Beginning in mid-May, we took a relatively leisurely five weeks to travel 1600 miles from a fabulous birding festival on the shores of Lake Erie to Yellowstone National Park. And then suddenly, we had only 10 days to travel 850 miles from Yellowstone to our summer hosting gig on Lopez Island. These days, that feels way too fast to us.
We like to linger and explore, and two to three nights in an interesting locale just isn’t enough, particularly when you factor in necessities like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, travel planning, and everything else that keeps life rolling along. But we did our best, focusing on some of the things we enjoy most: hiking, biking, eating, breweries, and most unexpectedly and delightfully, finding a beautiful Buddhist garden in Missoula.
This was our second visit to Bozeman, and once again, it was all too brief. Highlights this time included discovering the trails developed by the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. We looped together several miles of paths above town that offer wonderful views and in spring, beautiful wildflowers.
The Wild Crumb artisan bakery was on my list for our return to Bozeman—we stopped there in 2013, and I’m happy to report that it’s as good as I remembered. We stopped one morning before a hike for coffee and a treat. Before we pulled out of town, I wanted to swing by one more time.
“I want one of those little flourless hazelnut chocolate things to have with coffee on the road this morning,” I say to Eric as we’re leaving town, trailer in tow. “Want one?” Of course, he says no, because left to his own devices, he would not stop anywhere, ever, on our way out of town. But he stops because I want to. I am smart. I buy two treats. When he looks longingly at mine, I pull out the second one and hand it over. :-)
All of the campgrounds in Bozeman are right off of I-90 and near the railroad tracks. We chose Bear Canyon Campground, reputed to be the furthest from the tracks, and were happy with our choice. The sites are typical side-by-side RV park style, but with pretty trees and green grass in between. The perimeter sites along the canyon have the best views, but they’re short and crammed together. We couldn’t get level and had to move to a pull-through site, which was great. Full hookups, pathetic Wifi, decent Verizon, nice laundry, and convenient to town.
Traveling 202 miles west on I-90 brought us to Missoula. This was our first visit, and it won’t be our last. There’s a wonderful walking path along the river downtown, a plethora of farmers’ markets and other festivals, and some of the best street-style tacos we’ve had in our travels. Tia’s Big Sky is a colorful little place that cranks out homemade corn tortillas, a bit thicker than the usual store-bought kind, with creative and delicious fillings.
Finding Peace At The Garden Of One Thousand Buddhas
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas was high on my list of places to visit near Missoula. An elaborate Tibetan Buddhist garden, prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, is not what one expects to find in this remote western locale of cowboys and grazing cattle.
Established in 2000 by a Tibetan lama as an International Peace Center, the gardens are open to everyone for walking and meditation. The intention is simple and profound: To awaken our natural inner qualities of compassion, joy, and wisdom, and to serve as an antidote to the negativities which threaten our world today.
May all beings be free from harm. May all beings be happy and contented. May all beings be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible. May all beings be peaceful and at ease. May all beings be filled with loving kindness.
We stayed for three nights at Jim & Mary’s RV Park in Missoula. It’s a delightful park landscaped with little garden nooks and flowering plants everywhere. The sites are extra spacious with full-hookups. Immaculate bathhouse and laundry, slow Wifi, good Verizon, and 10 miles to Missoula.
Another drive of 202 miles delivered us to Heyburn State Park, in northwestern Idaho. We were here in 2013 to bike the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and returned this time to possibly bike more of the 72-mile trail. We discovered that the 12-mile ride from the campground, over the Chacolet Bridge, beside the lakeshore, and through pretty marshes is the most scenic part of the trail (according to locals). That’s good because I can finally cross something off of my list.
The only disappointment? We were told that moose are frequently seen browsing in the marshes. We did not see moose. They remain on my list.
Heyburn State Park (Hawley’s Landing) is an ideal location for biking or walking the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. This is the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest, and the sites are forested and pretty. Paved roads, packed dirt sites with electric and water hookups, marginal Verizon. We love staying here for the biking trail.
This was our second visit to Winthrop (230 miles from Heyburn State Park), and our second time arriving too early in the season to hike the trails within North Cascades National Park. No wonder this is one of the least-visited national parks in our country. Not only is it off the beaten path, but the hiking season is brief—July, August, and September. Unless there are early or late snows, or wildfires, or mudslides, and then you’re out of luck. But even if you can’t get onto the trails of the national park, there are beaucoup hiking trails in the surrounding area at lower elevations.
Last time we were here, we hiked through oceans of wildflowers in Pipestone Canyon (one of the most gorgeous hikes we’ve ever done). And we hiked a couple of beautiful trails in the pristine national forest near the national park.
Good Hiking And Terrible Hiking Near Winthrop
This time, we hiked the Tiffany Mountain Trail, one of the worst trails we’ve ever tackled. The first half-mile was an obstacle course through a burned-out area, and then the trail was a steady uphill grind, starting at about 6500 feet and climbing 1500 feet in less than two miles. The freezing rain finally did us in. The views were great, and I’m sure the hike would be much more enjoyable on a nice day. But there’s still that awful burned-out area to navigate…
Much more to our liking was the excellent network of trails in the Sun Mountain Lodge Trail System. We started at the Chickadee Trailhead and looped together various trails for a beautiful hike of several miles.
Exploring Cute Little Winthrop
Winthrop, population 393, is a delightful little Western-themed town. When we first visited in 2016, I assumed it would be a tacky tourist trap. It’s not. Once an aging little mining town, Winthrop reinvented itself in the mid-’70s, with false Western storefronts, wooden sidewalks, and hitching posts. It’s charming, with a mix of cute shops and restaurants on the main street, including the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. So fun to kick back with a tasty beer (the stout and IPA were excellent) on the porch overlooking the Methow River.
We stayed in town this time at Pine Near RV Park. The park is one big grassy lawn with full hookups, laundry, strong WiFi, and good Verizon. The best part is being able to walk into town from the campground. Our visit was greatly influenced by the fact that we were there on the weekend just prior to the fourth of July, and the campground was packed. We would return but would request a site on the perimeter of the park instead of being stuck in the middle.
What neat places & beautiful trails! How cute you found the Chicadee Trail!! And I would love to bike that Couer D’ Alenes Trail! More things added to the list!
Interested in hearing about your hosting gig
Debbie, that Coeur d’Alene bike trail is beautiful and a great ride! We thought it was pretty funny finding the Chickadee Trail near Winthrop, too. :-)
Your pictures and stories continue to be so wonderful on a lifestyle many from Hoover will never experience, so sorry to say. There are so few of us left that are still healthy, love and enjoy the outdoors more than the laptop and TV.
When you’re ready would like to mail you guys one or more of my movies I make for Calif., Nev. & Ariz. parks. Also, being your age (Ha Ha) I hiked around the entire Mono Lake last year..(200 yards was swimming) and made new friends with 300+ sheep on the east side…
Bob, we’ll take hiking over TV any day. Your adventures at Mono Lake sound wonderful!
ah yes, such a fabulous time in some of my favorite country. My favorite thing when I lived in Wallace Idaho was to drive to Missoula for First Night. Always a progressive community in the midst of the wild west, Missoula does First Night up big time, with buses going from venue to venue, including the best Aftican drum and dance group ever, belly dancing, fire eating, chorale music, Irish music, opera, you name it. They were always my most favorite New Years Celebrations, even though it was 20 years ago now. And the Coeur D Alene Trail? I lived just a few miles north of Heyburn SP overlooking the lake (no not lake front) and would go there with friends for women’s group campouts. Such memories. We are heading east in a few days, but have decided that we really need to stay west more in the future and return to some of these favorite places, in addition to new ones we have yet to explore. Haven’t camped at Winthrop since the Blues Festival in 2001, and have never managed to hike North Cascades. Why cross the wide open country when there is so much waiting for us right here out west. You have reminded me of so much I still want to do.
Sue, thanks for all of the great ideas for our next trip to Missoula. Now we’re even more excited about returning! Enjoy your journey east—we’ve loved it all, east, west, north, and south and everything in between!
Such wonderful landscapes … makes me itch to get on the road. But that’s going to have to wait a while.
Erin, I look forward to hearing about your adventures when you have time to write about them!
I’m starting to think moose are more elusive than Bigfoot. Those suckers are just nowhere to be found! Happily, you found lots of other cool things on this leg of your trip. Such a cool series of towns with a nice mix of outdoor stuff, historic buildings, and interesting (and certainly unexpected) cultural sites. Sorry about that disappointing hike. Good for you for sticking with it as long as you did given the condition of the trail – if it could even be called that – and the lousy weather. I don’t think I would have gotten out of bed that morning. :) The views from the trails up there are gorgeous! Love those mountain views!
Also, I’ve never heard of a strawberry/balsamic popsicle before, but it sounds like just about the best thing EVER!
Haha, moose have definitely eluded us in our travels, Laura! But we are going to find those suckers this summer or fall, no matter what.
We really loved our northerly trip across the country last spring and summer. It was far more interesting and beautiful than we imagined—we would happily do it again (and probably will). Heck, I’d go back just for those popsicles! :-)
Can just share that popsicle and the vibe with 1000 Buddhas and return for brew and tacos! Wish we could be there with you in Rockport but I’ll call and we can share the sorrow of Mary Oliver’s passing…..hugs and hopes for roseate spoonbills!
Oh, Diana, I’ve been so sad about losing Mary Oliver. I had really hoped to see her in this lifetime. But I’m so grateful to have her poetry.
Wish you were going to be with us in Rockport! Roseate Spoonbills, here we come! oxoxo
I don’t know what appeals to me more – the gorgeous bike trails of Coeur d’Alene, the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, Tacos at Tia’s or a stout at Old School House Brewery! Once again, I’m making a mental note to re-visit this post when it comes time for us to visit Montana, Idaho and Washington. And, I’m with you. Too many miles of travel does not make for a fun roadtrip. We did that this past fall, driving from Oregon to California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and back again (on a different route) all in just under two months. We are much happier when we stay in one spot for at least 4-5 days, not 1 or 2!
Les, this was a wonderful route. For most of the spring and early summer, we took our time and only had to hurry things up the final stretch. We’ll definitely return to Bozeman/Missoula/Winthrop and spend more time. You’ll love it when you make the journey!
We liked all of those places, too. Only spent a couple days in Bozeman and would love to go back and stay longer.
The Tiffany Mountain trail sounded challenging. If the fallen trees didn’t cause us to turn back, the frozen rain surely would have. I’m impressed you persevered!
Gayle, we really need to get to the North Cascades when the trails in the park are open. We’ve been twice in June now, and the trails are covered in snow. We were promised great views from the Tiffany Mountain Trail—which it had!—but that first half-mile of the trail was absolutely awful. I don’t think I’d do it again.
So glad you enjoyed our backyard in Montana!
Wow, do you ever have a beautiful backyard, Janna! I can see why you love living there.
Amazing Laurel! You are almost caught up with the blog. I hope your Florida winter is progressing nicely. We are enjoying a wet So Cal January (just like spring in Buffalo) The fractured arm has healed and I’m ready to tackle some bike riding@ McDowell Mt
Pat, I wish I was caught up! But at least I’m up to summer and I can speed through 2 1/2 months with my next post. :-)
So glad to hear you’re healing well. Enjoy biking at McDowell!
You have finally made it to Montana to WA. I dont know why but we missed Bozeman last year for we opted for Butte and Anaconda. I thought I would never see your blog about the Garden of the Thousand Buddha :)
And of course the purple lady has to pose at the Chikadee Trail, so cute.
Love your persistence on the Tiffany Trail, we would have turned around after seeing the obstacles at the start.
We may be in WA this summer so I have to check this post again for possible routing especially near Cascades NP.
ML, you and Steve would enjoy Bozeman if you ever make it back that way. And you will LOVE North Cascades National Park. Just try to go after the trails are all open. Knowing you two, you would have persisted on the Tiffany Mountain Trail, too. The views really were spectacular. Of course, I was delighted to find the Chickadee Trail. :-)
Thanks for the tips on hiking the Northern Cascades! Guess we won’t be hiking the actual Northern Cascades but following your suggestions. We should be there in June if all goes as planned. Looks like a winter of heavy snow in the Cascades, which is great, but not for our plan. Oh, well, we’ll do what we can this spring and maybe try again in the summer one year. I love your coy way to get a pastry for your coffee as you were leaving Bozeman. So sweet of you to pick one up for Eric. You knew he would regret his decision later:)
Pam, even if you’re there in June, you’ll enjoy Winthrop. Don’t miss the Pipestone Canyon Trail—it’s one of our all-time favorite hikes! It’s spectacular in spring with the wildflowers (I wrote about it on our previous visit to Winthrop in 2016).
Hehe, yeah, I’ve learned a few things over the years with Eric…like knowing that he’s going to want part of my treat so I’d better get two! :-)
I’ll be checking out your blog as we begin our trip seeing which trails to hike. You enjoy the same type trails we do. I remember your visit prior.
Smart lady to get Eric his own. Sharing isn’t allowed with sweets:)
Those were very small treats, so definitely no sharing! :-)
Let’s plan to go to the North Cascades together in early September! (Maybe 2020?) That would be the perfect time to see the gorgeous fall colors and hike the trails. Meanwhile, you are going to love those other trails in June. Not so sure I’d recommend the Tiffany Trail, though. That first part was truly awful.
Great post Laurel…Montana is on our horizon, have added a few more places on the to-see list now.
So glad you enjoyed the post, Brenda. Montana is beautiful, and there’s so much more to see!
Thanks, John! Miss you two.
We never made it to Bozeman, everything I read about it seems wonderful. I never knew there was a Buddhist garden in Missoula! Guess we’ll have to return some day, looks beautiful!
Love how everything is so green as you pass through this section of the country in the spring!
Lisa, Bozeman is a town that I feel certain you and Hans would enjoy. The Buddhist Garden in Missoula was really wonderful, too.
We want to return to Montana. It’s so rich in natural beauty and has so many cool towns!
Looks like another grand adventure. I really enjoyed what we saw of Montana and Idaho last year. I was in Bozeman once as a kid but we were just passing through. Saw one moose in the winter down in a canyon in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. All by itself in the snow. There is so much to see if you take the time to look. Loving life with you two exploring it and reporting back to the rest of us. Take care, Brenda
Thanks so much, Brenda. I’m glad you’re traveling along with us. :-) You’ll have to let me know some of your favorite places in Montana and Idaho. We definitely want to return!
Loved this post Laurel. It’s been awhile since we were in Montana and this post really got me revived up about returning. So many places, so little time! In addition to all the breathtaking scenery it’s fun to discover the little restaurants and bakeries along the way.
I’m glad you enjoyed our little tour of Montana, Sue. It’s such a treat to travel places that have the perfect mix of gorgeous natural settings and interesting little towns. Montana seems pretty idyllic (at least in the spring and early summer :-)).
We stayed at the same campgrounds as you guys in Bozeman and Missoula and shared your impressions. But we visited FAR more breweries in those towns. When you head back to Missoula, let us know – we would be happy to share brewery tips since we tried virtually all of them!
Shannon, I’d love to get your brewery recommendations for our next trip to Missoula. We typically check out at least one brewery when we’re in a town, but for some reason, we didn’t hit any in Missoula. More reason to return. :-)
You find the best food. Good thinking about the chocolate things. We found Winthrop to be a delightful surprise too, but need to spend more time in Montana. There are just too many places to visit.
Debbie, there are so many places that we still want to visit—and places we want to return to. I don’t recall if you’ve been to Bozeman and Missoula, but I’m betting you and Mike would really enjoy both. Don’t miss those tacos. Or the bakery. :-)
I loved this post. It’s so beautifully written – part travel guide- part memoir. We hope to make it to the Northwest sometime and will be sure to refer to this episode when we do
Thank you for your kind comment, Susie. You will love the Northwest! We’re especially familiar with the Pacific Northwest and would be happy to help with suggestions when you decide to head this direction. We’re looking forward to seeing you this summer or fall in New England!
1000 Buddha statues look great.
thank you for sharing series of beautiful photos.
cheering- evi erlinda
I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, Evi. The Garden of 1000 Buddhas is a very special place. Thank you for your comment!
Montana remains one of our favorite states and Bozeman is right up there on the top of our list. We would never live there because Terry has decided he cannot live in a cold climate anymore. We love the Wild Crumb and make regular visits there whenever we are in Bozeman. Montana Ale Works is also a place we stop when we visit friends in Bozeman, both for the food and the beer. Missoula is a city we keep saying we need to visit again. The Buddha Gardens will now be what brings me back there. They look lovely. We found Winthrop to be a charming little town and also visited The Schoolhouse Brewery. Wish the weather wasn’t so cold in the winter. I could definitely see myself living in that part of the country.
I think we like all of the same places and enjoy doing similar things, Lu. Doesn’t surprise me. :-) I could also envision living in Montana, but don’t know how I would fare in such a cold climate. But it’s probably better than Boston, where I lived for 10 years!
So many (more) beautiful places!! We love Bozeman too. Had to cancel reservations at Jim and Mary’s a couple years ago and are still trying to get back to Missoula. The Buddha garden looks fantastic and definitely another must-see in that pretty area.
How fun to find both a Chickadee and a Raven :-) Moose continue to elude us as well, guess we’ll all just have to keep looking!
Jodee, you’re going to love Missoula when you get there. Don’t miss Tia’s Tacos! And I know you’ll enjoy the beautiful Buddhist garden.
I can’t believe in all of our travels we haven’t seen moose. Surely this summer/fall in the Maritimes and Maine! Good luck to you guys, too. :-)