Montana Part VII: Missoula

By now you know I’m not a good passenger in the Monaco. The weather was awful on the day we were supposed to leave the West Glacier KOA. There was no color anywhere. Everything was grey. It was foggy and raining. Not good for a travel day. I decided the best way to make the 2+ hour trip from West Glacier to Missoula was to follow behind Mike in the Honda. I had looked at  google maps and it was a narrow road for most of the route. There was no way I would be able to hold it together on the twists and turns, especially when the roads were slick and visibility was bad. Mike agreed. The only problem was that I am usually the one that helps with directions so our Captain can focus on the road ahead instead of trying to analyze a map at the same time. We got the walkie talkies out of the drawer and decided we would try to communicate via those tools if the need arose. Mike had already memorized the roads and turns, so he felt comfortable navigating our path. The Honda was full of all of our outdoor stuff like dog kennels, the ladder, folding chairs, etc… so Piper and Cessna loaded up with Mike and we pulled out about 9:30, with me following. I was still nervous, but I was functional.

Highway 35 runs the length of Flathead Lake’s eastern shore. It is a two-lane winding road with no shoulder and STEEP drop offs to the water below. It seems like we were on that road FOREVER. Every time I saw the break lights go on I rejoiced. We were only driving 45 MPH, but I would have been happier crawling along at a 25 MPH pace. When we arrived at our destination campground I asked Mike if the drive was easier for him without me freaking in the passenger chair. He hugged me and told me it was “intense”. Then we high-fived because we made it safely with no problems. Looks like that drive wasn’t much fun for him either. Let’s just say I was overjoyed that we were staying in Missoula for two weeks. I would finally have a chance to let my nerves settle before we had to drive the rig again.

The Jellystone RV Park was on the northwest side of town just off of Interstate-90. The sites were not spectacular, but the place was clean and convenient. We were a quick 10-minute drive to downtown. Most of the guests at the campground were overnighters. There were only a few of us there for extended stays.

Missoula is a GREAT town! First of all, it is beautiful. Five mountain ranges converge where the Clark Fork River meets up with the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers. There is a beautiful view in every direction. It is a college town with the University of Montana positioned right next to downtown. There are great restaurants, cute shops, lots of live music, plenty of outdoor activities, and throngs of friendly citizens. We enjoyed every day of our visit!

One of my cousins, John, lives near Spokane and Coeur D’alane in Rockford, WA with his wife, Katie, and two kiddos, Kenna and Jake. They recently purchased a plot of land and are living the good life with chickens, pigs, bees and an enormous vegetable garden. From our spot in Missoula they were only three hours from us due west on I-90. Since we were so “close”, I decided to drive over and see them on our first Saturday. Mike stayed at the coach with the dogs. It was a long day for a short visit, but totally worth it. The scenery on my drive was majestic and their house-barn on the top of their hill in the middle of 50 acres is awesome! We will be visiting them again in the future because we will stay in Spokane for a couple of weeks during our stop in Washington. I can’t wait for Mike to see their set up!

As for our time in Missoula, we made the best of it. We spent lots of time in downtown and on the trails in and around the city. We ate at several good restaurants. I did some shopping. Mike found a fishing hole at a state park down the road from us. We went to see Clint Black in concert at the Wilma on a Saturday night. After two weeks of exploring and good times, my stress levels were back down to zero and I was prepared to ride in the passenger seat when we finally left Montana to begin our visit in Idaho.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn't want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn’t want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better that I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

Mount Sentinel

Mount Sentinel – Home of the M Trail.

Our site number 43 wasn't anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Our site number 43 wasn’t anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

www.roteltours.com I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east... but I actually have no idea.

www.roteltours.com
I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east… but I actually have no idea.

Full moon from our nightly dog walk.

Full moon on our nightly dog walk.

Starting up the trail to the M.

Starting up the trail to the big white M on Mount Sentinel.

M Selfie

M Trail Selfie

The trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

The M Trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

Missoula from the M.

Missoula from the M.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I've watched a guy surf in the city center.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I’ve watched a guy surf in the city center.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he's ever caught both on the same day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he’s ever caught both on the same day.

The X's by the depot in downtown Zootown.

The X’s by the depot in downtown Zootown.

I love a farmer's market!

I love a farmer’s market!

The Missoula Farmer's market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

The Missoula Farmer’s market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can't tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can’t tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune on its keys.

In addition to the downtown farmer's market, Missoula has a People's Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

In addition to the downtown farmer’s market, Missoula has a People’s Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too!

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too! During our stay we also enjoyed meals at Tamarack Brewing Company, MacKenzie River Pizza Company (twice… and bought a t-shirt), and the Big Dipper for some righteous ice cream.

Clint Black's bus.

Clint Black’s bus.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us... so it worked out great!

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us… so it worked out great!

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler's Rest State Park in Lolo.

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler’s Rest State Park in Lolo.

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us under the table.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us in their “tent” under the table.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Planes on a train, from Mike's fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

Planes on a train, from Mike’s fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

Our last hike in Montana was to the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Our last hike in Montana was in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

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