In order to get in as much driving during the day as possible, we have an understanding as a family that we must get up, and get moving! We enjoyed some quick coffee and instant oatmeal before we took off for Missoula and eventually to our final destination, Columbia Falls, MT. The HWY between Bozeman and Missoula is a whole lot of farmland and not much national forest or BLM land, hence the hard time finding a spot last night. It is beautiful with lush green fields with many creeks, rivers and ponds. Now I know why Colorado is in a drought, Wyoming and Montana have all the water! We didn’t have much time but we pulled into Missoula around lunch time and drove around the town for a bit. There were beautiful houses, trees and the Clark Fork River flows right through town.
The entrance to Missoula via Orange St. /Old U.S. 93
Heading north on 93 and a little bit outside of Missoula, we headed into more mountainous terrain and eventually to the Flathead Lake area! It reminded me of Maine, it had an east coast feel with a small community atmosphere. Gorgeous here! The folks that live around the lake are very lucky, in a sense, they have it all, mountains and marina!
One of many views of Flathead Lake near Polson, MT.
Pulling into Columbia Falls, we couldn’t get ahold of our friends that we were visiting so we just decided to pop into their place of work. Right in the heart of Columbia Falls, Outside Media’s office is in a great location, sandwiched between their homes, the local school, parks, grocery store and most importantly, the Desert Mountain Brewing & Draughthaus! We were very thankful to be able to park in their driveway and stay the night. It was a welcome rest from the road! This group of folks is amazing. Their talents go beyond just marketing, PR and graphic design. They are so knowledgeable about the outdoors, guiding, rafting, hunting, fishing, bike riding, trial running and more. We are so thankful to have them as friends and are VERY thankful for the time they devoted out of their busy schedules to give us a tour of the area!
At Desert Mountain Brewing with the OM crew!
Columbia Falls is a pretty small town (or what feels small to me being from C. Springs, CO). Again, being able to walk everywhere is just awesome. There is no need for a car unless you are going to another town but everything you need is right here! Our friends and fans of UpaDowna suggested many good places to eat at and drink brews at however, with our low budget, we were not able to try many of these suggestions. Again, we went to the grocery store a lot and purchased food that we could eat for lunch and dinner, or that would last until the next day. Hopefully saving a lot of money during the trip will pay off towards the end of the trip!
Thursday: Pastries, Puddles and Parks
This morning, we woke up to snow! It had been raining all day and then overnight, just got cold enough! The Montanaites told us that this happens through most of June. Lots of rain, and a little bit more snow.
Today, the Outside Media crew took us on N. Fork Road north to Polebridge, MT. This 32 mile drive away from civilization and into the woods was great!
We passed many homesteads, saw new, beautiful growth from a 2003 forest fire and stopped at the Polebridge Mercantile! What a cool place! This circa 1914 general store, bakery, and base camp made me feel like I had just rode into town on my horse and was going to restock my saddle pack and continue up river. Delicious pastries and coffee was all I needed to continue! This place sure took me back into a simpler time. I guess they even have cabin rentals (if you rent them soon enough) and in the summer, the place is full of campers that just live there for a few months.
After that, we stopped at the Ford River Access Road. The kids played in puddles while the dogs went bonkers around the open fields. Tons of wildflowers were around and also the water access of the North Fork Flathead River.
Let your kids get dirty, it won’t hurt!
For our last stop of the day, we were given the “locals only” tour into Glacier National Forest where we kept our eyes open for Grizzly bears and stopped at Lake McDonald to soak in the sights. On all of these mini road trips, I make sure to bring water, snacks and activities for my kiddo. It helped for the ride there, on the way back, he was asleep!
Friday: First-hand access, Friends and Freda’s.
Our friends also gave us some insider tips on how to enjoy Glacier National Park away from the tourists during Memorial Day Weekend! Some of the roads in the park were still closed for winter maintenance so we parked at the Avalanche Creek area and rode our bikes for about an hour up the trail along McDonald creek.
The creek was amazingly clear and a turquoise blue color. Fast moving and loud, it was hard to talk to my son next to me as we looked at one of the rapids near a pull-off. The weather today was clear and sunny, just what we needed for a nice bike ride!
Make family trips possible by bringing items you’ll need along the way. A dog leash and lunch for my family helped!
At the turnaround point, we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch on some huge rocks near the creek. Our dog enjoyed a little swim and we set off again for the car. Along the way, there were many great pull-offs and things to explore. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll do it again. This is very important that you get off the trail and go EXPLORE! The last thing you want during your outdoor excursions is tunnel vision. Forget the time, don’t have a destination and just wander and play! The wildflowers I missed on the way up I saw on the way back when we got off our bikes and looked around.
This took up the majority of our day which was GREAT! We also took some gear review photos and then headed to a local hangout, Freda’s West Glacier Bar. Talk about river rats! The place was packed with river guides, good stories and good friends!
Stay tuned for the road trip home…