The Taj Mahal of Campgrounds?

CAMPGROUND: Goose Bay Marina and Campgrounds. Seems to be a federal park managed by a private company. Flat, gravel sites with picnic table and firepit. Very nice showers. Our site is electricity only. Some have full hook-up. $26/night. No shade. 2 stars out of 5
LOCATION: Near Townsend, south of Helena in central part of Montana. On Lake Canyon Ferry
WEATHER: HOT! High 95 and super strong sun

We got a fairly early start from Logan State Park as we needed to drive about 5 hours to where we have reservations for 4 nights.

The drive started through beautiful forest land, lakes, and rivers. There are so many pine trees that almost everything is built out of logs – log cabins, churches, banks, etc. We would have liked to stay in this area, but the campgrounds were full.

Then, as we descended into a huge valley, the landscape changed to hay fields. The farmers were out in the fields baling the hay. The drying hay bales in the green valleys are so pretty.

Our drive finished by circling the lake. It is very large. We had to drive over the narrow dam (guess who was driving!) We are at the bottom tip of the lake.

When I was looking for a place to stay around this lake, this campground was advertised as “The Taj Mahal of Campgrounds”. I reserved 4 nights, and thought that if we really like it that we could consider extending the stay. Not too far from the town of Townsend (with a brand new brewery) or far from Helena, with lots of offerings. Maybe there we could pick up a TV channel (PBS) from Helena? Maybe do laundry? Catch up with internet? I was looking forward to a few nights of luxury.

Our hopes were quickly dashed. When we got off the main road, the sign said that the campground was 3 miles. The road was the very, very worst we have ever been on. A gravel, wash-board type of road. Even going 5 mph, all of our bones and teeth rattled. There were all kinds of noises from the pick-up and we were imagining the worst from the Airstream. I just couldn’t believe it was the right spot!

After that interminable 3 mile drive, we saw the campground. This can’t be right? Pit toilets? No trees? No amenities? (Forget TV, wifi, laundry). It was an area with about 75 RVs, all baking in the hot sun with nothing at all to offer. I’m afraid it is the right spot, afterall. We have 4 nights here, and going back and forth on that god-awful road will not be something we want to do often. We are going to see if we can leave a night early, but only if we can get reservations elsewhere, as it will be a busy Saturday night.

We registered in the 95-degree heat, and set up in the crispy, brown grass. One redeeming feature – our site has 50 amp electricity so we can run both air conditioners. After closing all the blinds, we sat cocooned in the dark, air-conditiond Airstream until it began to cool off outside.

The Airstream survived the 3-mile torture pretty well. Two vent covers had shaken loose from the ceiling and were on the floor. There was a mysterious glob of white stuff on the floor. At first we couldn’t figure out what it was, but then I realized it was hand lotion. The bottle had jumped off the bed in the back and traversed the entire length of the Airstream, with the pump bouncing along and leaving dabs of lotion in its wake.

We took a walk around the campground, and found why they call it the Taj Mahal.

It is a mecca for fishermen and other campers with boats and water sports equipment. We asked if there was a boat we could rent. Nope.

In the evening, we watched clouds building up over the lake. Lightning and thunder started in the distance. The wind really picked up. We had to put up the awning as it was whipping around. It was mesmerizing to see the storm coming in. In the course of about 15 minutes, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees.

Although it rained a lot around the lake, we just got a few sprinkles. The sunset was magnificent, too.

DINNER: We toasted a piece of flatbread (lavash) over the fire. I spread it with cream cheese, and topped it with chicken breast pieces, sauteed onions and red peppers, and cheese. I heated the flatbread up in the microwave to melt the cheese, and sprinkled on cilantro at the end. Reallly good! The package of lavash came with 6 pieces of flatbreads so I will be thinking of other ways to prepare them soon.

After the storm, we opened up all the windows (all 4 sides) and enjoyed the cool breeze. What a contrast! From our bed, we watched the storm continue in the distance. The sky really put on a lightning show!

BOOK: I finished “The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal”, one of a series of “The Cat Who….” by Lilian Jackson Braun. About the lightest kind of book one can read. I picked it up at a campground exchange library… 7 out of 10.

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