For the last 9 days we have been exploring the beauty and bounty of western Montana. We've primarily been staying with some of George's cousins who have been wonderful hosts and tour guides. It's such a treat to get out of the van for awhile, have a chance to clean up, and get the insider's input to the area.
After a coolant flush disaster at the Missoula Jiffy Lube, where both the van and George overheated repeatedly, we limped out to the refreshingly beautiful homestead of George's cousin, Lucas, and his sweet wife Chelsea (and baby McIver who's still under wraps).
They are both great cooks and made delicious meals (and desserts) from their garden veggies. We have been deprived of fresh garden veggies lately (the last farm stand we saw was back in Canada over a month ago), so I was thrilled at the sight of a garden basket filled with beets, garlic, carrots, and zucchini. While we were there, George fixed the overheating problem on the van, I got some work and laundry done, Lucas got some help putting tin on the roof of his new shop, and Adalaya made a new friend - their puppy, Shelby.
Next we headed to Cousin Rod's (Lucas' dad) house in Kalispell. Our timing was impeccable, as Rod and some of his smoke-jumping buddies were going on a 3-day boat trip down the Flathead River. Rod is an accomplished mountain-man and has lots of gear, so we packed up coolers and dry bags, loaded 2 canoes, and headed to the Flathead Indian Reservation. All together we made quite the flotilla: 18 people in 3 canoes, 2 rafts, and 7 kayaks.
Adalaya paddled with Rod who is a great teacher and full of knowledge. She learned how to surf in the eddies behind rocks and other canoeing secrets.
She even got to try her hand at kayaking. She loves it!
Meanwhile, George took his paddling very seriously. Shhh . . . rapids up ahead.
My favorite memory from the trip occurred around the campfire on the 2nd night. George was sitting in the folding chair that we found abandoned at the campsite. A bottle of "Let'er Buck" whiskey was being passed around the circle, and George indulged (being new to the sport of drinking he likes to do a lot of taste testings). Right after his swig, the folding chair collapsed and all I saw were feet flying into the air and his arm shoot straight up with the bottle of whiskey - saved! He got to his feet and declared, "Let'er Buck!" It could have been a commercial! I wish I could upload my mental picture of the event to share with you all.
It was a great float trip: fun folks, great food, good weather, a deep turquoise river with stunning views, and bald eagles too! Thanks to all the folks who organized the trip and let us tag along.
Our next stop was Glacier National Park. Rod took us to a few of his favorite spots in the west side of the park. Here is Avalance Creek, a turquoise glacier-fed stream, as is sculpts a smooth path through the iron-rich rock.
He also took us to Logan Pass at the top of the "Going to the Sun Road." I love the glacially formed U-shaped valleys and the "hanging valleys" with the huge waterfalls draining them.
From there, we hiked the Hidden Lake Trail and saw some amazing wildlife. A herd of big horn sheep.
And mountain goats right by the trail. It doesn't get any more scenic than this! I feel like Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music" (or maybe the Grizwald "Vacation" version).
The next day we bid farewell to Rod and headed to the east side of Glacier Park. Unfortunately the wind came and brought continually colder temperatures. They were predicting extremely unsummerlike conditions (down to 17 degrees one night this week!), so we decided to get in one good hike on the east side, then boogie on down the road. Here we are around St. Mary's Lake.
And St. Mary's Falls.
Here is Jackson Glacier, one of the 25 glaciers remaining in the park. The rangers estimate that all the glaciers will have melted by 2030!
On our way west, we stopped into Whitefish, MT for some provisions and stumbled upon the "Big Mountain Beer Fest", an annual fundraiser where you can sample beer from local breweries. Always eager to support local causes (especially when local food and drink is served) we sampled a large range of brews: some of my favorites were the Huckleberry Honey Ale, Moose Drool, and Trout Slayer - tasty and creatively named! Here's George sampling a porter and Adalaya brown-bagging her beverage of choice.
We also indulged in some other kid-friendly tastings while in the town. Strawberry & chocolate crepe - a new favorite!
Cherries have been another favorite food of mine since we've been in Montana! The Flathead Lake region is full of cherry orchards and roadside cherry stands.
These divine fruits have been a staple in my diet this week. Ooh la la!
We are heading west from here, but I want to say a big THANK YOU to the McIvers for showing us such a good time in Montana. It's good to have family in high places!
A beautiful sunset from our last Montana campsite.