Perfect hiking weather!

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park
WEATHER:  Cool!  High 75. 

This is my kind of weather!  When we set off on our morning hike, it was still 59.  Brisk!  As the day wore on, we did shed some layers. 


The trail was not far from Whitefish Lake.  We passed beautiful houses nestled into the woods that overlook the lake.  Most of them have driveways that look impossible to negotiate.

Today’s hike was a bit different – very woodsy.  We hiked through beautiful firs and pine trees.  The smell is heavenly.

We had the trail mostly to ourselves, and the only sounds were the rustling tree leaves.  Just lovely. 

We didn’t even see any signs of bears – other than this warning at the trailhead…

After hiking about 2 miles, we encountered this sign saying we could go no farther….Due to a spring blowdown, the path was full of big trees. 

It was a loop trail, meaning that we did not have to retrace our steps.  Again we were rewarded with a view – this time over Swift Creek.

The 4-mile hike worked up our appetites, and we headed to a brewpub that we had previously spotted.

Their specialty is grilled meat and the smells coming from their outdoor patio grill were enticing.  We shared a cheeseburger with jalapenos, and had some of their IPAs – one hazy and one red, sitting out in their nice garden area. 

On our way home, we stopped at Whitefish’s annual Huckleberry Days art fair.  The vendors/artists had beautiful items, but when you are traveling like we do, there is just no temptation to buy things.

Back at the RV park, I did some laundry, taking advantage of this park’s amenities.  Once we leave here, we will be boondocking (no services) for 4 nights, so we need to prepare ourselves.

DINNER:  Viva Mexico!  – Chicken Chimichangas.   I have prepared this recipe before and readers asked for the recipe.  It is quick and easy.  I used some of the rotisserie chicken I had boned and frozen.  You can also substitute hamburger or fajita meat.  In case you missed it the first time, here is the recipe (that I “borrowed” from someone online)

Living the good Montana life…

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 89.  Low in the AM – upper 40s!

We found another great hike to take this morning.  Whitefish has a very large network of trails.  The one we took today eventually ties into the Big Mountain one which then leads you to the summit at the ski resort where we were the other day – some 30 miles later (if one survives).  We hiked about 6 miles roundtrip.  Most of it was paths like this with a lot of switchbacks that took us up high.  Got the heart rate going!

Our huffing and puffing were rewarded with a view of Whitefish Lake.

We saw some mysterious poop on the path.  It looked like horse, elk…or maybe bear poop.  When we looked for paw prints, we saw one that looked like a bear claw.  We were a little skittish after that. 

On our way back down, George spotted this little deer in the meadow chomping on huckleberries.  She was very tame.  I walked down to flush her out so George could get a photo.  She was so happy eating that she let me approach her closely. 

Then…..luxury.  We stopped at the Boat Club restaurant at a fancy lodge right on Whitefish Lake.  We sat outside on the upper deck and had a lovely view of the lake.  Later I looked at prices – $400- $700/night!  We ordered smoked whitefish (of course) and drinks.  Just lovely, lovely….

Montana takes its Covid-19 precautions seriously.  This bear was masked up in the hotel’s lobby…

And, this moose was wearing one too, outside another lodge….

A bit about RVs…..We have heard that this year there is a 300% uptick in the number of RVs being sold.  People want to get out into nature, and think this is one way to travel safely, without the coronavirus.  We believe this is true, as so many campgrounds have no vacancy.  We have talked with RV park registration people who say that they have met a lot of people for whom this was their first stay.  These newbies didn’t know anything about hook-ups, setting up, etc.

Montana does not have sales tax on RVs, so many people come here to buy RVs, especially the $100,000+ big motorhomes and 5th wheels.  With a big ticket item like this, you can really save when you don’t  pay the sales tax.  Even before Covid, we often would see Montana license plates for people not from MT.  In this RV park alone, we have 3 neighbors that have bought their units this week.   We watched our next door neighbor happily opening new purchases – the water hose, gas grill, levelers, etc.  All new.  He and his family left yesterday for an outing.  The wind came up and his awning started flapping around dangerously, as he had set it up incorrectly.  Several men went out to try to fix it.  Finally, I suggested that we ask the office to call the owner to tell him to return.  Problem solved, but damaged awning.  

Also, in RV parks you see a lot of license plates from Texas, Florida, and South Dakota.  These are states that don’t have state income tax.  This results in  many full-timers calling one of those states their “domiciles”, thus avoiding those taxes.  When we were first camping, I was confused when I saw so many S.D. license plates!

On our way home, we stopped at a seafood market, probably the nicest one I have ever been to. They fly all their seafood in, mostly from Alaska and Hawaii.  We bought some MT mountain trout and a Alaskan halibut fillet.

DINNER:  That halibut, of course!  George grilled it perfectly on the gas grill.  I made rice and fixed a big arugula salad (local arugula we had bought at the farmers’ market).  I served the halibut on a bed of sauteed onions and mushrooms.  A nice glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc completed the meal!

Going to the Sun – at Glacier National Park

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park
WEATHER:  Beautiful – especially in the mountains.  Cool (49) in the AM

Another fabulous mountain day!  This one at Glacier National Park….

We set the alarm for 5:30, dressed quickly, grabbed our breakfast and lunch picnics, and were out the door by 5:45.  We were in a race to get to the Visitor Center parking lot at Glacier.  Crazy, but you have to get there by 7:00 AM in order to find a parking space!

We were successful and hiked around the Visitor Center at Logan Pass. 

This photo was taken from the Visitor Center – the highest peak in the park.

It was quite cool – still only about 55 when we were hiking.  The wildflowers were beautiful – a lot of fireweed.

One of the trails was closed due to bear activity. 

Then, on up the mountain. The drive is so scary – the road is narrow and the cliffs hang over the highway. 

We stopped along the way for more hikes. 

Some of the pull-out parking areas were full, so we missed some hikes.  When we could find a parking spot, we hiked some more, including a hike to these pretty falls.

At another turn-out hike, we followed what had been the horse trail.  In early years of Glacier tourism, some people travelled by cars, others by horses.  The horses had a separate trail so the cars would not scare them.

Mask-wearing when you are hiking is interesting.  We do what most people do…..when we are totally alone, we take the masks off.  When you are breathing hard, they are a pain. Then, when you see another hiker approach, you don your mask.  Either we or the approaching hikers stop, get off the path in order to provide social distancing, and the other group passes by.  What a different way to hike!

In “normal” years, you can take the Going-to-the-Sun Road across the park.  Often the road is closed,  as they are still clearing out the snow at Logan Pass, even into the summer months.  This photo was taken this past JUNE when they were clearing it….

This year, we could not go all the way as the far eastern section of the road is closed.  This area belongs to the Blackfoot Indians and they have decided to close the highway to keep people out, for protection from Covid-19.

So, we did a U-turn and started back down.  On our way down the mountain, we encountered a lot of vehicles climbing up, some of whom were hogging the yellow middle line.  We (George) moved over to avoid hitting them, resulting in us hitting one of the overhanging cliffs!  There was no damage – just pushed the mirror in. 

We found a pull-out with no other cars near Lake MacDonald.  We wandered down into the woods and found a beach.  We enjoyed our picnic all by ourselves.  Heaven!

After Glacier, we spent a few hours driving around the Hungry Horse Reservoir and Dam, until we encountered the dreaded “Pavement Ends” sign.

Back in Joy, we rested, after such an early morning and rigorous hiking.  Then, George got out the grill and cooked our dinner…

DINNER:  Grilled pork chops.  I sauted the oyster mushrooms we had bought in the farmers’ market –  so special and yummy.  Side was a big salad. 

A glorious day on the slopes!

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park
WEATHER:  Still pretty toasty.  We and  the Montantans are complaining.  🙂   High 93

What a glorious day!

We drove up to Whitefish Mountain Resort, a ski “village” with lots and lots of ski slopes.  Beautiful mountain-look condos. 

We took two different ski lifts to get up to the summit.  The views were amazing.  In the summer, the ski slopes are used for hiking and mountain biking.  There were a lot bikers.  The ski lift is set up to haul the bikes up, and then the bikers whizz DOWN the mountain trails. Here is a lift just for bikes

Once we were at the summit, our plan was to take a hike.  The hikes were categorized as follows:  Difficult, More Difficult, Very Difficult, and Most Difficult.  Here I am taking just a few steps on the one marked Very Difficult. The “Uphill” sign was very helpful….haha!

We decided to just stroll around the ski lodge and admired the beautiful wild flowers.

Here is a map of the many ski slopes.  The photos look like a winter wonderland.

We took the gondola up – looks like this…

And, we took the chair lift back down.  Lots of breathtaking views. 

I always get a little knot in the pit of my stomach when I am on these lifts.

In the resort’s village, we found a nice outdoor cafe and enjoyed a beer and shared a “bento” for a late lunch.

In the late afternoon, we went into the town of Whitefish for the weekly farmers’ market.  It was really busy with food trucks and vendors

I bought some Montana Flathead cherries, some local cheese, oyster mushrooms,  onions, and arugula.

Then, we stumbled upon a distillery right next to the market.  We stopped in and wow!  I think I had the best cocktail I have ever had.  It was a “picante margarita” made with lime, chile simple syrup, and the distillery’s agave.  Citrus-y and spicy.  Yum!  But – how am I supposed to drink it with a mask on???!!!

DINNER:  Restaurant leftovers redux.   I can’t believe how large restaurant portions are!  We shared the leftovers from the rib platter that we had shared – so a total of 4 servings intended for a meal designed for one big American.  (No wonder so many people are so fat!)  Side was the leftover bowl that we had already shared, too.  Again – 4 meals out of 1.  I turned it in to a salad – so it was rice, beans, jalapenos, carrots, cilantro leaves, and cabbage – this time mixed up with some lettuce. 

Special Edition – 7th Year Anniversary!

Today marks our 7th anniversary on the road!  Seven years ago, George picked me from my last day of work at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  My colleagues yelled their farewells as I jumped into our Honda Pilot that was towing our Aliner camper. 

We had sold everything we possessed, with everything fitting into either the car or the pop-up.  We were as happy has clams!!!

We lived full-time in the Aliner for 6 months.  It never seemed too small.  We stayed in national and state parks, and used  the great outdoors as our kitchen, dining room, and lounge.  This all changed when we hit  unusually cold weather in Mississippi.  We stopped into an Airstream dealer “just to look”.  HAHA

We bought a 21-foot Bambi which we loved.  It served us well, taking us all around the USA, Canada, and a couple of trips to Mexico.  After putting a lot of miles on it, we upgraded to this 2017  25-foot Flying Cloud that we have named Joy.  We are truly traveling with joy – and Joy!

When we are not traveling with the Airstream, we travel around the world doing housesitting assignments through a website called www.trustedhousesitters.com.  We have completed about 40 assignments throughout Europe, Singapore, Thailand,  Mexico, Australia, South Africa, and the USA.  We love staying in people’s homes for a few weeks, getting to know an area like a local, and not feeling like a tourist.  Usually we have a pet or two to care of, in addition to minding the house and garden. 

In 2017, we built a tiny house (12 x 40) in South Texas. It is nice to have a base and it is a lovely RV community with a clubhouse, lots of activities, and plenty of really really nice people. 

So our schedule is something like this…..3-4 winter months/year in Texas, then 4-5 months camping in North America with the Airstream, and 4-5 months housesitting somewhere in the world. 

We are truly blessed to have good health and the ability to enjoy our retirement like this.  We hope you will follow our adventures on this blog.  In each day’s blog entry,  I chronicle our journeys with photos, reviews of campgrounds, my dinner menu, recipes, and book suggestions. 

www.reidsontheroad2018.wordpress.com

We are – George and Karmen Reid – Reidsontheroad – Traveling with Joy! 

Cheers!

Mountain living

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park
WEATHER:  Fairly hot.  High 90.  Sunny.  (It had been hazy so now the view of the mountains is brighter)

I think I could get into this Montana life routine:  Morning hikes followed by lunch/beers at a brewpub or two, then rest and reading, then computer work/planning, then nice dinner in Joy, ending with travel and food shows on PBS.  Bliss!

The towns of Columbia Falls, BigFork, Whitefish, and Kalispell are all tourist towns, clustered together near Glacier National Park.  Today we went to Kalispell for our morning hike.  We found a city park that has two trails.  The first one was paved and used by both bikers and hikers.  We had a decent elevation change which got our hearts pumping. 

The second hike was in a wetlands area.  Much more interesting.  This area floods during the spring thaw when the nearby river floods.  They must have had a strong wind recently, as we encountered several downed trees that we had to climb over….

Another part of the trail was through tall grass. I felt like I was in a jungle!

As we were walking back to our car in the parking lot, this van was parked next  to a playground.  It looks like an ice cream truck and George, in search of a popsicle, asked if they had any.  We learned that the truck is sponsored by the school and during the summer it stops in parks and neighborhoods around  the city to give free lunches to children from low-income families who normally get free lunches during the school year.  Such a good idea! 

Lunch time took us into the city of Kalispell where there are several brewpubs from which to choose.  We went to one that had an interesting menu online.  We ordered a “bowl” and some beers and ate out on the patio, all by ourselves.  When you order, you design your own bowl combination, selecting your protein, filler, vegetables, sauces, and other condiments.  We shared a bowl with black beans, brown rice, sesame sauce, cabbage, jalapenos, carrots, cabbage, and cilantro.  We stuffed ourselves and still had lots of food leftover. 

The brewer was busy making a pale ale and the smells coming out of the small brewery were heavenly.

We strolled over to a second brewpub and George had another beer. (I was driving).  Then, we walked around the cute downtown.  The flowers in these mountain cities are just amazing!

DINNER:  We don’t have a firepit here, so we hooked up our gas grill.  Instead of carrying around a propane tank, we can hook up to Joy’s tanks.  Very convenient!  George grilled our rotisserie chicken pieces (wings and legs)  while I sauteed up some potatoes, onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Side was a salad. 

BOOK:  “Bel Canto” by Anne Patchett.  A story about a group of people who had gathered to listen to an opera singer who were kidnapped by terrorists, and the resulting relationships that take place in their captivity.  3 stars out of 5.  Some parts lagged…

A rendezvous with Texas friends

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park
WEATHER:  Hot again.  High 100

We took another hike this morning, before it got too hot.  It was my kind of trail – ascending to start, then descending on the way back, when we were hotter and more tired. 

Today’s 3-mile  trail was categorized as “easy”.  Ha!  It must be the thin/fit young people jogging along the trail that provide these designations!  We were rewarded by a beautiful view of one of the mountain lakes at the end.

This photo popped up on Facebook as a memory from 3 years ago.  We started with a housesitting assignment in Washington state, parked our Airstream and truck, and then flew to Asia for assignments in Singapore and Thailand.  We added a week of vacation in Thailand before returning to the US where we picked up the Airstream again, and completed this adventure with an assignment in Boise.  What great memories!  I sure hope we can start doing that again soon. 

We took a drive around the Whitefish Lake and mountain area.  Wow -so many mansions.  There is a lot of money here.  Summer sports are big now on the lake, and it gets even busier in the winter with lots of ski slopes and resorts.    We drove up Big Mountain where houses have gorgeous views of Whitefish Lake below.

Montana really takes the pandemic seriously.  I have seen 100% compliance with masks and social-distancing.  They don’t want to lose their tourist industry.  A little humor…

No brewpub for us today for lunch as we were meeting up with a couple from Retama Village – where we have our tiny house in South Texas.  They are camping nearby and recommended a BBQ restaurant for an early dinner.  It was great to see them, and we hope to get together with them later in the week again.

George and I shared the BBQ rib sampler.  3 kinds of ribs plus beans, cole slaw, potatoes, and Indian fry bread.  Yikes!  We took home a lot of leftovers!

More great Montana brewpubs!

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park
WEATHER:  Another hot one – High 93

I spent the morning researching other places where we might stay next week, rather than continue to stay a second week at this RV park.  We are fine here, but we would prefer to be out in nature and/or at a cheaper location.  I snagged one night at a state park, 2 nights at a small dry-camping campground in the mountains, and two Harvest Host sites – a golf course and a ranch.  Two other Harvest Host locations, a brewery and a cherry farm, were already full.  This is the first time that this has happened to me….shows how many more people are camping this summer.

Since it is still hot, we will postpone hiking until tomorrow.  Instead, we went to a brewpub!  Why not?  This one had good beer and we shared a plate of mushroom gnocchi – mushrooms that tasted like morels and are from a local farmer.  Yum!

PH

We are based in Columbia Falls, not far from Glacier Park.  Our RV park is halfway between Whitefish (a winter ski resort town) and Columbia Falls.  We will make a day trip once or twice over to Glacier National Park, about 20 miles away. 

DINNER:  I jazzed up some leftovers – hamburger meat with grits and cheese.  Side dish was the last of my Minnesota zucchini, sauteed with onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  All quite good. 

104 degrees!!!! Montana????

LOCATION:  Columbia Falls, Montana – near west entrance of Glacier National Park
CAMPGROUND:  Mountain View RV Park.  Small commercial park, with decent space between sites.  Full hook-ups.  Picnic table, but no firepit or grill.  Beautiful bathrooms and laundry.  Great wifi.  Too expensive at $48/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  HOT!!!  We saw a sign showing 104
DRIVE:  7 hours

We aimed for an early departure from Three Forks, and made it out by 10:00 – not too bad.  The first two hours of the trip were on busy I-90.  We drove through tall mountains, with semis passing us on our way down, then we passed the semis on the way up.  Up and down; repeat.   The speed limit on the Interstate is 80.  I putzed along at 60-65, with everyone else zipping by me.  It was a white-knuckle drive.  We got off the Interstate when we saw a route called a “scenic byway” that parallels the interstate.  What a relief!   And, indeed it was scenic. 

We soon started passing by sparkling mountain lakes.

We were on secondary roads the rest of the way.  A strange phenomen — cars that are impatient to pass us wait until a yellow line/no passing zone to start passing.  It never fails! 

There was a lot of road construction and we had several stops where we sat 20 minutes or so. 

As the afternoon wore on, we watched the thermometer in the truck go up and up.  And this is Montana?  We later learned that this is the hottest day that they have had this year.

We found our RV park and got settled in.  It is a nice RV park, but we would really prefer to be out in nature – in a state park  or woodsy campground.  This area, though, is jam-packed with visitors and this is all that I could find.  Absolutely every other campground was booked up, and this RV park is completely full, too.  We are scheduled to be here 2 weeks, but I am going to see if I can find anything else in the area.  At least we have a place to stay if nothing else works out. 

DINNER:  Plan B….Plan A had been grilled chicken, but it was just too hot to be outside to grill, even at 7:00.  So, I did an antipasto platter.  The recipe came from the package of the sun-dried tomatoes I had in my pantry.  Definitely gourmet, and I will do again on another hot evening when it is too hot to cook.  Recipe: 

16 oz mozzarella cheese pieces (I substituted feta as I forgot to buy the mozzarella!)
1/2 pound sliced Genoa salami (I substituted some grilled weiners as they needed to be used up)
1 bag (3 oz) sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups green and kalamata olives
1 16-oz can artichoke hearts, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 glove mashed garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Arrange everything on a platter.  Mix olive oil and garlic; let set a few minutes, then drizzle over the platter.  Finish up with the drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Serve with a French baguette.  (I substituted naan as the store did not have anything else). 

Our daughter Alexis who lives in Rochester, MN volunteers often at a dog/cat shelter. She posted this photo today. She looks so happy!

A day of domesticity…

LOCATION:  Three Forks, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Camp Three Forks
WEATHER:  Hot during the day – 92, but delightfully cool in the morning and overnight

Readers — If you did not see any photos in yesterday’s post, please try it again.  I had weak wifi when I first published.  The photos are there now.  Sorry about that!

OK – Life on the road is not all fun and games….well, mostly it is, but sometimes domestic chores just have to be completed.  So today we stayed around the RV park and worked on Joy and the truck.

Knowing that it was going to be hot mid-day, I walked to this popular bakery/deli to get my daily exercise in the early morning.  I had to walk along a highway which was not too fun or interesting.  I did encounter 3 rattlesnake skins, a bloated dead deer, lots of broken glass, and a ton of grasshoppers. 

This place brings in people from all over.  I bought  a feta/spinach croissant for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Now for domesticity….

1.  Laundry – this RV park has a nice laundry room, so I wanted to take advantage of that.  We now have a closet full of clean clothes…what a great feeling!
2.  Rug cleaning.  The laundry room has a big laundry sink, so I hand-washed our throw rug and hung it out to dry.  Much brighter!
3. Defrost the freezer — not a fun chore, but afterwards, so much more food fits in it!
4. Grocery shopping – with a now larger freezer, we went to the local grocery and bought a lot of refrigerated goods.  I like to support local stores instead of the big chain stores.  We are well-supplied for the next week.
5. Homemade chicken broth – I bought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery and cut it up for 4 future meals.  One package is the bony meat – legs and wings – that we will crisp up  on a grill one night.  The other packages are boneless chicken that I will use in future recipes.  Then, with all the bones and skin, I made chicken broth and froze about 4 containers, all for future recipes.

While I was doing all of that, George dumped our gray and black water, in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  He also worked on the lug nuts.  I have no idea in the world what a lug nut is. 

This RV park has a beautiful gazebo/patio with a big, brand-new gas grill.  George cooked up a package of bacon and some weiners that had thawed in my defrosting project.  We like to keep a container of cooked bacon on hand for recipes and breakfasts. 

Then, time to party!  Tonight is our last night in Three Forks, so we went back to the historic Sacajawea Hotel for a special dinner. 

The lobby is just gorgeous.  They have done an excellent job in retaining its historic look and feel.

As we passed by the patio, I saw someone who looked  familiar.  I finally got up enough courage to approach him, and indeed it was someone I had known when we lived in Rochester, and I was active in our Rotary Club.  Small world!

We had a delicious, fine-dining meal. The meal started with a French baguette with tapanade, garlicky olive oil, and baba ghanoush spreads.  George had smoked trout that came with freekeh,  a smoked Middle Eastern grain.  For my entree, I ordered their house salad that came with smoked trout, crunchy corn kernels, and marinated smoked tomatoes.  Very unusual and delicious.  We paired this all with a bottle of French Pinot Noir.  Quite a splurge, but well worth it.

Back home, we finished off the wine, sitting in the candlelight of a candle that I bought at the hotel’s gift shop.  Very romantic!!!