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Crossing Montana

A River Runs Through It & The Continental Divide

Hello, Friends! This episode of Our Permanent Vacation begins on July 27, 2017 when we left Bonners Ferry, ID, headed toward Montana.

We'd planned to stay at the Elks Lodge in Kalispell, MT. We thought it was really nice there until our electrical service became intermittent. Mike concluded that the power provided was insufficient for the number of rigs there, and we decided to find another place to camp.

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We found a great place to dry camp at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, and stayed here twice while we were in Kalispell. We couldn't believe that we had the place almost all to ourselves In the middle of summer!

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Kalispell, Montana is a cute little town. We really enjoyed exploring it. The original downtown area includes many shops & restaurants and some breweries. We ate the most delicious homemade salted-caramel ice cream at a shop called Sweet Peaks on the corner of 4th and Main.

Birthday In Kalispell - 7/29/17

I had wondered where we'd celebrate my birthday. July 29 was a Saturday. We drove south of Kalispell to the shores of Flathead Lake for brunch. I decided on the very cute Somers Bay Cafe in Somers, MT. It was a good choice. The ambiance was comfortable and our meals were delicious. Highly recommended!

As we explored further south along the lakeshore, we saw cherry orchards everywhere! We finally had to stop at one of the roadside stands and get some fresh-picked cherries to snack on. They were delicious!

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That evening, Mike surprised me with tickets to the local Demolition Derby. I hadn't been to one in years. Talk about an evening with the locals! The event came complete with a hot-dog-eating contest and a fire-breathing dragon. The people-watching was priceless!

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We got permission to camp in the raceway parking lot overnight and took advantage of another great, private campsite.

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Sunday morning we moved Sara back to the fairgrounds and took a drive to Glacier National Park. We were hoping to find a campsite closer to the park's entrance. We found a wooded campground just 5 minutes from Glacier National Park where we were able to reserve a site for Thursday and Friday.

Monday we drove north from Kalispell to Whitefish, MT. This is where some of the scenes from "A River Runs Through It" were filmed. It's a beautiful area. I would have liked spending a little more time there. Maybe next year...

Glacier National Park - 8/4/17

We left Flathead County Fairgrounds on Wednesday morning and spent that night in the parking lot at Super One Foods in Columbia Falls, MT. We were set up in our site at Glacier Campground by noon on Thursday, so I packed a picnic lunch and we headed out for Glacier National Park.

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We ate lunch at the Fish Creek picnic area on the western shore of Lake McDonald. Afterward, we drove a short distance up Going-To-The-Sun Road and took the easy hike around Trail of the Cedars loop. It was peaceful under the giant trees and there is a beautiful waterfall in Avalanche Gorge. Mike took shelter under a tree like a Hobbit to make me laugh. :D This was a perfect way to spend our first afternoon in Glacier NP.

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One of the top "Things To Do" at Glacier NP is to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road. This steep, curvy road connects the east and west sides of the park. Neither one of us wanted to drive because we both wanted to see the view, so we decided to take the shuttle on Friday.

Glacier National Park operates a free shuttle system providing two-way service along Going-To-The-Sun Road. To avoid long lines, we opted to catch the 7:00 AM non-stop shuttle to Logan Pass, the highest point on the road. This was one of many times that we would cross The Continental Divide in our travels.

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We arrived at St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side of the park where it was cold and cloudy. We weren't planning to hike, so we caught the first shuttle back to the west entrance. Going-To-The-Sun Road is a breathtaking drive and well worth doing, whether you intend to hike or not.

I wish we'd had better visibility that day. The air was filled with smoke from the wildfires in the Northeast, and a low cloud-cover obscured the mountain tops. Unfortunately, we didn't get many good photos of the park. This is the best of the bunch:

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We left Glacier Campground on Saturday morning and began heading south. It was time to make our way toward Wyoming where we planned to watch the Total Eclipse of the Sun on August 21, 2017.

We had no idea where we'd be spending Saturday night and our options were limited. The National Bison Range was on our route and I hoped we could find somewhere close to stay for a couple of days so I could see my first bison in the wild.

A few miles south of the Bison Range, we discovered a hidden gem of a campground. Jocko Hollow Campground is nestled in a shady hollow on the banks of Jocko River. The campground is a little tricky to find; our map program gave erroneous directions. If you miss the turn like we did, it's worth it to turn around and follow the signs to Jocko Hollow Campground. The campground owner is welcoming and we were very comfortable there for a couple of days.

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National Bison Range, MT - 8/6/17

Sunday morning I packed a picnic lunch and off we went to the Bison Range. I learned that Theodore Roosevelt established the National Bison Range in 1908 to provide “…for a permanent national bison range for the herd of bison….”. At this range, there are scenic drives, nature walks, fishing access and a day use picnic area.

We took the 19-mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive loop, a self-guided tour through the bison sanctuary. We saw many Pronghorn Antelope right away. It seemed a long time before we spotted our first bison. When we finally did, I was thrilled!

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Eventually, there were lots more bison along the road. Bison like to roll in the mud or dirt, creating shallow depressions called wallows. Once you knew what to look for, you could see bison wallows all over the place.

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Near the end of our tour, we entered the Day Use area of the sanctuary where we saw our first live elk! What a magnificent creature: a 14-point rack! He seemed unconcerned as he grazed between the toilets. He eventually walked in front of our car and disappeared into the dense vegetation and up a very steep slope.

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I was surprised to learn that elk shed their antlers every year. Notice how fuzzy these new antlers are. Later in the year during the mating season, elk rub their antlers on rocks and trees transforming them into bony spikes.

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On Monday morning, we left our cute little campsite at Jocko Hollow and continued south. We passed through Missoula, MT where we had a chance to compare a burger made with bison vs. one made with elk. Both were good, and we decided we liked bison best.

We're always on the lookout for good places to boondock. I found just such a place east of Butte, MT, a few hours drive away. Homestake Pass sits on the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,329 feet. There were several good campsites on this BLM land. Cell service was excellent and we had the place all to ourselves on a Monday night. I bet this place is packed on the weekend!

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Tuesday morning we continued traveling east on I-90. Using freecampsites.net, I found there were several fishing access camps along the Yellowstone River near Big Timber, MT. One we investigated was way too small for us, but the next one was perfect. We lucked out when we found Otter Creek Fishing Access. It was mostly empty in the middle of the week and we had our choice of campsites.

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There's a 7-day limit for free camping at Otter Creek. We still had plenty of time to reach our eclipse-viewing destination in WY, so we relaxed here on the river for 5 days. It got more crowded on the weekend, though and we were ready to leave by Sunday.

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We continued east on I-90 and spent a couple of nights in Billings. Since we needed an oil filter for our generator, we were allowed to stay in the Cummins dealer's parking lot on Sunday night. On Monday, we spent the night at the Billings Elk's Lodge.

Tuesday morning, 8/15, the eclipse was less than a week away and it was time to leave Montana for Wyoming.

Next Stop: A Total Eclipse

I'd been determined to see the Total Eclipse of the Sun ever since our travels began. I just didn't know where on the Path of Totality we would be. As luck would have it, I learned about the Wyoming Eclipse Paramotor Fly-in to be held in Wheatland, WY and the location was directly in the path of totality. So we headed south from Billings, MT for an Appointment with the Sun on August 21, 2017.

Next time, I'll tell you all about our trip through Wyoming and our unscheduled visit to Yellowstone National Park!

Here's a map showing our route through Montana:


If you're interested in following along with us, please subscribe to Our Permanent Vacation by clicking this "Subscribe" link. Thanks for following along! Until next time!

Posted by DillyLynn 16:20

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Great write-up. Keep them coming...

by Tom Pipkin

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