is the Montana page of my northwest vacation. The page starts
on September 1, 1999 and covers the 5 days that we were in
September 1, 1999
of the day was spent in Waterton Park, Alberta. We had reservations
at the Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park, so we
left Waterton and headed south on route 6. As we approached
the US, we could see a big mountain sticking up above the
rest of the area. This was Chief Mountain. The border crossing
was uneventful and so we headed into Montana. We stopped at
a pullover and noticed a sign saying that it was Chief Mountain.
The mountain didn't look as big, because we were looking at
it from it's narrow eastern side. Later, we would see it from
the south, which is its most impressive view. The road goes
east, joining with US 89 a few miles from the pullover. This
area of Montana is desolate, and we noticed that we were very
low on gas. It was late and there are no gas stations in the
park, so we would have to find one somewhere else. We came
to the road to Many Glacier, and asked some folks in an old
truck where we might find gas. They said to go on about 10
miles down the road to St. Mary and some place would be open.
We found the place; right out of the 1950's with few changes
since. It was an old roadside place with a grocery store attached.
As we got gas, I looked around and saw that they had many
Montana microbrews, among other interesting items. A friendly
young girl was running the place, and we spoke with her about
the different beer and Montana "postcards"(Joke
cards; one shows a guy shoveling manure and the title is,"Training
for politics in Montana"). We bought some beer and cards
and headed back to the park. We turned into the park at the
Many Glacier sign and drove to the hotel. Several stops were
made for pictures; it was sunset but the scenery looked great.
The Many Glacier Hotel is an old property; built for the old
railroads to bring people to see the park. It is a cool old
place; some say it needs to be totally renovated, but it probably
would lose it's charm. It has a big interior lobby which all
the floors open to, with a big fireplace at one end. We were
staying on the second floor and there are no elevators, so
we dragged all of our stuff up the stairs. The rooms are old;
heated by the old pipe / hot water system and fairly small.
As you walk down a hall you can see that the building has
settled, and the walls have sagged as a result. None of this
took away from our stay and we would gladly return anytime.
We enjoyed a few beers in our rooms before dinner. It was
getting late, so we headed down to the Ptarmigan dining room,
had a good meal and retired to our rooms for a good night's
September 2, 1999
was a full day in Glacier National Park. We would get an early
start, drive the Going to the Sun Road, go into Whitefish,
and return late via some old wet roads. Our day started with
a buffet breakfast in the same dining room as last nights
dinner. The Ptarmigan dining room faces the lake and towering
peaks beyond. Last night we couldn't see the view out the
big picture windows. It was overcast but there wasn't any
rain the entire day. We packed the truck with what we would
need for the day and headed out. The start of the Going to
the Sun Road is right about where we found gas on Monday.
We turned onto it and started the drive. The road has many
pullovers, features, and trailheads alongside it. We were
going east to west, so we would go up to Logan Pass and then
descend several thousand feet to the valley floor. Our first
pullover was St. Mary Lake. The pullover looks over Wild Goose
Island. We took pictures and met a guy who was driving all
around the country. He was from Atlanta and was headed to
Seattle to see the first show of the band The Pfish. He has
several interesting stories to tell about his travels. He
also informed us that Jerry Garcia was the best ever, a genius.
This statement was a source of many jokes and laughs for the
rest of the trip. We headed to the next pullover, just a few
miles around the lake. This was a view looking south toward
some tall mountains on the other side of the lake. The next
stop was at Sunrift Gorge. This was almost unmarked. There
is flowing water right by the road and a trail up a hill.
Climbing the trail brings you to a flat area where the water
flows down. If you position yourself just right, you can see,
between two cliffs, the water source above an incline. It
was cool and several pictures were taken. As we went back
down we noticed that the trail went under the road. We walked
that way and found a sign with mileages of trails to various
places. Baring Falls was .5 Mile. We decided to go see Baring
Falls. It was a nice short walk; the cloudy day also made
it cool. We checked out the falls and walked back to the car.
The walk down was easy; the walk back was slightly harder
as it was up hill. It was worth it as we had it all to ourselves.
Our next stop was Jackson Glacier Overlook. This spot was
where you could see a glacier from the road. Most of the ice
that we saw from the road was just unmelted ice; glaciers
are very old and there aren't that many visible from the road.
At the stop we saw some new technology in action- the park
service's "sweet smelling" toilet. This was one
of the non- plumbing types and it actually didn't smell. It
wasn't sweet, but compared to others we have seen it was OK.
We left and went to Logan Pass. The road up to Logan Pass
is a steady incline and has a sharp drop- off on one side.
It was now windy and cold. There is a visitor center there
and we stopped in. Just walking to the building was chilly
and windy. Once inside, there are displays and a few items
available for purchase. We looked at the displays about the
wildlife and the area in general. They were well laid out
and worth the stop. I got a couple of postcards and we headed
on. We now began our descent to the valley floor. This is
where the road gets narrow and tight. We passed by Triple
Arches and the Weeping Wall. By the time we got to The Loop
and stopped, the toughest part was done. The Loop is where
the road has a hairpin turn and a parking area. As we pulled
up, we parked next to a truck just like ours; with Alaska
plates also. We never met who was driving but were surprised
to see it anyway. We then made the final descent and came
out by McDonald Creek. There are many pullovers and trails,
but we couldn't stop at them all. We stopped at Trail of the
Cedars nature trail, a boardwalk through a cedar forest. These
are very old cedars and there aren't many left in the area.
One area of the trail has a waterfall with moss- covered rocks
all around. We got some great pictures on this trail and it
was a nice walk. After a few more stops along McDonald Creek,
we were ready for a cold beer and lunch; so we headed into
Whitefish. We passed by Lake McDonald and left the park at
West Glacier. West Glacier is the closest town to the park;
it has all the fast food chains and other stores you see at
many exits in America. We passed through and went south and
west to Whitefish. The main reason for our visit to Whitefish
was to go to Great Northern Brewing to see their operation,
and try their beers. As we approached town I realized I didn't
have the address of the brewery. I had only seen it on the
Internet and had never bothered to write down directions.
Whitefish is a small town and I knew what the place looked
like, so we drove around and I saw the three story glass tower
almost immediately. We parked and went in. As we entered we
could see some brewing equipment and smelled yeast. There
are official tours given each day; earlier than we were there.
However, the tasting room was open and ready for business.
It is on the second floor and looks out over part of the town.
There is no charge for the beer; they gave us cards with names
of each beer on them, and they punch each as you try it. We
knew that the tasting room had a live web cam and we wanted
to appear on it. The barman told us it updates about every
20 minutes and that we could try to get in the picture then.
Meanwhile, they have a computer in the corner that anyone
can use for what ever they want; just don't change it's settings.
This was the only time on the trip that we had access to one
and we each used it to check e-mail and send "postcards".
The postcards were of the pictures of us at the bar which
were on their web site live while we were there. You call
up the site, go to the cam page and look at the tasting room
cam. When we saw our picture we could then make them into
a e-postcard. You can then send it to anyone you like and
he will get a notice, then go to the site's" post office"
and retrieve the card. I sent to anyone's e-mail address I
could remember. (Not many, unfortunately) Last time I checked,
my cards were still there (Dec. '99). The site is at www.blackstarbeer.com
- check it out. We stayed until they closed about 6 o'clock.
We each bought some necessary items; T-shirts, caps or pint
glasses. As we left, I asked the barman where locals would
go for a tasty burger, and he replied "The Bulldog".
I got directions (1 block away) and we headed there for a
late lunch before we began our return trip. The Bulldog Saloon
is a classic old (almost) biker bar. You come in and it is
a long narrow room with the bar along the left side. I could
smell that the food was going to be great. We sat at the bar
and just enjoyed looking around at all the stuff on the walls
and ceiling. You name it and it was there. We ordered beer
and food was self service, i.e.: you walk over to the prep
area and order and pay there. They will bring it to you when
it is ready. Most of the beer was the big three; fortunately
they also had a local beer "Moose Drool Brown Ale".
What a great surprise; we had had it on our last vacation
in Montana. The place was great and the burgers were awesome,
but we had a 2 or 3 hour drive to get back to the hotel, so
we had to get going. I went to the restroom and it too, was
also classic biker bar- decorated. The walls were covered
with all nude women from various magazines and whatever. I
had my camera in my pocket so I got a shot of part of the
room; it has provided plenty of humor since. Later, we would
learn that the women's room was in the same decor. (Nude men
of course!) We left and after a quick stop at a grocery store
we headed back. It was getting late and darkness was coming
on quickly. We had debated and asked several locals about
which way would be quickest back to our hotel, and decided
on the road around the southern part of Glacier and up the
east side to rejoin the road near the hotel. (SR 89) The debate
continues; the first part was smooth and quick, but as we
came up the east side it was rough and slow. It also had started
to rain. At East Glacier, the road changes to a different
surface and there is nothing out there. The road actually
is dirt in some places and unmarked in others. The rain didn't
help; we were lucky no cars came the other way. This road
finally hooks up with SR 89, which was normal the rest of
the way back. Art was driving and I was maintaining the beer
in the back. It is a ride he will never forget; I'm sure he
will want to do it again soon! Finally, we got to the hotel.
We went in and checked out the log fire in the lobby, and
the gift shop. The shop was about to close, so we decided
to return in the morning. We got ice cream at the snack bar;
went up to the rooms and turned in for the night. It had been
a long day but one of the best, and we all fell asleep almost
September 3, 1999
would be our last day in Glacier National Park; we would drive
through one more time, get lunch, then head south and east
to Missoula. We got a late start as we had slept late. We
had our breakfast in the room as we had done several other
days. It was Jeff's birthday, (Happy B-Day Jeff). I had found
a cool card back in Seattle; Art gave him a T-shirt, and he
didn't get the package that was supposed to be at the front
desk. Nice job, USPS! As we packed up and loaded the truck
we all agreed that we wanted to stop by the gift shop in the
lobby. I predicted $200 would be spent between the 3 of us,
and A & J said "No way". When it was totaled
up later I was off by about $25; not over but under! This
total included shirts, mugs, assorted Glacier souvenirs and
gifts for others. Glacier National Park is staffed, almost
entirely, by college students from all around the country.
They all are usually friendly and helpful, and at the time
were on the way back to school in 2 weeks. As I checked out,
the 2 girls behind the desk were talking excitedly about another
guest in the hotel. As it turns out, a rock band guy, Dave
Matthews, was staying at the hotel. He had just come by and
gone out for a hike. I had never heard of him, and asked about
him, and the girls said it was a rock band and I would probably
like it. I haven't checked it out yet but several people I
know say it is good music, so they were probably right. Shortly
after, I went to the gift shop. I got a T-shirt, several small
souvenirs and a calendar. I paid for my stuff and waited for
A & J to finish. While I waited, I asked the girl if she
knew who Dave Matthews was, and she replied that she had been
embarrassed not to know who he was when the others told her
he was at the hotel. Sasha was from Boston and had worked
at the hotel for the last 2 summers. Her first year she had
worked with the troupe that put on a show almost every night
in the basement. We had missed it Wednesday night and it wasn't
put on Thursday. In her second year, she was working the gift
shop, a better job I guess; it sounds like as you work more
years, you can choose what job you want to do. While waiting,
I had found a few more items, so I told A & J to hurry
up as I would buy the whole place if we didn't get going.
They got their stuff and I got the rest of mine. I wished
Sasha good luck in her studies and we left the hotel. We needed
gas again so we went to the same place we had gone to on Wednesday.
The same pleasant girl was on duty; she was from Virginia
but moved to Montana to see if she would like it there. We
let Jeff get whatever beer he wanted, and what ever else he
wanted. The girl wished us well and told Jeff "Happy
Birthday"; we said thanks, paid for the gas and left.
We were starting to enjoy the people of Montana and would
continue to until we left. We drove back to the entrance to
Going to the Sun Road and turned on to it. Today was cloudy
and wet in some areas of the park. We were glad that yesterday
had been our main day in the park. Today we were just driving
through. We only stopped once, at Lake McDonald Lodge, where
Art wanted to get a shirt that the Many Glacier Hotel gift
shop didn't have in stock. This was supposed to be a quick
stop; but it became longer as we met several interesting people.
Art got into a conversation with a park ranger about the building
and other areas of the park. While I waited, I met Sarah,
an Anthropology student from Ohio State, working at Glacier
for the summer. She said that she really enjoyed her summers
at Glacier; hiking and discovering the history of the area.
Her summer was almost over and she sounded ready to get back
to school. Art found the shirt he was looking for, paid and
we headed on. Shortly, we came to West Glacier; as we drove
through, we saw a Canadian pavilion for Alberta. Having just
been to Alberta, we decided to stop in. As it turns out, the
pavilion was at the world's fair of several years ago. It
cost a lot and the Canadian government wanted to find a good
use for it. Someone decided on West Glacier, so here it was.
It was a really neat place; we were surprised at the quality
of the presentation. There aren't many marketing pavilions
for Alberta like this one. In the back you walk into a round
room and a movie comes on. It is shown in 360 degrees, all
around the room. The film was basically a promo for Alberta,
which showed us many places to see in the future. As we left,
I saw a half-price shirt shop and decided to check it out
(totally necessary). I did find one shirt, and it was half
the Park's price and better quality. We then headed to the
highway to travel south. As we passed through Columbia Falls,
we needed lunch and we remembered seeing "Taco Time",
yesterday. Taco Time is a northwest chain of about 30 taco
stores. A friendly local girl waited on us. We asked how long
it would be to Missoula. She said about 2 1/2 hours. Part
of the ride was on the "highway" and the rest was
on the "freeway"(her words). The food was decent;
better than any national chain and no little "rat"
dogs either! We finished our lunch and headed south to U.S.
93, which was an undivided 2 lane highway. It passed through
several small towns and also some open spaces. Flathead Lake
was on our left and the Rockies were beyond it. This part
had the best scenery; the part closer to I-90 was not as scenic.
We arrived at I-90 and headed east. Missoula was only a few
miles down the road. A hotel, The C'mon Inn, had been recommended
to us by someone at Many Glacier. It was 1 exit west of town,
so we got off and decided to check it out. The C'mon Inn was
a new property; once inside we could see that it was built
similarly to Many Glacier Hotel. All of the rooms looked out
onto the enclosed lobby, which was 3 stories high and had
a breakfast area, whirlpools and a fireplace area. At the
far end, separated by a glass wall, was an enclosed pool area.
This all looked great to us, so we proceeded to check in.
We had heard that they had some suite rooms and asked if any
were available. Several were; one was a whirlpool suite that
had never been used. It also had 3 beds. After checking it
out we decided on that room and moved in. This was one of
our earliest arrivals, so we had time to move in and just
relax and enjoy the place. The whirlpool was warmed up and
each of us took our turn in it. Several Montana beers were
had and we just relaxed and enjoyed the best hotel room of
our trip. Eventually, it was time for dinner, and I already
had a place I had found on a brew pub page on the 'net. The
place was called The Iron Horse Brewpub. We got ready to go,
and as we left the hotel, we stopped at the front desk for
directions. It was only one or 2 exits up I-90, so we headed
out. When the desk clerk heard where we were going, he told
us that it was a college bar and we might want to go some
place quieter. We were determined to go to the only brewpub
in the area, so we went regardless of what anyone said. We
arrived at the Iron Horse, parked and went in. The clerk was
right; it was a big, loud, college bar. As we came in I saw
several people leave the bar, so we took their seats. We were
probably lucky to get seats; it was Friday night in a small
college town bar. We asked about their beers and the guy said
they actually didn't make them there; they were contract brews.
It really wasn't a brewpub; technically they aren't legal
in Montana, but their beer was good. We had a good time there;
it was a college crowd similar to places I went to in college.
All of the people were friendly, and it seemed, mostly pretty
college aged girls. While we were there several funny things
happened. Since we were at the bar and it was crowded, occasionally,
someone would want to order something next to us or between
us. One girl ordered a pitcher of beer and paid for it with
a check. That wouldn't have worked even when I was in college.
I asked her what she would write in the "memo" area
of the check. She said the place stamped the check with it's
restaurant name, so the check wasn't written to a bar, anyway.
We saw many of this type of transaction;( all paid for by
check.) I guess small town Montana still hasn't been hit by
student's bad checks, and still accepts them everywhere. The
kids were all in groups, so one would come up and buy for
everyone in the group. One girl ordered 7 lemon drops, a vodka
drink, and said that was her contribution for the night; the
others in the group would buy later. We had appetizers and
enjoyed them. We really enjoyed the place, even though we
were 15 or 20 years older than most of the people. We were
just another 3 guys drinking beer on a Friday night. We had
wanted to order dinner but, we missed the deadline of 11:00.
The bartender said he didn't know we wanted dinner or he would
have let us know about the deadline. Very few were ordering
dinner, and the place was very busy, so we understood. He
did tell us about a place about 3 blocks away that served
until midnight. We paid up and got ready to leave. It was
busier than ever and our seats were grabbed immediately. As
we left we could see that there was now a line of about 20
people waiting to get in. When we left, 3 more were let in.
The Depot was about 3 blocks away; we left the truck and walked.
It was a cool place; dark and quieter than The Iron Horse.
We found seats and I noticed they also had several Montana
beers on tap. I had a Scapegoat Ale, a locally brewed product.
We ordered dinner; it was good but not memorable. My prime
rib sandwich was good as was the beer. It was getting late,
so we paid our tab and walked to the truck. We retraced our
route back to the hotel, arrived uneventfully, and called
it a night. It had been an interesting day, but we were tired
and turned in almost immediately.
September 4, 1999
we would spend part of the day exploring around Missoula and
then drive to Bozeman for the night. This was our last full
day in Montana, so we wanted to make the most of it. We awoke
a little late and tried to get ready to get on the road. This
proved to be easier said than done. We were moving slowly
and we were in one of the best hotel rooms that we would see
on this trip. Breakfast was downstairs surrounded by big rocks,waterfalls
and trees. The open, airy lobby was a good place for breakfast.
Finally, we loaded up and left about 11 o'clock. We had decided
to drive into Missoula and look around the U of M campus and
try to go to Big Sky Brewing's tasting room. As we got near
the campus, it looked like a lot of traffic for a Saturday
morning. We then realized that the Montana Grizzlies were
playing their first home football game. Being a smaller school,
U M's football Saturdays are nice low key affairs. The stadium
probably only holds ten or twelve thousand people and is in
a small valley, intimate and compact. This is probably what
it was like to go to football games thirty or forty years
ago at all the big schools that now have stadiums that hold
more people than Missoula itself. It was a perfect day; sixty
degrees and clear weather. If we had known, we would have
probably gone to the game just to be part of the event. It
looked like a good day for it and it was alumni weekend. Instead,
we walked around the campus, went to the bookstore for highly
necessary U of M souvenirs, and just checked out the campus
in general. We had found out that the tasting room opened
at 12:30 on Saturdays so we headed there. We arrived at Big
Sky, a long blue metal warehouse - like building. It looked
quiet, but we knew it was open, having checked earlier. The
brewing areas were closed but the tasting room was open. I
have not seen a place like this in all my brewpub travels.
It was basically a small gift shop with a big wooden bar on
one side. The bar probably was fifty years old and was stand
- up only. Our "brewers" were two local girls; Cathy
and Katie. Saturdays are only half days and each week the
employees change on Saturday. Cathy was the bartender, friendly
and informative about the local area, and Katie was there
packing up a bunch of boxes of the company's shirts and other
stuff for shipping. They probably make more on their souvenir
sales than beer sales. Katie was a native girl who had gone
to the University of Maine and returned to Missoula to live.
She was content with where she was and what she was doing;
very down to earth. Unlike most of the college girls we had
seen the last few days, she knew who she was and what she
wanted to do. Most of the others still didn't. The place really
was a cool place to hang out for a while and just see who
came in. They fill growlers there and it was a September Saturday
and all types of characters came by. A couple of guys came
by and got several growlers, more than usual as they had friends
in town and the place closed at five. Another guy heard where
we were going (Yellowstone) and showed us a great scenic way
to go. We didn't use all of his instructions this time but
they are written down and one day that route will be taken.
When a local says the interstate is straight and boring and
tries to show a better way, he's probably right. We had never
been there so the route that we took was all right but it
will be good to know the better way for another trip. All
kinds of characters came in. Most were known by someone else
(it's a small town) and were friendly cool people. I can just
imagine going to college and having a place like this to go
stock up on beer for the weekend. Good beer at that. We had
to get going, so we took one last drive through Missoula and
hit the interstate for Bozeman. The interstate was a scenic
route to us; big mountains were right by the road, in some
places, and away in the distance in others. I had read about
a scenic road, called the Pintler Scenic Highway, and the
guy at the tasting room had also recommended it. We found
it and basically it was just a way to skip part of the interstate
and have a slower more scenic view. It started out a dirt
road, as they were widening and repaving it, and then became
a decent two lane highway. It led right through some big mountains
and had a cool water fall about half way through the route.
At the other end it came out in a small town, Anaconda, where
we got back on the interstate. On the way we would pass through
Three Forks, a place mentioned in a book I had read on the
Lewis and Clark expeditions. The book, Undaunted Courage,
said that there were several areas that still looked like
they did almost two hundred years ago. We got off and tried
to find them, asked around, went on a wild goose chase and
finally gave up on it. Next time I will get exact directions
and allow more time. The anniversary of the expeditions is
coming up and I will be there. After a short ride we arrived
in Bozeman. We found our hotel; The Western Heritage Inn,
a clean, older property. We got a 2 room apartment, complete
with kitchen and barcca lounger. We arrived about six o'clock
and settled in. I sat in the lounger and turned on the TV.
The east coast college ball games were finishing. This was
the first week of games and we had South Carolina ("Lou's
Cocks") vs North Carolina State. It was great to be lounging
on a Saturday in Montana with a good cold beer and the ball
games going. The final was NCSU 9 Lou's Cocks 0; nice job,
Lou. Good to have him back to kick around again, we really
missed him when he quit ND. We had a great dinner and good
beers at Spanish Peaks Brewing. Spanish Peaks contract brews
in several locations in the country, so they can distribute
all over. We wondered if they made any beer locally. They
brew at this location for local consumption only; they make
a very tasty Nut Brown Ale and a solid Porter. Neither brew
is bottled; too bad, as both were excellent. It was a big
restaurant & bar, very busy, but we found a good spot
at the bar. Dinner was excellent and we enjoyed the place,
and would return anytime. It had been a full day, so we headed
back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.
September 5, 1999
we would leave Bozeman and drive to Yellowstone National Park.
From Bozeman we would head east to Livingston and then south
to the park. Most of the park is in Wyoming so the Montana
part of our trip would be over. Once in the park we would
drive down the western side; going to Mammoth Hot Springs,
Norris Geyser Basin and ending the day at Old Faithful. We
would spend the night at the Old Faithful Inn with the Geyser
visible just outside our windows.