This is our third trip to Montana, and the second of the year, after attending a wedding reception in June. We are going back for more. More of Glacier National Park, Bigfork, Whitefish, the Flathead Valley, Swan Lake, the Candlewycke Inn, and a visit to Hamilton, home of the newlywed couple.
What is it about Montana that attracts people like us to the area? First, the state is just beautiful. Of course, we have never seen it blanketed in 12 feet of snow and ice during the winter. Second, the people here are so nice and friendly. Third, the outdoor activities are limitless and set in the most beautiful green surroundings. If you have never been here, you must visit!!!
A few Montana facts for those of you who are new to my emails: The population is just slightly over a million people. The capital is Helena, and the state nickname is “The Treasure State.” The state flower is the bitterroot, often used to make a soft drink that tastes much like root beer. The state bird is the western meadowlark, and the state animal, is of course, the grizzly bear.
Most people think of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks when Montana is the destination. But the state offers so much more, both in recreational activities, sheer natural beauty, and cowboy folklore. In addition, seven Indian nations make their homes here. Among the four-legged friends here are a plethora of grizzly bears, bison, and wolves.
In particular, I am planning on cycling around the Flathead Valley, and perhaps rent a kayak. Since Fall starts early here, the days and evenings will be cooler. After 3 days in Bigfork at the Candlewycke Inn, we will stay for a few nights with our friends in Hamilton. Becky and Larry celebrated their marriage with a big reception in June. We are back to spend time with just the two of them. Becky lived here in the Bay Area and had a horse farm here as well. Sheri rode with her on Fridays until we got our dog, Buddy. Becky has basically transferred her horse operation to a lovely ranch in Hamilton, about an hour south of Missoula. And surprise, surprise, Larry is a horse trainer by trade.
I forgot to tell you why things are so nice here. There are only 6.8 people per square mile. That buffer between you and your noisy and nosey neighbor might be just enough to maintain your sanity and privacy. Plus the tourist crowds, hunters, and fishermen tend to leave post Labor Day. That leaves “soft” tourists like us, who might fish, or cycle, or kayak, or just “national park” it.
The Whitefish Trail will soon be a 55 mile trail through some beautiful country, including the shores of Beaver Lake. The Bear Dance Trail starts on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake and meanders up to Crane Mountain. Alpine Trail No. 7 is a spectacular ridgeline trail (54.7 miles) along the crest of the Swan Range.
A mountain named after a railway, the Great Northern Mountain gets little traffic, and offers views similar to nearby Glacier National Park. The trail climbs north of Hungry Horse Creek, with great views of Glacier, Mount Grant, Stanton Glacier, and the Middle Fork Divide.
Unfortunately, I will miss the Huckleberry 100 (on Saturday), a one hundred mile bike race through the Flathead Valley, starting in Whitefish, down to Bigfork (where we stay), then back up towards Whitefish. The total ascent is over 1500 feet, at an elevation of 3294 feet above sea level. Sounds like a great workout and a worthwhile cause. But I will rent a mountain bike and explore both Flathead and Swan Lakes.
If that is not enough, Glacier National Park itself has 734 miles of trails. The Lake MacDonald Hike is one of the more scenic and popular, with an elevation of 7487 feet. Slightly closer to us is the Southern Boundary Trail from West Glacier, through John Stevens Canyon, along the Middle Fork Flathead River.
As far as fresh produce, the coming Fall does change the available fruit and vegetable offerings. From their website: September foods include sweet corn, melons, apples, peaches, eggplant, pumpkins and other produce that doesn’t necessarily require a lot of heat to thrive, such as lettuce and spinach.
The flowers offerings also switch up a bit in September, with sunflowers, blanket flowers, rudbeckia (commonly called Black-Eyed Susans), hydrangeas and more to bring into the house for a late-summer feel.
Some of the September crops – such as certain types of plums – need a frost to help with the harvest, and frosts can happen in the Flathead as early as the second week in September (when we are here).
Other classic summer crops, like tomatoes, will likely keep coming in strong at the markets from producers with the frost protection. And I love good tomatoes!
Enough said, now you know why we enjoy the area. This is a very overlooked place to visit, and underrated as far as both natural beauty, outdoor activities, and the splendor of National Parks. As they once said to George Costanza, “You must go now!” And we will see my friend Paulette, who I may have met back in West Berlin in 1971 at a dance club.