The town of Livingston, Montana is not to be missed. It is a town of well less than 10,000 people. Livingston is in southwestern Montana, on the Yellowstone River, north of Yellowstone National Park. In 2005, it was voted the Tourism Community of the Year in Montana. MSN named it one of their Top Ten Best U.S. towns.
Livingston was originally called Benson’s Landing before it evolved from a simple trading post. In 1882, the Northern Pacific Railway arrived, and subsequently became the original gateway to Yellowstone National Park. In 1806, Lewis and Clark actually camped on the city’s present outskirts on their return trip home. One of the most popular tourists spota is the Livingston Depot, built in 1902, and now houses a railway museum. For you fisher people, the International Fly-fishing Federation’s Museum introduces people to the popular game sport. Perhaps most importantly, Calamity Jane lived here for two decades.
Several well known films were shot here. These include: A River Runs Through It, The Horse Whisperer, Rancho Deluxe, among others. Another local hot spot is Dan Dailey’s Fly Shop, established in 1938 by an eastern fly fisherman, with a large mail order fly business. Among famous residents today are Peter Fonda, Margot Kidder, SNL’s Rich Hall, musician Ron Strykert, novelist William Kirn, and poet Jim Harrison. And the big parrothead himself, Jimmy Buffet mentions Livingston in several songs.
It looks like the perfect little town to spend the night, explore the town, and find a really local type place to eat and meet. The drive over from Hamilton is a little over 4 hours. My navigator has a few map moments, if you know what I mean. I can only be thankful that I was not Lewis, and she the “and Clark” of the famous duo. We would have ended up in Mexico!
Becky and her family have a really nice home (ranch)back in Hamilton. Her kitchen could easily double as a showcase for a TV show, or one of those “dine with the chef” tables or counters in famous restaurants throughout the world. Her view of the Valley is perfectly captured by the huge southward windows. Besides her son, Brandon, she has her faithful dog, Smudge. Mr. Randy is set to retire soon, and become Hamilton’s newest, and perhaps only, rock star.
Our apartment sits above the horse stalls, and hay storage. She also has chickens in one of the stalls. The riding corral, and the grazing corral are behind the barn/apartment. The two horses are Smokey, who originally came from California, and newly acquired Sib, a combination quarter horse and Arabian. He is a beautiful silvery gray, seems to fit right in.
Their ranch sits on a gentle hillside, with lots of tall pines. They fell about two hundred trees to clear the property for the two main structures, and the corrals. Her son even has a basketball court on the grounds, and the barn has a carport for guest vehicles and her horse trailer.
Montanans are a friendly bunch, always waving, willing to talk, being friendly and helpful neighbors. There is no reason to dissuade these folks from thinking this is God’s Country. The air and water are clean, the state is actually running a surplus, unemployment is low, and the welfare roll is short. Drivers are courteous, to the point have retrained myself to blend in as much as possible. Of course, driving a Hertz Toyota in the land of Chevy, Ford, and pick up trucks hinders the blend considerably.
All was fine until we passed a gigantic ski resort on the right hand side of a long and winding road, aka Highway 93 South. We ended up in Northfork, Idaho, having passed our Highway 43 turnoff, and straddling the Salmon River. Undaunted, we had lunch at the Northfork Diner, and headed back 25 miles to the junction. Highway 93 had led us all the way into Idaho, beautiful as it might be, but not on our travel radar.
Our goal was to hit the ghost town of Bannock, and a battlefield called “The Big Hole”. We had to bypass Bannock, and decided we did not need to see the Big Hole. Five hours in the car is not my idea of a restful vacation. But when a two lane country road has a 75 mph speed limit, I hit the accelerator while my navigator
slept. Before we knew it, we were in Butte, on our way to Bozeman, and finally Livingston.
Our home this evening is the historic Murray Hotel, with thirty rooms and suites, an old fashioned elevator (requiring a pilot), and the Second Street Bistro. The hotel was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” travel show. It is an authentic Western hotel with modern amenities and historic charm.
Livingston was the original entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Here, rail passengers from the old Northern Pacific Railroad changed trains to catch the Park Branch Line to Gardiner. The passengers boarded at the Northern Pacific Depot, a building that has always been the most impressive piece of architecture in this historic city. It served as a passenger depot from 1902 to the late 1970s. It has been restored to its original condition and transformed into a museum.
For tonight, we will dine at the Second Street Bistro and call it an early night. Excellent food with a lively, perhaps too lively bar and music scene. Five hours in the car is enough excitement for one day. Tomorrow, we will explore this town before heading into Yellowstone for a few days.
Upon further review, some previous guests here included: Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody, Will Rogers, the Queen of Denmark, and Sam Peckinpah. The 1905 Otis elevator was strong enough for Rogers and his pal to bring their horse to the third floor! Myself, I much prefer the solid marble stairways in lieu of the horse elevator.
Each room or suite here is decorated and furnished differently. Somehow, we are in the owner’s suite, a rather tasteful and well preserved slice of the great American West, combined with a collection of French posters, old photos, and modern furniture. I can hear the music down from the bar, just loud enough to lull me to sleep. Good night Chet (Huntley)!