Category Archives: Montana

Idaho – not just potatoes

OK, just want to go back to chronological order.
I left Spokane heading north on a small, narrow, curvy road that runs parallel to hwy 2. Sometimes, I ask myself why I choose these roads and I quickly remember when I am back on major roads with all the traffic and no place to stop. When I drove to Spokane I was surrounded by wheat fields and desert and now I was once again surrounded by pine trees and some birch trees that showed already their fall colors and it was only early September.
Originally, I thought I would drive through Coeur d’Alene and then go up north; however, I had no interest to go back on I-90 with crazy drivers. So I opted for highway 2.

Kootenai River my campground- idyllic

Highway 2 leads through the narrow panhandle of Idaho with lot’s of pine and mixed tree forests. A stark contrast to southern Idaho with its lava fields and a much more barren landscape. Before I knew it I had almost driven through Idaho with only one little stop in Bonners Ferry for lunch. No, no, I can’t just drive through this beautiful place and not haven taken a single photo. So, instead of continuing into Montana, I stopped in Moyie Springs, twelve miles west of the Montana border, and stayed at the Twin Rivers campground. The campground was down in a valley at the confluence of the the Kootenai River and Moyie River. The road down to the campground was pretty steep and of course a dirt road. The drive down was definitely worth it. My site was surrounded by pine trees and the river was just 50 yards away. What a difference to the asphalt lot I stayed in the night before. I spent the afternoon walking along the river, just enjoying the peace and quiet, skipping rocks. OK, nothing is ever perfect. At the top of the mountain was a lumber mill with the equipment running 24/7. The noise was not very loud, but annoying enough when I tried to fall asleep.

Kootenai River

I managed to leave early the next morning, but was robbed by one hour as soon as I crossed into Montana. I do prefer heading west where you gain an hour. The scenery just got better. I don’t know if you ever watched the 1992 movie “A River Runs Through It” directed by Robert Redford with Brad Pitt. If you haven’t, google it and watch the fly fishing scene, then you know what I looked at throughout my drive thru eastern Montana. There are many wide mountain rivers and I couldn’t help but to constantly think of that fly fishing scene, gorgeous.

Kootenai Falls

The drive to Glacier National Park lead through forests and mountains with rivers running along side the road. The mountains ran parallel to the road until I arrived in Kalispell and I all of a sudden faced this huge mountain range right in front of me. The Rocky Mountains. Wow, what a site. These are truly impressive mountains. Fortunately, I didn’t have to drive over them at this time.

Crystal clear water at Lake McDonald

At Glacier I camped at the Apgar campground right in woods by Lake McDonald. No electricity or running water. That solar panel on the top of my camper came in very handy, kept my batteries charged for the four days I stayed in Glacier.

Glacier - Moss covered hemlocks

Glacier is quite incredible. I have never seen clear water like that in Lake McDonald and the rivers around it. Mountain reflections in the lake look like paintings.

Fall colors - Aspen trees

One of my excursions led to Bowman Lake, north west of Lake McDonald. It was supposed to be this very quiet spot not too many people travel to. Well, there were not too many people, but it wasn’t quiet. Unfortunately, sound traveled extremely well at the lake and I could follow people’s conversations from several hundred feet away. So much for a quiet place. There are two roads that lead to Bowman Lake, the Inside North Fork Road, 30 miles of not so fun dirt road. Took me over three hours to get to the lake. The other route is on Camas Road and the Outside North Fork Road. A mix of asphalt and dirt road, but not anywhere as bad as the inside road. Took just over one hour to get back.

Polebridge Mercantile

Treat yourself to some great baked goods at the Polebridge Mercantile just before Bowman Lake. The huckleberry bear claw was wonderful. I wish I had taken the Outside road in both directions.

Glacier - Dead trees

The other excursion was a four mile round trip hike to Avalanche Lake. I usually don’t go on these slightly longer hikes, but I was told I definitely should, so I did. It was a mostly uphill hike. Avalanche Lake is completely surrounded by mountains.

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Gorge

On the eastern side, several waterfalls run down the mountains, very cool. Despite the fact that there were a bunch of people, it was peaceful. I stayed for a while just marveling at the sites. I don’t know what possessed me, but I had to run back. It was downhill and who can resist running downhill? I wasn’t dressed for a run, but I have to say I made pretty good time, 25 minutes for two miles over roots and rocks is not too shabby. I slept well that night.

Lake McDonald at sunset

Winter has arrived

Snow in September

I woke up to 46 F (8C) inside my camper, had moved the on button for the heater in the wrong direction. Outside it was snowing. I didn’t think that I would have to pull out my winter gloves in September. Heading south in Montana to where it is only raining.

Really not that cold.

Cut Bank - Coldest spot in the nation

Half way mark reached or maybe not?

Wow, it is hard to believe, but I have now been on the road for six months! This means only six months left until I return to New York or not. At this time I would love to continue traveling, just have to find a way to fund it. I also have to see how I make it through the winter. I just left Glacier National Park in northern Montana and they forecasted five inches of snow for tonight. I am now staying in Cut Bank, a town of 3,200 about 100 miles east of Glacier and the temperatures are dropping fast and the wind is blowing. I am just glad that I bought a small space heater before I left Glacier. This way I don’t have to use my propane to heat the camper. This of course only works when I am hooked-up to electric.
One thing I have realized on this trip is that I have to overcome my fears of the unknown. When I left New York, I was petrified of low clearance bridges, the thought of camping without power or water hook-up had not entered my mind (I spent the last four nights without either) and only two weeks ago I freaked out about running into freezing temperatures. How did I overcome those fears? It is a gradual process. Take the approaching winter. Not only was I afraid I wouldn’t make it to Glacier National Park and Bryce Canyon before the temperatures reach the freezing mark. But I also didn’t know how to make sure that the water coming into the camper wouldn’t freeze in the water hose. It took a little time and I just said to myself, so what if it gets really cold. It also helped that I did some research and spoke to people who new the places first hand. Having talked to a fellow RVer about the water situation definitely put my mind at ease. Bottom line, having first hand information and experience is the way to put your fears to rest.

Here a few stats:
Miles driven: 16,400
Gallons of gas pumped: approx. 1,500
States visited: 14
Nights not slept in the camper: 12

Lake McDonald

More about Montana in the next post.