3 - 13 September 2015 Montana - Whitefish

September 13, 2015

Thursday 3rd September

We have had a wonderful and memorable summer in Canada and in particular Alberta and Jasper National Park but it is time to move on and back to the USA.

Headed down to the US border this morning. I called into the grocery store in Magrath before we left to spend our last Canadian dollars. The lady on the till was from Leeds, would you believe! It really is a small world. From town the local road 62 is a nice single lane road that runs through prairie farmland right down to the border. All the fields are corn yellow and it looked like most of the harvest was in, just as well as it is raining today. The landscape changed to rolling prairie as we entered the foothills of the Rockies. There were isolated farms and ranches with cattle grazing on the vast prairie land. The road was very quiet, we only saw one other vehicle. As we neared the border there were oil pump jacks working in the fields and gas burn off flames.  We crossed the Milk River bridge and came to the border at a little place called Del Bonita. At the border control office we had our finger prints taken and a photograph. The lady we saw was friendly and helpful, she asked where we had travelled and where we intended go in the US and when we planned to exit. We were then issued with a permit to stay for a further six months. Heading into Montana along a partly dirt track road

we came to ‘Camp Disappointment’ which is the site where the Lewis and Clarke expedition reached its northernmost point on the return trip from the Pacific Northwest.

Turned onto US highway 2 west. This is Blackfeet reservation country and we went through the town of Blackfoot and then Browning where the Museum of the Plains Indian is situated. Next town was East Glacier and here the terrain had changed to lush green forests as we headed towards the Rockies and Glacier National Park. Crossed the Continental Divide at Marias Pass then through Flathead National Forest skirting around the southern border of the National Park. As we came to the Park we entered a forest fire area and was escorted through by a pilot car. We took Montana Route 40, crossing the Whitefish River and on to US 93 into the town of Whitefish. We booked in at the Whitefish RV Park which is within the city limits about a mile from the downtown area. The Park is secluded in trees and well off the main highway.

 

Friday 4th September

The sun came out late morning and after lunch we did the thirty minute walk into town. A really nice mountain town with plenty of quality small shops, boutiques, galleries, bars and restaurants. Central Avenue has well renovated western style buildings beside covered sidewalks. The town is set next to Whitefish Lake where there is a beach and overlooking the lake and town a mountain ski resort. The town began life in 1903 when the Great Northern Railway Company made their headquarters at Whitefish. Timber, farming, ranching and the railroad was the backbone of the economy until tourism and skiing became popular.

 

 

Saturday 5th September.

Whitefish has a great dog park, one of the best we have been to and apparently rated one of the top ten in the USA.

 

Dog parks and bars are great places to get to know people – and dogs. The park has plenty of room for the dogs to run, an agility course and a small lake for them to swim.

 

Went into town this evening and paid a visit to the Northern Brewing Company.

Sunday 6th September

Took Sandy to the dog park. Caught up with Chris and Dave on the phone and Simon and Nin on FaceTime and got the news from home.

 

Monday 7th September – Labour Day

This is the last weekend holiday of the summer. The day is overcast but we decided to take a ride up to the Whitefish Mountain Resort that overlooks the town and lake. This where the ski village is located and the gondola and chair lift to the summit.

 

Tuesday 8th September

Visited Glacier National Park today. We started at the West Glacier park entrance and got onto Going-to-the-Sun-Road that runs across the park to the east entrance at St Mary. We travelled past the long McDonald Lake past cedar-hemlock forest,

 

through a mountain tunnel and climbed until the road switched back giving scenic views of the mountains and the dramatic tree covered valley below.

The weather is dull with a lot of low cloud obscuring the mountains but it was moving quite quickly and suddenly high mountain summits were revealed as the cloud cleared.

Here we also got a close look at the aftermath of the forest fire that happened in 2003. Across the valley we saw Bird Woman Falls

 

as we continued around sweeping bends with views of the winding road as we headed towards Logan Pass. We saw the popular Red Jammer buses along the road conducting guided tours in vintage 1930’s convertibles.

As we got higher passing alpine meadows the weather became more wintery with snow on the mountains. Logan Pass sits on the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet and the temperature was just above freezing. There was snow on the ground and a sleety rain had started to fall accompanied by strong winds.

From here we started to descend and went through another mountain tunnel – the road was constructed in 1932 and is something of an engineering marvel. We came to spectacular views of St Mary Lake with mountains in the background and the tiny Wild Goose Island.

Along the lake there was an area of ghostly looking trees with blackened trunks after what looked like a very recent fire.

Soon the landscape changed to prairie that supplies winter range for a large elk population. We came to the visitor centre and the small town of St Mary where we exited the park and headed south on Montana 89 through the Blackfeet Reservation. The park is a beautiful wild place, it was a shame it was such a grey day but it did not diminish the parks grandeur. Travelling through prairie land that had free roaming cattle herds, we actually saw a cowboy herding cattle. We picked up Canada 2 at East Glacier and continued west back to Whitefish. On the way we saw what looked like a wolf run across the highway. He ran over to the gate of a property and sat down to watch us go by. It could have been a wolf dog because domestic dogs are sometimes bred with wolves, whichever it was an impressive looking animal. Although there had been a lot of rain we spotted two or three patches of smoke in the forest where fires were still smoldering,

 

Wednesday 9th September

Waited in today for FedEx to arrive with some items we have ordered. Sandy now has a tagg GPS pet tracker. We decided there is a lot of wilderness out there if she ever did wander off and get lost, therefore, we need to be able to track her. Since attaching the device to her collar we now get emails from Sandy with messages like – ‘I am outside of the Tagg Zone’ with her exact location and a map, ‘Love Sandy’. Then when she is back at the RV, ‘I’m Near the Home Docking Station’, time, date, address. ‘I am back where I am supposed to be, and my tracker is in power saving mode. Love Sandy’.

 

Thursday 10th September

Weather has changed back to summer. Went into town and took Sandy to the dog park. Got the large stock pot out and cooked up a heap of food. There was still stock in the freezer that we had saved from the crab pot we cooked back in June at Bandon. We defrosted and heated the stock, added chicken, corn on cob pieces, small red and white potatoes, onions, garlic and carrots. The stock had kept really well and had lots of flavor, delicious.

 

Friday 11th September

We sent off for our post at the beginning of the week and today a box arrived from Escapees full of post from the UK, including my birthday cards and a new satnav. Since leaving the US in June we had not had any post, hence the box full of correspondence. The satnav had gone back to Magellen because it was faulty and we have managed quite well without it, largely because we had the Milepost book which gave us a step by step detailed route through Canada up to Alaska, a brilliant publication. We were also very pleased to receive Jose's new book, Venison: the Game Larder. It really is superb, beautiful to look at, informative and has great recipes.

Sandy sits outside the RV most days transfixed watching the squirrels running around the camp.

Saturday 12th September

Hot and sunny today - 28 degrees. Went to Beaver Lake just north of Whitefish and walked the trail through the forest with Sandy off leash, she had the best time. Occasionally we came out of the forest to good views over miles of wilderness. The trail was very quiet, just the odd jogger or mountain bike rider. The forest had been thinned out, therefore there was lots of light coming through the tree tops, plenty of plants and shrubs and good views through the trees to keep an eye on Sandy.

 

 

 After our trek we came back to the camp for a rest before going into town for a drink. First I went to have a look at the old rail station while Tony went to Ace Hardware – a favourite shop! The station was built in 1927 and Amtrak operate a twice daily passenger service, while Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway operate freight between Chicago and Seattle.

Went to Casey’s Saloon up to the Skybar which is an open terrace at the top of the building that overlooks the town and mountains. There was a nice breeze after the hot day and we watched the sun go down.

 

 Followed by a visit to the Great Northern Brewing Company just across the road. This is one of the tallest buildings in town, with a three story ‘Gravity Flow Brewhouse’ open to view and covering three floors.

 

 

Sunday 13th September

Went to Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain and got the chairlift up to the summit.

 

 

 The summit is nearly 7,000 feet and we walked the east rim trail which gave us views over Whitefish Lake and Glacier National Park. There was a lot of UV in the air which made for a hazy view but nevertheless it was still pretty impressive. The slopes of the mountain are a riot of colour, the aspen trees are turning yellow and the Huckleberry bush leaves are now bright red signaling the onset of autumn, although it is like a summers day today.

 

 

 

 

 

 There are a lot of mountain bike trails on the mountain but we noticed some people preferring to put their bikes on the chairlift up to the summit to ride down only.

 

 

 

 

 

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