We had a beautiful pass from south to north in Montana. Good people, good times, good campsites and great scenery! Here is the route we traveled as we passed through Montana.
After a great hike in Green Canyon, Idaho we crossed into Montana. Our posting on the MTWesty Facebook page for van owners in Montana had produced some great leads for places to stay and people to meet. But first we wanted to check out the only wooden hot pool in Idaho.
Norris Hot Springs is nestled in a beautiful canyon with a warm, brushy green creek running though it. The new campground offered a bargain for van campers with no hook-ups ($22) and included hot showers and a mosquito-free evening. The next morning we paid the additional $3 for a long soak in the warm, thermal waters of the wooden structure. It is a beautiful place with an organic café, small bar, wooden decking all around and a dome stage for live music on the weekends. We missed the music but enjoyed the visit to this little gem.
As we headed towards our first Montana host in Bozeman we encountered a VW Vanagon on a small pull out area near a river. We shared a sticker and heard her travel story and transmission issues. She had a plan and was ready to tackle the roads and make the best of things. So, we wished her well as she tries to get back to Los Angeles with no 3rd gear!
Camp Haggerty-Fitterer was on farmland just outside Bozeman with the most wonderful people we could have asked for! We had a fire one evening and a trip to downtown Bozeman another. They had a daily driver van, and a spare loaner van. When we needed to run to town, they loaned us the spare Vanagon. The promptly made our van jealous which tipped off a little electrical glitch that Mike quickly remedied. The dogs enjoyed the green grass in this farmyard, and we loved the two-night stopover to relax a bit. Thanks J and M for a great spot to stay!
After Bozeman we drove north towards some tourist tips that we received from the amazing and adored sister, Jessica. Do you remember her? We posted about her approx. a year ago when she and Mom (insert angel) flew to Minnesota as a surprise.
Her first tourist suggestion was located in Great Falls, Montana. This is a “working city” with an industrial edge to it including refineries, casinos and pawnshops. But this stop was a bit quirky, because there in the heart of town is a motel with a tiki-bar inside. And in that tiki-bar are mermaids! Yep, the mermaids of Montana.
The next suggestion was the fascinating town of Havre, Montana. This train town has an interesting history. The original inhabitants (Native peoples) used the nearby cliffs as “buffalo jumps”. This bloody history was a way for a tribe to slaughter a large number of animals in a short amount of time by driving the herd off the edge of a ledge. The bones and artifacts are on display in a small museum. Havre also supports a significant population of Hutterites who populated the little farmers market we stumbled upon. These folks wore traditional farm wear and spoke an interesting dialect of German-American. We had to buy some Hutterite banana bread and radishes.
What really drew us to Havre was the Underground Tour. It was a fascinating hour-long stroll through the passageways and businesses that once operated under the streets of Havre. The tour included a stop at the post office, mercantile, bordello, dentist office, barber, and many more displays. Although it was painfully clear that the tour guide was ready to be replaced, we really enjoyed the tour. There was a 48 star flag in the post office (sorry Arizona and Hawaii) and many interesting artifacts in each of the rooms.
One of our Arizona Vanagon Owner friends was in the area of Glacier National Park so we headed over to meet up. We camped on the banks of a stream, but the weather was cold the next morning. Mango secured a warm spot inside Anna’s jacket. We parted ways the next morning as we headed through Glacier NP for some beautiful vistas.
On the other side of Glacier NP we stopped in Whitefish for a meeting with another van owner. This pretty, little air-cooled van looked great posing next to Alta in the street.
After Montana we would be crossing into Canada, but we weren’t quite ready to do that yet. So we found a campsite up a winding road in the National Forest of Eureka, Montana. When we parked we did not realize that we were quite near the border. It was raining as we set up camp. The dogs started barking and we went to see why just as a wet, tired hiker. We brought her over to set up her tent under our awning and climb inside to warm up. We filled her up with a mug of hot Echinacea tea and a hearty meal. We heard her story of tackling the Pacific Rim Trail and today being the longest day of the entire route. She was coming off of 20 miles and faced another 8 to 10 before the town she planned to stop in. We were glad to offer her a night’s respite. And the next morning she looked refreshed and ready to get to town as she walked away.
As it turned out, our campsite was about 150 yards from the Canadian border. Mikes morning walk caught the interest of the US Border Patrol and they showed up to check in. They could neither confirm or deny the presence of cameras or sensors on the trail that alerted them to our presence. But it must have been apparent that we were not up to any funny business. As it turned out, the dogs were the ones crisscrossing the borderline. In this photo, notice the 50-foot wide treeless swath that denotes the line between the two countries.
The next morning we met our hiker-friend for breakfast in town and then crossed the border into Canada. Within 15 miles of the border we watched a dog dodge traffic on the highway and we pulled over to help her. Once she was safely off the road and calmed down, Geneva clipped on a leash. As she led the black dog to a dirt road to check tags and make phone calls, another dog stepped out of the trees! This one had no collar, but they seemed to be associates. After a few frantic phone calls we learned that the traffic-dodger’s owner was at an airport in Toronto and the dog-sitter lived nearby. Both dogs were walked the ½ mile up dirt roads to be returned. No one was home, but the door was open. So the dogs were put inside and a note was left advising the humans of the situation and close call. The owner texted her relief and we went on about our route into Canada. I hope anyone would do the same for us and our dogs!
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