We had entered into a strange new land on the 8th of August – America. We cruised the desolate northern Montana roads, sensing danger around every corner but finding none. Aside from a baking sun, it seemed that this new land was just as hospitable as the last.
First stop on the road south was the town of Whitefish. To be perfectly honest, we were expecting something similar to many of the towns we’d experienced in the eastern U.S. – gray, depressing strip malls with unhealthy-looking people lumbering about and no centralized area within which to stroll and enjoy the purported urban delights. Whitefish was quite the opposite, with a quaint downtown core best accessed by foot and a range of upmarket shopfronts and alternative restaurants to welcome the weary traveler.
Being a Saturday night, it was highly unlikely that we’d secure a table at one of these classy food joints, so we settled for wholesome yet delicious burritos at the aptly named Wrap and Roll Cafe and then headed to Whitefish State Park in the hopes of securing a much-needed RV site with full hookups. As luck would have it (the park ranger told us we should now go and buy a lottery ticket), one site had just become available! Hurrah! The reason this site had become available was due to the fact that it was a handicapped RV spot, which the park had a policy of holding reserved for a worthy inhabitant until after 6pm each day, at which point the spot would become available to the general public. Feeling a little like impostors at occupying a handicapped spot but also quite chuffed at securing the best site in the park, we settled down for the night, serenely ignoring the envious stares of our RV neighbours in their lowly gravelled, waterless lots.
Next day saw us on the hunt for much-needed mobile providers, so that Liivi might continue her article writing unimpeded. Being a Sunday, basically everything was closed, and thus ensued a hunt for cell providers which encompassed multiple cities. Eventually we found an open AT&T store in the city of Kalispell, and rushed in with phones and wads of cash outstretched. Phone plan established, food stocks secured, and accumulated poopies dumped, I wrenched the Hunk o Junk’s nose towards the east and we headed in the direction of Glacier National Park.
Glacier turned out to be an excellent little spot, and we ended up staying 3 nights – considerably longer than intended. In an effort not to bore my humble audience, I’ve kindly provided a summary of our activities over the next couple of days at Glacier NP:
Day 1: Hung out by Lake McDonald, a rather uninspiring name for a lake but a very beautiful lake regardless. Once again, I was reminded of the similarity between this lake and those in the Lakes District of New Zealand – cool, crisp, super clear waters with soaring mountains in the background. Needless to say, we enjoyed many swims that day (4, I believe), and I took a pleasant but slightly windy paddle down the lake in search of fishies (located many thereof, but they rather stubbornly refused to bite my hooks). We topped the day off with some pleasant Huckleberry ice cream, then retired back to our RV site just outside the park.
Day 2: Cruised down the “Going to the Sun Road” and walked up to Avalanche Lake – a cool ultra-reflective lake high up in the mountains. The walk was somewhat challenging, especially with the hot temps, but most of it was in the shade and the scenery was very nice indeed. Once arriving at the lake, we made a point of swimming in the deliciously freezing waters (attracting quite a few uncomprehending stares in the process) then did a spot of fishing, successfully landing and releasing a small but sprightly rainbow.
Following completion of our Avalanche Lake walk, we were drawn back to the awesomeness of Lake McDonald and enjoyed another 4 swims, more unsuccessful fishing, and yet another ice cream.
The next day, we said a cheerful goodbye to Glacier and continued out route south, stopping off for copious amounts of sugar-containing products at the Huckleberry Patch (having become addicted to the darn things up in Golden, BC), multiple swims at the rather impressive Flathead Lake, and spending some quality time with a lot of large mammals at the National Bison Range.
Eventually, through the shimmering heatwaves (only half of which were being created by our great overheated beast of an RV), we saw the city of Missoula on the the horizon – our refuge for the night. “Refuge” may be stretching it a bit, as we spent the night camped out in yet another hot, loud Walmart with ten thousand other RV’s, but it was better than nothing.
We continued through the blistering heat the next day (temperatures soaring to well over 44 degrees celsius – this was normal, according to the locals) in our un-air conditioned, boiling-hot piece of poo RV, eventually making it to our overnight destination of Butte (pronounced “beaute”, not “butt”, as I was reminded patiently many times) and the “2 Bar Lazy H RV Campground” (god knows why the heck it was called that).
Next morning, we got up relatively smartly (by our standards, anyway) and popped into downtown Butte for an historic tour of the mining town. The tour guide took us through the old Butte prison, the “underground city”, and a cool speakeasy.
Moving on from Butte, our next destination was Yellowstone National Park, via a sapphire mine which Liivi wanted to check out. Here, we picked out a bag of rocks and panned for Montana sapphires for 45 minutes, which was actually quite enjoyable considering the fact that we found over 19 carats worth of the sparkly blue guys, some of which were of an excellent grade.
Stashing our newly acquired wealth of gems, we spent a very pleasant evening at the Carabella Recreation Area, an official free camping area right beside the Yellowstone River. Here, we swam, fished, chilled, and were bedazzled by some double rainbow action. A fitting end to our Montana experience.