Prominent among the numerous Paradise Valleys throughout the world (a quick Google search suggests there are dozens) is the valley of the upper Yellowstone River in Montana, stretching from the northern border of Yellowstone National Park to Livingston, Montana, the first sizable town on the river.

The name's not hyperbole. Paradise Valley really is just about the prettiest place you can imagine. The surrounding mountains are high and steep, but seem somehow friendly and inviting. The river is clear and swift and the land unmarred by tall buildings. It's an awesome place to be a rancher or retiree and an awful place to be a trout; during much of the summer your typical fishie's diet might consist more of feathered hooks than of actual bugs.

But the valley is also populated by beings far more interesting, and perhaps dangerous, than the typical happy retiree or persecuted trout. On the more benign side of things, Paradise Valley seems to be a magnet for literary eccentrics, and possibly a breeding ground for them. One of the world's foremost students of the pursuit of trout, Richard Brautigan, made his home there for many years. And the precocious fantasist Christopher Paolini, author of a rather silly book about a boy and his pet dragon, grew up and was home-schooled by his parents in the valley.

Unless you happen to run into a rutting elk that decides to try out its newly-grown antlers on you, there's not much in Paradise Valley to pose a threat to the average visitor. Nonetheless, you'd still be well advised to stay away from the local cult ecumenical religious group. The Church Universal and Triumphant owns a large chunk of land in the valley and keeps its global headquarters there. There've been some weird goings-on at the CUT compound - in the late 1980's church members stockpiled weapons and built bomb shelters there, and more recently a prominent former church official killed himself under somewhat odd circumstances. Paoloni's parents were formerly members of the organization, eventually leaving and publishing a book about the authoritarianism and paranoia of its founder, who has since retired.