The Great American Road Trip Season 2, Part 4: Northwest Montana
I have one word to describe Northwest Montana: unexpected. I knew this area of Montana would be beautiful but seeing it in person stopped me in my tracks. The trees here reach skyward, trying their very best to touch the clouds. The crystal clear river waters rush over colorful rocks, wearing them smooth as they tumble downstream. Big rivers, tiny creeks, and lakes of all sizes fill the landscape around every turn, down every dirt road, and in every valley.
Our first few nights in Montana were spent at a small off-grid campground between Yellowstone and Bozeman called Greek Creek (above). Camping beside a river surrounded by tall pines that scented the air better than any candle was an absolute dream. Roxy and I loved sitting outside together and watching rafters paddle on by. We would always wave and they would wave back!
The weather was chilly and it hailed on us so much one evening, it looked like a fresh coat of snow on the ground! Once I saw the hail was too small to damage Sibbie (our Airstream), I sat on the sofa by the window and watched it fall. I loved every second of it! I even lit a candle for some extra coziness. Much to my disappointment, though, Montana didn’t want to keep us in cool weather forever…
After leaving Greek Creek, we headed north to Missoula to restock on food and supplies and to visit with a pet photographer friend, Kim! The weather had officially turned to full-blown summer so she suggested dinner outside at a favorite spot (I had a burrito; it was delish) and, afterward, we walked around town and saw the wave — where they surf in Montana!!! After my mind exploded from seeing surfers in Montana, we went for ice cream at a local shop and rounded out our evening with a visit with her amazing pups, Enzo and Marigold. It was such a great evening!
The next day, we took off for Whitefish and I was not prepared — at all — for how much I would love it there. Northwest Montana stole my heart. Sorry, Wyoming, you have some serious competition.
I couldn’t get over how the rivers and lakes in the Whitefish area were crystal clear and quite a few of the lakes looked like they were straight out of the Caribbean! In the bright sunshine, Ashley Lake (above) sparkled a green blue hue I’ve never seen in a lake before. It was truly incredible!
While we were in Whitefish, we had a few days with my cousin, Chris, and his wife, Leslie, whom we hadn’t seen in many, many years. My cousin is a private chef and we were lucky enough to be there for one of the monthly gatherings he and Leslie host for their friends. Chris grilled shrimp skewers, king crab legs, tri-tip, short ribs, and t-bone, all with different seasonings. He roasted potatoes and morel mushrooms that he foraged himself. (Side note: I don’t like mushrooms but I tried these and they were absolutely amazing!) There was grilled asparagus (my fav) and so much more. Chris also brewed the most delicious sun tea with herbs from his garden. I could go on… It is a meal I will remember for a very, very, very long time! Call Montana Craft Kitchen if you’re ever in the area and have Chris customize a menu for you. You can thank me later! ;)
After our visit, Greg, Roxy, and I headed further north to Glacier National Park. Greg was able to secure tickets for Going to the Sun Road (video above) so we were able to get into the park at any time. If you go to Glacier and aren’t quick enough to get a ticket, you can get through the gates before 6:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m.
One day we drove up to Polebridge and picked up some treats at the little bakery. Then we drove almost all the way to the Canadian Border to see Kintla Lake (we were probably about 10 miles from Canada). It was insanely windy and the trails were not dog or dog-carriage friendly so we enjoyed the view for a few minutes before heading back south.
The next spot we stopped was Bowman Lake. It was absolutely incredible here! Roxy ate her dinner picnic-style on a big grassy area just off the parking lot. We watched a doe in the forest for a little bit before she turned around and bounced away. We found a perfect spot for a hammock here but, sadly, it was getting late and we needed to get home.
There were quite a few things that surprised me about Glacier National Park:
- Glacier is half the size of Yellowstone… it’s massive!
- Gravel roads make up the majority of the park. Going to the Sun Road is the only one that’s paved.
- If you want to access the majority of the park, you need to hike. The roads go around the outside and hiking trails fill the middle.
- There are a ton of private residences inside the Park’s boundaries!
- Wildlife is elusive. We saw a few deer and that was it!
- Going to the Sun Road is incredible! Greg and I are so used to the ranch road that this style of road felt very normal. If you’re not used to driving alongside big drop-offs with no shoulder and just a teeny tiny walled barrier, though, you may feel differently. The scariest thing for us was when we were on the inside, driving alongside sheer rock cliffs in our wide truck, and people who were scared to be along the edge would drive over the yellow line and partly in our lane. We had nowhere else to go! Thankfully there were no accidents!
- It was still light when we took Roxy out for her last potty at 10:30 p.m.
One of my favorite days in Glacier was when we found the prettiest little spot next to a crystal-clear creek where we could just relax. Greg set up his hammock and I set up my chair alongside Roxy’s blanket and bed. She was so happy to snooze beside the creek as I read my book. At one point, we saw a mama and baby deer come out of the trees, take a drink of water, and then turn and bounce back into the forest.
The Dogs of Northwest Montana
Of course while we were in Northwest Montana, we had to do some shoots for our trip sponsors!
When we found this lake, we knew we had to shoot here… and when I found out that one of our doggie models, Josie, goes paddle boarding with her mom, I knew exactly what we were going to do! Thankfully, Josie’s mom was on board (literally) and I was grateful she trusted us enough to meet us down a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, early one morning so we could get these shots!
Fun story: I couldn’t get the look I wanted from the shore, so I ventured right on in to the lake with my grippy water shoes and camera gear. As I was shooting, I felt something tickling my foot. I thought it was a fish but when I looked down, I saw it was a crawdad, casually checking out my feet and crawling all over them. 🦞 I said hello and asked him not to pinch me… thankfully, he obliged.
During our location scouting, I wandered around a corner and found this incredible view. Wondering the best time of day to shoot here, I got out my phone and opened an app that tells me when and where the sun will be on any given day. When I saw it was going to come up right over the mountains, that was it: I knew this was a 100% YES shoot location. I was grateful our sweet Chocolate Lab doggie model, Henry, and his mom for agreeing to meet us at 5:30 a.m. one morning so we could capture this magic! Morning shoots can be tough but they are always worth it!
Henry was absolutely obsessed with The Rewarding Life Treats from Wellness. He loved them sooooo much!!! We haven’t met a dog yet who doesn’t flip for these treats!
When Harley’s mom told me Harley’s secret to a happy life is playing more fetch, I knew we had to get out the InfiniDisc from P.L.A.Y. and have some fun in this gorgeous park! Harley was the epitome of speed and I couldn’t get over how she could run, jump, and catch the frisbee in the air! As mom to a Heeler mix who has never been one to run, jump, or catch, I was very impressed! We played and played until Harley came over, laid down, and looked at me with her biggest best-day-ever smile. She was the happiest pup!
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Where are we going next?
Well, we can’t go any farther north, so we’re headed south. We’ll spend a little time just outside Missoula before heading over to Bozeman for a few weeks before we turn Sibbie (our Airstream) toward home. I can’t believe our trip is going to be over in a few short weeks. Our travels went way too quickly this year but our 2024 road trip is already planned and I can’t wait to tell you all about it… soon!
Did you miss the first three posts in this series?