Beautiful Montana!

Downtown Missoula, Montana

We spent the last week in Montana. We arrived at Spokane International Airport last Saturday and drove to Missoula. The drive from Coeur d’Alene over the 4th of July Pass was spectacular. We passed the Great Divide and entered into the MST timezone – one hour ahead of PST.

Its a great college town – small enough to be cozy and with great old architecture and nice old neighborhoods and a very compact but beautiful college campus. They have done a great job incorporating the river (that runs through it) into the town. Its really a charming place. One of my favorite musicians, Colin Meloy (lead singer / songwriter / guitarist from the Decemberists) went to school here. I can totally see his influence from Montana, and where he ended up in Portland, Oregon.

Disclaimer – I grew up with the Appalachian Trail almost “running through it” and the Erie Lackawanna railroad stopping at our town on a spur route which was ripped up in 1964, when I was 5 years old, and the Delaware River and Delaware Water Gap – so you might see the connection. While I spent the first third of my life on the East Coast, old Western Towns and the Western Railroads speak to me. I just can’t get enough of this big beautiful West. The mountains out this way are for real!

Our favorite place to eat and drink was the Tamarack Brew Pub – it had above average food and drink, and their Imperial Vanilla Bourbon Stout was exceptional – better than their IPAs. Heck – Bourbon influenced anything seems right in Montana. Goes well with Bison and Elk and Trout and other local food that is quite hearty – and helps during the winter months.

Onward to Bozeman …

Montana Ale Works in Bozeman

We stayed at a super hip hotel called The Lark Hotel,

and it was tied for first place for my favorite hotel to stay on our trip.

Maker Assemblage art in Bozeman Montana at the Lark Hotel

The Lark had “Maker / Assemblage” art – like this cast aluminum map of Montana with switches and LEDS that were like an old turn of the century “Musee Mechanique” piece.

Fun and funny too!

The best brew pub on the entire trip was here – at an old Railroad Station – and called the Montana Ale Works.

They have their own beer – but more importantly – they are a great tap house with 40 taps – so its impossible not to get a great beer here. Better yet- their food is superb – and the mushroom stuffed trout with wild rice was one of two best meals I had the entire trip. Just fantastic. I had a local double IPA called “The Juice” that was killer.

T-Rex on display at The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman

If I were to move to Montana, it would have to be Bozeman. They have one of the best collections of dinosaurs in their Museum of The Rockies and Planetarium really blew me away. Not only did I get to stare a T-Rex in the face, I sat through a planetarium show that more than touched on the effects of the various magnetic and other factors with ionization of our world and ionosphere. I did not expect to have a “ham radio experience” here, but I did.

I also did get in touch with Bob Leo, W7LR, and that was nice. They even had a nice little American Computing Museum, which is a great companion to our larger and more impressive Computer History Museum in Mountain View. But gee whiz – great food, beer, technology and a very cute town between Glacier and Yellowstone – its hard to go wrong here – as long as you like very cold and snowy winters.

The Glacier Lodge – in East Glacier National Park

This was a very nice (and rustic) hotel. Forget about their restaurant – after waiting for 45 minutes for a waiter / waitress, we left and went to a local tacqueria and it was much better, and resonable. But still – this is a grand old place for sure. In the morning I chatted with a farmer from Ohio who traveled here from Chicago on Amtrak (which stops right at this hotel) and he told me all about the amazing fields of wheat in Montana, and how that wheat compares to what he grows in Ohio and what each is used for. Certainly one of the best chats over a cup of coffee in front of a big fireplace at 7 AM that I have ever had.

Glacier National Park

We lucked out in Missoula and Bozeman – the air was relatively clear given so many forest fires ravaging this area. We couldn’t go on our way through the “Going to the Sun” road, so this was about as good as it got. The next day we took Highway 2 to Whitefish.

Highway 2 between Glacier National Park and Whitefish

It was smoke free and quite beautiful anyway.

Esssex, a train stop between Glacier National Park and Whitefish

In a tiny railroad stop called Essex, you can stay at an inn, but I was smitten with colored cabooses that you can stay in.

On the road to Whitefish, we saw yellow and even orange aspens just turning color. The first snow of the season was forecast for that evening.


It was snowing in Glacier National Park for the first time this season.

It was perfect!

The Rocky Mountain Outfitter as seen from The Kalispell Grand Hotel

We had a fantastic lunch at a brew pub in Whitefish, but ended up staying at my “tied for first” hotel – The Kalispell Grand hotel in Kalispell. Both of these towns were fabulous, and I loved the “living history” feel of the Kalispell Grand. You just can’t get a better feel for Montana and the Wild West with past lumber and railroad and mining history than this.

The Kalispell Grand Hotel entrance – this fellow greets you as you enter. What a great place!

We visited my brother in law the next day in northern Idaho, and stayed the night in one of my all time favorite US cities – Spokane. After a really super lunch in Brownes Addition (a neighborhood I would gladly live in) – we boarded the plane and returned to Oakland.

Another fabulous vacation – planned and arranged by my lovely wife Kat. Thanks Kat!



One Comment on “Beautiful Montana!

  1. Nice travelogue, thanks for sharing. Too bad about the fires. I have a friend who went to Glacier at the same time, and he couldn’t do most of what he wanted because of the smoke and closures.


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