We’ve had a busy week, with no time to write, so I want to catch up on our vagabond adventures.
We hit Missoula in the late afternoon, June 3rd. More great scenery along the way.
We were mulling over our trip so far…we’ve decided we definitely like being “on the road” and want to do more of it. We have come to appreciate the areas we’ve visited more than we ever imagined. This truly is a beautiful country. And it turns out the part we’ve come to treasure is not just the places we intended to see. It’s also the unexpected places we find along the way. We love chatting with new people, enjoying the little towns and learning about areas we didn’t expect to visit–highways and by-ways. And the things we find. It may be cherry beer (in Missoula) or homemade huckleberry pie (at Glacier Park), finding things that never make the guide books. Since our coach is a gas burner, we’ve had to change our plans several times. It’s just too tough making it up, or standing on the breaks all the way down, the 8-10 % grades in many of areas we want to explore. So we’ve been researching RVs and what we need in a diesel engine for the sort of traveling we’ve come to love. That brings us to our stop in Missoula…where we decide to drop in just to check out some of the options at a huge RV dealer we’ve been looking at on line. Wow! We found an equipment switch so we’re taking a few extra days exploring Missoula and visiting Glacier National Park to allow for the modification.
Saturday in downtown Missoula was fun. They have a bustling Farmer’s Market that’s really a million craft booths with a few food stalls and a smathering of produce. Not to mention the greatest organic empanadas we ever tasted! Plus the town—actually all this part of Montana—is filled with lilac bushes. Not with just white and “lilac” blossoms, but also some that are deep, deep burgundy, some with flowers that are dark purple with white edges, some bushes that look like dwarf varieties…and they all smell heavenly!
This was one of the first sunny days of summer in Missoula and the streets were alive. It’s a college town so there are young, old, teachers and their kids, cowboys, established Montana gentry; quite a mix. A building art history wall shows the corner we visited.
The Clark Fork River–like most other rivers in the area–is over-flowing it’s banks. It runs through the downtown, with a river walk at Caras Park. Fishing is taken very seriously in these parts….
As a bonus, we were treated to an exhibition by a kayaker running Brennan’s Wave, a man-made, whitewater play pool in the Clark Fork, created to honor a world-class kayaker who died in 2001.
We visited the St Ignacious Mission, founded in 1854.
And found the National Bison Range–all near Missoula. This is still tribal land, so highway signs are written to respect the native American culture, as well..
This antler stack at the park entrance gives you an idea how many deer and elk are around. Driving at dust ia always an adventure.
The bison once again were just outside our car.
On our way back to Missoula we drove under this animal bridge–they are concerned super highways don’t disrupt animal migration patterns.
Finally–Oreo Cows. This may not be their real name, but it sure seems to fit these guys pretty well.
The next morning we take off to Glacier.
We pass by Flathead Lake–this looks just like the pictures of Italy’s Lake Como. More to come on that later!
Glacier was one of our top destinations when we began planning our trip–and man! Did it ever live up to our expectations! It’s right on the Canadian border—the first stop inside the gate is the Alberta [Canada] Welcoming Center. I’m feeling right at home, now.
It’s proper name is Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site. Canada made Waterton Lakes a park in 1895 and the US set aside the adjoining Glacier Park in 1910. The two countries linked the two parks into an international peace park in the 30’s and in 1995 it was designated as a world heritage site. Quite a place. So much more than the gorgeous Lake McDonald reflection pictures we wanted to see.
Glacier has been called the “crown of the continent,” and contains a triple divided peak, the width of a hand, where a rain drop can start a path to the Columbia, Mississippi or Saskatchewan river systems and end up in the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico or the Hudson Bay. Unbelievable. Even the pebbles in the glacial waters were beautiful. The blue-green and red rock found everywhere is actually ancient stone that began as sediment 1.5 billion years ago. These were under the water in Lake McDonald.
We had to stop at the beautiful McDonald Lodge–trophy animals everywhere!
Then we took some pictures of the falls on Upper McDonald Creek. High water levels made this spectacular.
Our second day at Glacier, we went west to Polebridge, on the eastern side of the park.
A previous fire made an erie landscape
The tiny town of Polebridge was actually a unique country store. A nod back to the 60’s.
Our journey culminated in an hour drive on a bumpy dirt road to Bowman Lake—we almost turned back, but it was absolutely worth the trip. The lake air was cold with a brisk wind—no flat waters for a reflection photo of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. But it was beautiful. We could have been standing beside a Norwegian fiord!
And have I mentioned it never gets dark here? Seriously, 10 PM we walk the dogs without a flashlight. It’s like dusk at home. We’ve been so tired I haven’t stayed up late enough to see more than a few errant stars; I feel like I’m in Alaska! And it’s bright at 0600. One other similarity—they have B52-sized mosquitoes. Thirsty little devils!
Unfortunately, the Going to the Sun Road, traversing the park, still wasn’t completely opened—late snows and some construction. But now we have a reason we must come back!
Back to Missoula, we have a chance to catch up with some friends from many, many moons ago—we’re talking high school and college!
They now live in the Bitterroot Valley, an area with more spectacular vistas, even on an overcast day. We didn’t get to spend as much time together as we had hoped—another reason we plan to head back this way!
(In Darby, at the foot of the valley, I finally found a brown bear that wasn’t shy)
At last, we’re ready to move on….we change plans and head for Flathead Lake to check out the RV before we head on our way. This area is a real treasure! This is the largest natural freshwater late in the lower 48, west of the Mississippi. It’s ringed with snow-covered mountains–we loved it here. In case you haven’t guessed, we’ve fallen in love with Montana—at least after the thaw.
I loved the lupin and columbine….
Next we’re off to Hardin, Montana—the home of Little Big Horn and Custer’s Last Stand then on to Rapid City, SD to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.