It is our 58th Excellent Adventure! We waffled for two decades trying to decide if we were really going to take Montana off the list. The big problem was that the distance between places is very long and we weren’t sure we could do a BNEA style adventure. We decided to go and it has been one of the Top 10 trips.
We centered around Northern Montana near Glacier National Park. The first three nights were spent at the Whitefish Resort in a room that dropped all the way down to 84 degrees at night until I figured out how to open the window. One night each in Libby and Kalispell ended the trip.
The photos will give you a good idea of what we did.
Whitefish Mountain Resort
The resort, on Big Mountain, is huge. It is a massive ski area with summer activities including rides to the summit, biking down the mountain, hiking and general outdoor stuff. Covid closed most of the food and snack places but overall it was a nice place. We rode the chair lift up to the summit after I picked Bruce up from the airport. Gotta get going as soon as we can!
In 1908, the federal government established the National Bison Range in the middle of our treaty-reserved home, the Flathead Indian Reservation, on land taken without our consent. The bison herd there descends from a free-ranging Reservation herd started by Tribal members in the 1800’s when plains bison were near extinction.
We saw many more bison at Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota but this is still a very nice drive. It is a one lane one way road that takes an hour or so at 20 mph.
This place was part of the most unusual drive since losing the zoo in South Carolina. We found it while looking for the Gattis Gardens and it turned out to be a terrific stop. They hatch fish and populate lakes and rivers to help regenerate the species.
Established in 1936, Creston NFH originally provided fingerling trout for stocking waters in Glacier National Park. Today, the hatchery has three main purposes: provide trout for fishery management activities on the seven Tribal Reservations in Montana, stock fish for mitigation purposes under the Hungry Horse Dam Mitigation Program, and produce native bull trout eggs and fry for research projects at various State, Federal, and educational facilities through the Federal Broodstock Program.
We have been to more than 100 gardens and arboretums on our travels and the Gattis (Pronounced with a long “A”) takes the prize for the most interesting one we’ve visited. It took us about an hour to find it (we were a half block away after visiting the hatchery) and it was worth the time and effort.
It is a private home and has been developed by the Gatiss family over decades. Watch the video for a history of the property and enjoy their garden.
This was the reason for the trip and it was the most screwed up preperation ever devised by government. Apparently Covid makes large groups of people, like the National Parks Service, stupid. They required a $2 car pass in addition to the park entry and you had to go on their website at a specific time to get it. We didn’t and worried that we could get into the park but the hotel people told us to just drive there before it opened and go right in, and we did at 5 am.
The park is one of the best we’ve ever been to and suggest that you go, too. Unfortunately the Going-To-the-Sun Road which traverses the park is closed because there is 50 feet of snow blocking the road half way through.
Kootenai Falls and Swinging Bridge – Libby Montana
Every trip has a “#1” attraction and this was ours. We were there early before most of the tourists (hate tourists!) arrived. We trekked to the falls, walked the swinging bridge and I pulled a muscle slipping on the rocks.
From their website: Downstream from Libby, the Kootenai River enters a canyon and flows over Kootenai Falls, one of the largest free-flowing waterfalls in the northwest. The falls and surrounding area are considered sacred to the Kootenai Indians whose ancestors inhabited the region. A forest trail leads from the highway parking lot down to the Swinging Bridge and makes a nice hike that is not too strenuous. Kootenai Falls was the setting for the filming of the movie, “River Wild”.
Thanks to Covid, the dam visitor center was closed. The Kootenai River is the third largest tributary to the Columbia River. Seventeen miles upstream from the town of Libby, the 422-foot tall Libby Dam holds back 90 miles of water in Lake Koocanusa. Forty-eight miles of the reservoir lie within U.S. borders, the other 42 miles are in Canada.
Another instance of raging idiocy was right here. They have a hotel without food service or restaurants. How people can stay at a remote hotel without food is inconceivable. Cell service is nonexistent and the only food was a snack bar with candy and sandwiches. It’s nice inside and has an interesting history. Take a look at their website:
Not quite “A Three Hour Tour” but nice nonetheless. We took the 11:00 tour which meant that we didn’t have to get up at 3 to get to the park before opening. The tour reservation allowed us to enter at our leisure. Very good trip and interesting facts about the region.
We wandered into the Outlaw Diner for breakfast on our way to Libby. Wouldn’t have known there would be a thousand Country Western Albums on the wall, nice people in place and Chicken Fried Steak for breakfast. As soon as I can find my notebook I will update this entry with the names of the couple who own it. Nice folks. Go eat there.
Absolutely no idea where this is except we decided to follow a sign and see where it led. I was very nervous driving down the unpaved road but at the bottom was a Walden Pond kind of lake that had a boat in the middle. A good twenty minutes was had by all.