As many know, Montana is a big state and there is a lot of diversity in the landscape, more than we realized. We planned our trip through with several stops along the way, spending two weeks, and seeing a lot along the way. Our first stop was the Billings KOA, located right on the Yellowstone River on the western side of town. We made the most of the day we were there, driving though the downtown area, hitting a brewery, rock combing on the rivers edge, and a fire at the campground before retiring for the night. We enjoyed the stop and campground, a great start on our journey through Montana.
Our next destination west along I-90 was the Bozeman KOA, which is actually about 10 miles SW of town. This campground was odd for a KOA, no security with open access roads in and out, a not so great neighborhood, and plenty of construction. Not the quiet retreat we have come to enjoy. The weather was typical for a mountainous area, with plenty of rain, even a spot of snow and some sunshine; it is spring in the Rockies. We spent one day on a trip to the Big Sky ski area and the Lone Peak Brewery for lunch and a beverage; a very beautiful area, reminding us of Whistler, another familiar feel of home. Another day we spent milling around the downtown area doing a little window-shopping and checking out the Montana State campus. We had an amazing meal at the Montana Aleworks, the best meatloaf I have ever had!
On May 5th, we celebrated Traci’s birthday. We have come to find it sometimes difficult to locate that special place to celebrate events like this; unlike when we are home we have a list of great options to choose from. We had talked to some folks the evening before at the Aleworks, and had a few recommended stops for Cinco de Mayo. We ended the evening at a local Mexican restaurant near the KOA, and thoroughly enjoyed the night. Traci found her giant-sized strawberry margarita, and I had plenty of Tequila choices. But, the best part of the place was watching the staff panicking behind the tiny, poorly laid out bar, with no direction from the manager. One of the biggest nights of the year, and they were very unprepared for sure.
Our last day in Bozeman was our errand day. The weather was wet and cold, only in the high 40’s and we just made our way around town hitting the usual stops, Costco and Safeway. We did laundry and got the MoHo ready for our next stop, a two night “boondocking” outside Helena.
We started out the drive with a quick stop at the local RV shop to top off our propane tanks, and use their air to ensure our tire pressure was good. The 90 mile drive was lowlighted by construction on Hwy 287 after we left I-90, an area that was basically a ten mile stretch of gravel road and potholes, but there was no way around it. We arrived at our destination, the Riverside Campground, just below the dam on the Missouri River, east of Helena. This was our first and only adventure into “dry” camping, no hookups at all. I had made this choice of accommodations, basically looking at the map and finding what looked like a very secluded place on the water, and it was all of that and more! I made a reservation on the riverside and glad I did, each night was busy with people looking for the same type of place we had. With dry camping and no hookups, it changed a lot of our routine. We had very little of our normal items, having to run the generator for power, making coffee, etc. We rationed our water, making sure we did not run out, and just a different feeling along this journey. I got my Montana 2-day fishing license and spent a lot of time on the river, when the wind was down, and caught a couple pretty Rainbow Trout. There were a lot of people on the water and along the shoreline fishing the whole time we were there, clearly a favorite place for the Helena locals.
We took a drive one day, turning out of the campground and heading up a dirt road over the hill towards the tiny little town of York. There was a lot of fire damage around. The majority of the people living out here seem to want to get away from society. I could see how someone wanting to hide could get lost in the hills around this area. After driving to the end of the road outside York, we went the opposite way to cross back over the Missouri River and found a great campground with an even better viewpoint above it, some fantastic views for sure. We returned to the MoHo for an evening campfire and dinner, with the peace of no electronics. The TV was off and my phone had started to act up so it was off, a strange quietness. I was glad we made this stop, albeit for only two nights, a stop that felt much more like camping than what we have been experiencing this trip.
Our next destination was the Polson Motorcoach Resort and KOA, a very nice campground. We had visited this area a few years ago, staying way up on the north side of Flathead Lake nearer to Kalispell, so it was somewhat familiar to us. One of the first things we needed to get done was figuring out what was going on with my phone. We hit the Verizon store first thing when it opened and had some amazing customer service from the manager Shanice. She ordered my new phone, set to arrive the next afternoon. After a great greasy lunch at Swanees, we drove south to the Kerr Dam just outside Polson. We walked the 350 steps down the trail to the overlook of the river and dam complex. After a few photos, we returned to the car, both huffing a puffing from the trip up those very same steps. We returned to the MoHo for dinner in and to enjoy the views from the park. The campground is very well laid out, located on the western side of town overlooking the local airfield and lake with the mountains in the background. It is one of the prettiest places we have stayed in a long time, and with the familiar feel of the northwest!
The next day we made the drive up the east side of Flathead Lake towards Big Fork. We had visited here before, but wanted to go back. The day was good for driving, not warm or wet, but a good day for sightseeing. We made a couple stops at the local breweries in the area, the first one at Flathead Lake Brewing and a great IPA I very much enjoyed. Then we proceeded into Kalispell, stopping at the Kalispell Brewing Company, just missing their free glass giveaway for that day, celebrating American Craft Beer week. My stomach was growling, and that was on purpose, as I was looking forward to our next stop, the Moose’s Saloon for pizza and ice cold beers. It was just as we remembered, we left full, and headed back to Polson to get my new phone, set to arrive that afternoon. We picked it up, then returned to the MoHo for the night. A great day driving around gorgeous Flathead Lake.
The next morning was wet and cool, one of those days to just hunker in for awhile. Traci woke up and asked for some coffee. When I went to make it for her, our worst nightmare was clear, we had a mouse in the MoHo! I spent the next 90 minutes cleaning up the kitchen area cursing myself, as I had bought some traps a week ago thinking there might be a little guy in the storage area, but never set them, damn! We had run into several people along the trip that had this happen, and I knew I could get it handled; it just put a downer on our stay quickly. That night I set the traps, and the next morning we had our culprit, sorry little guy. We did some additional cleaning and left the rest of the traps out in the MoHo, hoping he was a loner.
The next morning, with no new vermin, we made our way to our next stop, the Missoula KOA. We got set up quickly, and decided to take advantage of the nice day and take a drive into town for some exploration. We headed to the campus of the Univ. of Montana, a neat place located right up against the hills on the east side of town. We stopped at Kettle House Brewing, packed with a biking tour group on a brewery ride around Missoula. It was also graduation weekend, so there were a lot of people celebrating everywhere we went. We made our next stop at a place called the James Bar for linner and happy hour, and it was very good food and beverages. We returned to the MoHo for the night, liking this place already.
Our last full day in Missoula, we started out early and hit the farmers market on the river; lots of veggies and some produce, and tons of people out enjoying the morning. We wandered up into town, and came across two more outdoor markets, one just crafts, and the other foods, all within about a 10-block area. We stopped at Big Dipper Ice Cream, nationally known, for a tasty treat. The weather started to get wet, so we decided to find some breweries, and there were plenty of choices. We found three places along our afternoon travels, finishing at Big Sky Brewing by the RV Park and free samples! As you can tell, Montana definitely has a great craft beer scene! We returned to the MoHo for the night, realizing that this was the two-year anniversary of our departure from home on this adventure, and coincidentally our last night we will spend outside of Washington State. Next, we head to Clarkston, WA for a quick stopover before visiting friends in Walla Walla, Yakima and Wenatchee. The adventure is nearing its end, and it sure has been amazing, beyond what we could ever put into words!