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.
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.
This was our second visit to Winthrop (230 miles from Missoula), 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.
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.
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.