We left home on August 3, 2021 for Montana, taking a more southern route through Indiana, Illinois, and picking up I-80 as we crossed into Iowa. Our first stop was our go to at Coralville Lake near Iowa City, at the Army Corp of Engineers reservoir. Our next two stops would be Harvest Host stops, Mac's Winery and Brewery in Lexington, NE and Tree Farm in Casper, WY, before crossing into Montana.
We camped at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park near Three Forks, MT We got our first glance of the smoke from dozen plus Montana fires, Canada, and California. There was a haze over everything. While we were at this state park we took one of the cavern tours. Following our stay we drove to Missoula, MT and stayed at Big Sky Brewing co., another Harvest Host stay.
On our way to Polson, MT we camped at another Harvest Host Brewery, Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, MT One of my favorite beers is Moose Drool. We stocked up as we can't get it in Indiana.
We wanted to visit the firefighters museum at the airport, but it was closed. There was so much fire activity that planes and helicopters were re-fueling and loading up with water and fire retardant. There were at least a dozen fires in central Montana.
On August 31st we received a call from Reserve America that the first 5 nights at Flathead Lake State Park, Finley Point Campground were cancelled due to the fire in the Mission Mountains. It was located on Reservation Land and was discovered by Native Americans. The Boulder 2700 fire roared down a draw and over an adjacent ridge and burned in a Western direction to the shore of Flathead Lake. It happened so quickly that the call to evacuate was just in time to get people out before the fire burned 13 homes and 17 structures, along with some cherry farms, on either side of Montana Hwy. 35, ending at the lake edge. Police and coast guard used boats to broadcast the evacuation from Finley Point as there was only one way onto the peninsula. 200 homes and the state park were evacuated. We were able to get get a campsite at the KOA in Polson, MT for six nights, before being able to stay the remaining 2 nights at Finley Point. When we headed North we took Montana Hwy. 35 toward Bigfork, MT. We passed by burned homes and vehicles.
Upon arrival in Polson, I made a visit to the hospital to have my back check. apparently I wrenched it and was in extreme pain. They gave me a muscle relaxant and prescription Tylenol. It cleared up in 3-4 days. Then our lab got sick. We had to take her to the vet and picked up some intestinal bug. The third day at the KOA we were no longer getting charging from shore power. We spent $150 with a traveling RV guy to tell us what wasn't wrong, but not what the problem was. Due to the smoke we weren't getting good solar. We turned off the camper fridge, moved food into our top loading truck fridge and cooler. For the rest of the trip we got great solar and charging of the batteries while driving. We were at 12.7 each morning and it climbed quickly in the morning. Truck and camper are currently at our local RV shop to see if there is a bad fuse or whether the IOTA is bad. Hoping for a fuse or loose wire.
Plenty of colored rocks
The KOA turned out to be great. They had a large covered deck that looked out over Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains and when the wind blew from the West you could see the Mountains. There were a couple of days when the mountains were barley visible.
Flathead Cherries are the best
We also visited the National Bison Range, south of Polson, MT. The smoke was bad as we drove through the range.
Our next destination was Whitefish State Park in Whitefish, MT. We had a great campsite. The railroad tracks were 30-40 yards behind our site and 30'+/- up an embankment. Besides all of the freight trains, Amtrak's Empire Builder passed by at 7:15am and 9:15pm each day. Interesting that they were on time each day we were there. We went kayaking in both the inflatable double and the sit on kayak. Just remember not to take your key FOB with you. Yes, I fell in and the truck keys got wet and wouldn't work. Thanks to my wife and rice, we saved the day. 48 hours and a new battery, and everything worked. You need to have 2 key FOB's to make a new key, so it would have meant all new at a big expense. We spent 5 days in Whitefish.
We were able to spend our last 2 days at Finley Point. I had planned on kayaking, but the winds picked up and there were white caps. People scurried to the dock to get their boats out of the water.
During our stay in Whitefish we used our day pass to visit Glacier National Park, taking the Going to the Sun Road. We got to Logan Pass at *:15am and rangers already had the entrance blocked off. It was covered in fog, so we continued on. The fog was gone as soon as we headed down the East side of the pass. We drove through the park and up to the Many Glacier Lodge, where we stayed in 2008. We had lunch at the Lodge, and got to see some mountain goats. On the way to the East Gate we had a large grizzly bear cross the road 4 cars ahead. it happened so quick that we couldn't get a photo, and by the time we moved the bear was long gone down a draw.
Kayaking on Whitefish Lake
Famous Red Bus in Glacier
Amtrak Empire Builder - Chicago Bound
Bridge Bay Marina and campground
Yellow Bus at Yellowstone National Park
Due to the smoke the views from the Beartooth Highway were not good. Definitely not a picture taking kind of day.
The Lutheren Church in Melville, MT that my great grandfather helped build. The Crazy Mountains are in the background, covered with smoke from the American Fork Fire which burned over 17,500 acres.
Boulder River at my cousins cabin
Our last stop in Montana was Makoshika State Park. The visitor center had a nice museum of dinosaur bones and sculls. The geography was amazing. We spent 2 days exploring the grounds.
We stopped at 2 Harvest Host sites on our way from Glendive, MT. Our first stop was Take 16 Brewery in Luverne, MN and the last stop was Parkside Brewery in Burlington, IA The beer and food were great.
This trip was our longest adventure. 6,108 miles and 40 days, just shy of 6 weeks. We stayed at four Montana State Parks, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park; Flathead Lake State Park, Finley Point Unit; Whitefish State Park; and Makoshika State Park. We camped and drove each main road in Yellowstone to each of the main gates. We timed Old Faithful just right, only a 10 minute wait. We also visited Grand Teton National Park and Glacier National Park. We drove two famous roads, Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, and the Beartooth Highway. We stayed at two KOA's, one in Polson, MT and the last in Red Lodge, MT. We took one of my cousins and her husband (Billings, MT) to lunch in Red Lodge, and they joined my other cousin and his wife at the cabin for Labor Day weekend. We spent 3 days at the cabin and I fished the Boulder River all 3 days, with nothing more than a couple of strikes. Our cousin from Billings had their daughter and son-in-law and grand kids drive over on Sunday for dinner. We returned to my cousins home in Big Timber on Monday and took he and his wife and another cousin and his wife to dinner at the Grand Hotel. It was fun to spend several days visiting family. Not sure we will do that long of a trip in future. That was a bit long for both of us.
Breweries visited: Mac's Creek Winery & Brewery; Tamarack Brewery; Big Sky Brewing Company; Kalispell Brewery; Bonsai Brewing; Take 16 Brewer; Parkside Brewery. Brought a big supply of Montana beers home.