Disclaimer: Montana And Beyond covers a lot of territory!
Our last minute decision to avoid Alaska meant that, except for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October, we had no idea what we were going to do or where we would do it. I had to scramble. I managed to find a spot at Logan State Park in Kalispell, Montana for 4 days. But the big find was a 3 week spot on Flathead Lake! It involved, yup, Shiny Luck. I’ll tell you all about that in a bit.
I would have loved to spend time in some of Idaho’s eye opening State Parks. I started to book a site at one Idaho State Park but was surprised to find out that Idaho charges non-residents a large extra fee. Many states charge an extra fee for non-residents but Idaho, it seemed to me, was over the top . It was going to cost us over $70 per day for a campsite. We decided to pass on Idaho State Parks. Besides, by this point we had our 3 week stint on Flathead Lake confirmed.
We did stop for one night in the panhandle of Idaho at an RV park called Ravenwood RV Resort. This was convenient, but mainly we wanted to get the State of Idaho on our map! Shiny has to spend at least one night in a state for us to put that state on the map. We feel a little chintzy doing this one night in a state thing but rules are rules!
On to Logan State Park in Montana.
Our arrival here was not without incident. Our reserved site was far to small for Shiny. But as Shiny Luck would have it, there was a cancelation in one of the larger sites. We grabbed it.
I’ll showcase this lovely park with a slideshow.
We had a very pleasant stay at this secluded Montana State Park. The big thing that happened here though, was that Sue was able hook up with her friend Helen. The last time Sue saw Helen was in 1976 when they were room mates in St. Paul, Minnesota. They were both enrolled in an experiential learning program called Dynamy. As a fun side note, about 15 years ago, Sue was looking for someone to make a case for her bodhran (Irish Drum). At the recommendation of a friend, she contacted Coon Hollow Canvas in Kila, Montana. After a few emails back and forth, she realized that her old friend Helen was the owner and chief seamstress of that company. Small world.
We wanted to spend some time in the Flathead Lake area. I didn’t think it was going to happen at first. Campsites were extraordinarily expensive. I called one place and they wanted $1000 per week!
On a whim I emailed an Airstream club member that offered Courtesy Parking in Bigfork, Montana.
For those that don’t know, one of the benefits of an Airstream Club membership is Courtesy Parking. Club members from all across the USA, Canada, and Mexico offer fellow club members free places to park for the night. Sometimes they don’t mind if you stay for a few days. We use this perk often. So that you can get an idea of how extensive this benefit is, here is a generalized map from the online Airstream Courtesy Parking directory.
Using the online directory, I emailed a club member on Flathead lake about a courtesy parking spot for a night or two. At the same time, I asked them if they knew of a place where we could stay for 3 weeks that was close by. They replied that yes we most certainly could use their Courtesy Parking spot. In addition he and his wife owned an Airstream glamping business which was part of the Flathead Lake Resort. They had an open glamping spot that we could use for 3 weeks.
Bingo! And a far cry from $1000 per week let me tell you.
The above pictures show Shiny in amongst the (mostly) Airstream glamping section of the resort. I think we fit right in, don’t you? The resort also offered Cabin and Cottage rentals. A Flathead Lake Resort community beach was just a 2 minute walk from Shiny. I mean is this cool or what! The resort stayed very, very busy.
We settled in for our month on Flathead Lake. Sue spent quite a bit of time on the beach. Did you know Sue likes to peruse rocks? 😊 Here is a slide show of the beach at Flathead Lake Resort.
Did I mention that Sue likes to gather, collect, and take pictures of rocks?
One day some friends from Wolfeboro, Brent & Laura, stopped in for a visit. They were coming back from a long camping, hiking, and exploring trip on the west coast and happened to be passing through the Flathead Lake region.
Just up the street from the resort was a small craft beer establishment called A Sip Of Montana. They sold only Montana made beers on tap. There was a BBQ food vender just outside. Brent and Laura visited us at the resort, then we all moved to A Sip Of Montana where we enjoyed some great Montana beer and a fabulous BBQ meal. This was a real treat for us as we seldom go out to eat.
After being on the road for 6 years it was fun to get caught up on Wolfeboro news. Oh, and by the way, A Sip Of Montana sold the best damn soft pretzels I’ve ever had. They cooked them in a pizza oven. A pizza box was barely able to hold them, they were a meal onto themselves.
Here are a few more pictures from around the resort.
There were several State Parks around Flathead lake and we took some time to visit them. Again best viewed with a slide show.
As you can see in the slide show, it got smokey here towards the end of our stay. We left Flathead Lake Resort with some wonderful memories.
During our stay at Flathead lake I have one memory that was not so wonderful. My older sister Joann passed away back in Tuftonboro, NH. My younger sister, Mary Lou, was with her during her last days and so, via FaceTime, I was able to talk to Joann near the end and say my goodbyes. A sad time indeed. Goodby Joann, may you rest in peace.
All right Glacier National Park here we come!
With a couple of exceptions we were disappointed with Glacier National Park. We made the mistake of showing up on Labor Day Weekend. There were just too many people. It will be understandable if, by the end of this section on Glacier, you concluded that I am a curmudgeon.
You needed a pass to get into the park and they were very difficult to obtain if you didn’t plan way, way ahead. I was able to get a pass for the main entrance to the park months ago, so off we went.
The line to get in to the main entrance was very long. Lots of people did not know about the required entry pass and were turned away. Once you got into the park you could not pull over to enjoy the scenery because the pullouts’ were full of cars. While driving in the park if someone thought they saw a wild animal, people just stopped in the middle of the road blocking traffic. You were stuck! We made the best of what we had.
Unable to reserve a campsite in the park we settled for a private RV park called Glacier Campground, just outside the main gate to the National Park. I can’t say anything bad about this campground and we recommend it. The campground was full but everything was orderly and the people running it were polite and very helpful. They explained to us the ins and outs of the Park and some things to see there. The nice young women behind the counter doing the talking mentioned to us that she had been charged by grizzlies twice. Yikes!
Then there was the smoke from all the wildfires. We had a taste of this at Flathead Lake but here it was overwhelming. You couldn’t see far at all. We both felt nauseous at times from breathing in the smoke.
It turns out that you need a separate pass for the North Fork section of Glacier National Park. The North Fork is in the uppermost northwest section of the park, near the Canadian border and 40 miles on a mostly dirt road from the main entrance where we were camped. Now we’re gettin’ somewhere!
I couldn’t buy this pass ahead of time as they were sold out months ago. But wait, they offer a few tickets 24 hours ahead of the day you want to go there. I was on the computer right at 8 am and somehow was able to get a pass. I’m glad I did because the North Folk trip was the highpoint of the week.
The North Fork section of Glacier can only be reached with a private vehicle via dirt roads. I suppose if you were rambunctious you could walk the 40 odd miles in. Our goal was the Kintla Lake campground very close to the Canadian border.
We encountered very few vehicles on this road. Nice. Lots of wildlife. Nice. Beautiful scenery. Nice
We took our time and enjoyed the drive. The smoke was not quite so bad here. The campground on Kintla Lake was remote, quiet, and the scenery here was outstanding. We spent a number of hours here just taking in the place. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the shore of the lake. What a wonderful afternoon.
We decided to go for a short hike. It turned out to be very short. We packed some water and our bear spray and off we went. We immediately came across grizzly warning signs which started to unsettle us.
Then we came to this tree with claw marks higher then I could reach. We looked at each other, turned around, and headed back to the campground. So much for bravado! Susan didn’t seem to be as nervous about a grizzly attack as I was but then she didn’t have much to worry about as she can run faster then I can.
The whole Glacier Park pass thing was confusing and nerve racking. What an unpleasant experience. My recommendation is if you intend to go to Glacier National Park, either go in the shoulder season when you don’t need passes or get your passes as far in advance as you possibly can. Do not go on a Holiday weekend. Do not go when there are wildfires in the area. I know, that might be hard to do when you have to buy passes months in advance.
Do, by all means, visit the North Fork section of the park.
After our time in Glacier, Susan turned to me and said, “Larry, my eyes are tired.” I asked her what she meant by that and she said that she felt that she was running out of room for new adventures. I was thinking the same thing and agreed with her. It was one of those pivotal moments in life when you know the tide is changing. We really don’t have any plans for ending this adventure but we felt that we had turned a corner on the road of our adventures in Shiny.
We left Glacier hoping for a better experience and dag nab it if we didn’t get one! We drove to Double B RV Park in Stanford, Montana expecting to spend just one night. In the end we liked the little town so much we spent 3 days there.
The town had a plethora of flowers. After Glacier the town of Stanford lifted our spirits. They had a caretaker that went around weeding, trimming, and watering the town flowers daily.
Sue found a small barber shop in town and got her hair cut. Andy, the barber, started cutting hair the year Sue was born, 1957! Andy was now cutting the hair of the grandchildren of his original customers. He said that he had a hard time imaging being retired. Andy’s barber shop was like a scene from Andy Mayberry, RFD.
The ever smiling campground owner was also a caterer. She made this arrangement for one of her functions. There were several hundred dollars in that bouquet!
There happened to be a full moon during our stay.
We moved on to our next port of call. A place I’ve wanted to see since I was a grade 3, top of the class, student at Carpenter School.
OK, so I wasn’t a, “top of the class” student in grade 3 at Carpenter School. 🙄 It doesn’t change the fact that I’ve wanted to see this National Monument since then.
As we all know from grammar school the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand, is where the U.S. Army fought the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians. Custer and his men were all killed here, along with many Native Americans.
Over the years I have read several books on Custer and this tragic episode in our history. Nathaniel Philbrick’s great book The Last Stand being the latest. These book helped me understand the battlefield better. Seeing the gullies where soldiers tried to escape but were caught and killed, the stones marking where men on both sides fell was a somber experience.
The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument did, in my opinion, a great job of telling this story with respect to both sides. I learned so much here as I immersed myself in the battlefield and the visitors center.
Here is a short slide show of our visit.
While driving to our next destination, we listened to an audio version of The Last Stand. Now that we had toured the battlefield this gave us even more insight and understanding of what took place here. We left Montana and I scratched the Little Bighorn line from my bucket list.
We drove into Wyoming and our first stop was interesting. Mikesell-Potts Recreation Area County Park is located on the south shore of Lake Desmet just north of Buffalo, Wyoming. It is a first come first serve campground and uses the honor system for payment. There were very few people here when we drove in and we pretty much had our pick of the many campsites. We had great views of the lake and surrounding mountains, a nice breeze, and fields of Pronghorn Antelope.
We were running out of time as we had to be in Albuquerque for the balloon fiesta. A couple of days was all we could afford. Still, Susan manage to capture some nice photos’.
What I remember most about this stop were the hundreds of fish in the lake near the shore just milling around. I didn’t know what what kind of fish they were or why they were all along the shore until I asked a maintenance worker what was going on. He told me the fish were spawning carp. I’d never seen anything like this before. I couldn’t capture any decent pictures with my Iphone so I gleaned two pictures from the Internet. This is very close to what we saw.
Time to move on. Our next stop was just an overnight but a pleasant one. Riverside Park in Douglas, WY. I mean what’s not to like about free safe overnight parking, free picnic tables, free North Platte River access, free restrooms, free showers, free potable water, and a free dump station. The only thing lacking was a free beach for Susan to pick up some rocks. 😊 (come on that was funny) Kudos to the town of Douglas, WY for making this delightful location available.
The next stop on our quest to get to Albuquerque was a Harvest Host called Furrow Tractor Repair, just outside of Colorado Springs, CO. We stayed here for a couple of nights. The view here was farm land for as far as you could see. And the sun sets were spectacular!! My oh my were they beautiful.
The hosts here, Kim and Dave were friendly and welcoming. They offered a free 30 amp hookup and fresh produce from their garden. We consumed some of the tastiest fresh tomatoes since we grew our own back in NH. Nothing like a tomato right out of the garden.
Kim and Susan found things in common and still keep in touch to this day. Dave helped me with a problem I had with Shiny. I needed specialized tools for a minor repair on Shiny that he had in his shop.
This old Dodge was Dave’s father’s. I hope I have that right. Anyway, He kept it in pristine condition, what a beautiful vehicle. Dave made his living repairing farm tractors. By the looks of all the tractors he had lined up on his property he kept might busy.
Then to top it all off, one day Sue and I had lunch with my niece Krishna and her husband Joe. I warned Krishna and Joe that we would be pestering them. They didn’t seem to mind.
Our final stop before the balloon fiesta, which is a story Susan is very anxious to tell, was Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, CO.
Here is this blog post’s final slideshow. Susan did a great job, as usual with her camera. Alas, this was the twilight hour for her trusty camera. Let me just say that Susan was a bit upset that she would be going to the Balloon Fiesta without her trusty 35 mm. camera.
Finally, I was extremely delighted to come across my first rattlesnake in the wild on one of my walks.
Then I was very disappointed to find out, via more knowledgeable friends on Facebook, that this might not be a rattlesnake. The consensus was either a baby Massasauga Rattlesnake, baby Gopher Snake, or a baby Plains Hognose. I’m still not sure to this day what kind of snake this was. Foiled again, I thought I’d be able to scratch another line off of that bucket list.
Please leave a comment if you think you know what kind of snake this is.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, you are a patient person. It’s time now for Balloons!!