"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Our Montana Summer

Speedy campground internet! A miracle! Quick, quick, get a post out!  This will be a review of the highlights of our summer in Montana. We're not quite done, but I'll share up to where we are now, which is Libby, Montana "where the Cabinet Mountains meet the Kootenai River" says the official City of Libby website.  

But here's the Montana story so far.  We made a quick stop in Billings just to have dinner at Blue's Barbecue with new friends Bobbie and Rich, who are only a schmeer of BBQ sauce away from being full-timers. 

Another quick stop in Bozeman, which we had no idea was such a hip place. We had only one day, so we hit the Museum of the Rockies and saw lots of dinosaur bones. We're planning a return visit very soon on our way east. Not for the bones, but for the Audi dealer - the only one in Montana. : ( 

During our week in Missoula we took a road trip south on Rt. 93 through the Bitterroot Valley

Along the way we took a slow meander through the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in Stevensville and spotted a great blue heron rookery with at least 20 nests visible in the tops of the tall evergreens. Lots of deer too.

Our last stop of that day was Lake Como (yes, named after the one in Italy), with its beautiful beach and views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

Our next parking location was Polson, where we spent a month. Highlights (some of which I have already reported) included the National Bison Range...

many, many fawns (it seems to be a good year for babies here)...

 Wild Horse Island State Park on Flathead Lake...

and a very unique alpenglow sunset (color not enhanced!) on the Mission Range.

The small town of Coram, just west of Glacier National Park, was our next scheduled stop, including a two week visit with our fellow RVing friends Glenn and Lynn.  Just about the time we arrived in Coram, all set to explore Glacier, a wildfire broke out on the east side of the park, resulting in the closing of the Going to the Sun Road from a spot called Big Bend to St. Mary.  Bummer. 

But Glacier is a big place, and we found plenty to do on the west side. We started with a day of kayaking in our AdvancedFrame Sport inflatable kayaks by Advanced Elements at the always spectacular Lake McDonald. We haven't said too much about our new kayaks yet, but we're really happy with them. Lynn and Glenn turned us on to them, so the four of us inflated our four identical kayaks and hit the water.  Honey joined in. (We may need to get her one too.) They are SO much easier to assemble and break down than our old folding models. They ride and track nicely, plus they're soft. I like soft. 

Another day we all went rafting on the middle fork of the Flathead River with the Glacier Raft Company. Bold and experienced Glenn and Lynn kayaked in the company's inflatable kayak's, which weren't very comfy, while Rick and I joined a team of about 10 in a raft.  And one final time, we all kayaked the Flathead River for about 6 quiet miles near Columbia Falls.

Kayaking the "Lazy" Flathead River

While the fire was still blazing away on the park's east side we were able to hike the Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail on the west side. They are very popular trails at the slowest of times, and with the other side of the park closed off, everyone hiked what was available. So it was crowded, but hey...

Rick on the Avalanche Lake Trail

Although St. Mary was closed, Two Medicine, an area in the southeast corner of the park, was open, so we drove over there. What was most amazing about these two weeks, is that we never saw any smoke from the huge fire until the very last day as we prepared to move. Clear blue skies even at Two Medicine.

Two Medicine Lake and Sinopah Mountain
 Finally, the Going to the Sun Road opened up as far as Logan Pass, so we hit the road as far as we could go one evening after supper. No traffic, no crowds. Hallelujah. It was a gorgeous night for a drive and a hike.

Sunset at Logan Pass

Moonrise at Logan Pass

 Alright, Glacier experience done. On to the northwestern corner of Montana, completely new territory for us. McGregor Lakes RV was our first stop for a few days. While there we heard from our nice neighbors that there was a skydiving event nearby, so we checked that out. Another first for us. Hundreds of skydivers were jumping in groups. Very fun to watch. Boy did we learn a lot about a sport of which we previously knew nothing at all. Love doing these different things. No, we didn't try it.

While at McGregor Lake we met our first Montana bear, as reported in my last post. Here's another cute shot of the friendly younster.

Our next move took us to Libby, not a very big place, but it has some interesting features. For one thing, it has a dog park! But it's a very well kept secret. I found it by accident while looking for some trails at the local multi-purpose park. Found the trails, and there was the dog park! So we spent every evening there meeting the locals at J. Neils Memorial Park. We camped at Woodland RV Park, which we liked very much. Lots of tall spruce trees, grass and big sites.

Libby is right on the Kootenai River and we took our new found courage in hand (up until know we've been flat water paddlers) and kayaked the river for about seven miles. It's an easy river at this location. 

Kootenai River

We also took a drive up river to the Libby Dam, Lake Koocanusa and on to the very cute town on Eureka.

Lake Koocanusa just above Libby Dam

Have I mentioned how hot it is here lately? We highly recommend G's Homemade ice cream stand in Eureka. It's a tiny yellow house with brightly colored picnic tables and umbrellas, right on the main street of town. She had ten homemade flavors the day we visited, and we can attest to the excellence of vanilla and butter pecan.

So the ice cream was great, the lakes and rivers are beautiful, but the peak of our stay in this rural corner of Montana has got to be the Kootenai Falls and the Swinging Bridge, hands down. Located just west of Libby on Rt. 2, it's an easy day trip with lots of hiking options right from the parking lot. The Falls are less than a mile from the road and require some hiking to see them. Once there, you are free to scramble among the rocks that contain and form the Falls. They are quite powerful and good judgement must be used because there are no fences restricting access.

Dogs are allowed throughout, but there are several challenges to having them along. First, there is a multi-storied metal stairway with perforated steps and platforms that could creep out most dogs. (Honey would have nothing to do with it. So we came back another day without her.) If your dog gets past the stairs, then there is the challenge of scrambling around on the multilayered rocks precariously close to the rushing, pounding waterfalls. I can only imagine...

Finally, there is the swinging bridge across the raging river. I didn't see any dogs taking on that challenge either. In fact there were quite a few people who declined. It really swings and could give anyone with a mild fear of heights the heeby-jeebies. So without dogs, it's a great place to explore and could easily be a full day experience, with many places ideal for a picnic.

We'll be in Montana for a few more weeks, in St. Regis to ride the Hiawatha Trail, in Missoula, Helena, Bozeman and beyond...


  1. Oh my, I have a lot to comment on in this post! Looks like it has been a wonderful summer in MT. That alpen glow sunset is a stunner! Honey is adorable in the kayak...I think she needs her own ;-). We did a tube trip and a kayak trip on the Swan River with friends when we visited Bigfork two years ago, it was without doubt a highlight of our stay! We were fortunate to hit the Avalanche Trail early enough that few were out yet and we saw our first bear there! By the end of the hike it was full of people though, I can only imagine what you went through with half the park closed! This photo of the bear is quite different than the first shot...it is interesting how different fur is on the head and shoulders from the rest of the body! Kootenai Falls looks and sounds fantastic...you've given us some reasons to return to MT beyond the small portion we'll see in the next couple of weeks!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting on such a long post Lisa. Yes, that bear was really shaggy, with kind of golden long fur. I hope you enjoy your time in Montana as much as we did. We're heading east now, gradually, and will leave Montana by the end of the month.


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