Earlier this winter, we had lunch together downtown and strolled the snowy sidewalks in search of a business that had changed location. What we found in its place was a cookie shop—the door propped open, dozens of face-sized cookies lined up to perfection, edible cookie dough, cookie cakes, and beyond the glass, a boy placing mounds of dough onto cookie sheets. It was warm and inviting and there was something nostalgic about the sugary smell, bringing us back to that moment in the car years ago.

Mary’s Mountain Cookies has a story. When the founder, Mary Johns, left behind her home state of Michigan, she took everything she had, which was two young children, and drove to Colorado, following a suggestion someone at church had given her. For the three of them, life had begun again when they entered the gates of Cherokee Park Ranch, and when Mary made meals, desserts, and cookies for guests who stayed there.

When Kara and Shelby McCracken brought Mary’s Mountain Cookies to Missoula late last year, they brought with them the happiness that Mary talks about when she makes her cookies. They are alive, carrying with them the impossible roads we think might dead end, but magically they find a way to keep leading us upward and onward. They give us a calm—a break in rough waters—to savor the jovial spirit that hope has on the heart.

Stop by Mary’s Mountain Cookies at 101 S. Higgins St. and see Mary’s whole story at MarysMountainCookies.com.