(Written Sunday, October 6th at 7pm)
Total Days: 3
Total Mileage: 1,297
It’s hard to believe that we’re only 3 days into our road trip. Our first day consisted of almost 1,000 miles of driving through 4 different states. We planned to make it to some national forest land in Montana before we got some sleep, and after looking at some maps decided that Georgetown Lake in the Beavercreek-Deerlodge National Forest looked interesting. We pulled into a very small, sleepy forest town at around midnight and turned onto a deserted road to find our first campsite of the trip. Eager as we were to try out our new tent and to camp as much as possible, we forced ourselves to ignore the below freezing temps and foot of snow on the ground. We piled on all of our layers and then proceeded to shiver for about 5 hours. Finally, at around 5am, Don’s shivering stopped, he started moaning, and I was afraid he might be getting hypothermic. We groggily dragged ourselves into the car, blasted the heat, and discovered that is was in fact a frigid 16 degrees out. For the record, Don’s 30 degree sleeping bag was not warm enough and even my 15 degree left me freezing cold.
The next morning we woke to mountains, a high alpine lake, and a snow-covered ski town…our favorite scenery imaginable and exactly what we had been hoping for. We continued along beautiful Montana Highway 1 to the old mining town of Phillipsburg where we promptly found the cutest (and only) coffee shop in town in which to warm up and get on the internet. The plan was to head north into the Lolo National Forest where we could explore the lakes formed by the Clearwater River. We had originally hoped to backpack on night 2, but after the freezing night before, we decided it was better to have the car nearby just in case. As an aside, the primary way that we’re figuring out our route is by using a book a good friend of mine gave me for my birthday. It is the Readers Digest’s “Most Scenic Drives in America” and it is awesome. We ended up driving to the town of Seeley Lake and stopping there because it was charming and the book had mentioned something about canoeing in the area. We stopped at a rental shop and before we knew it, we were canoeing down a winding 3-mile “Canoe Route” that ended in Seeley Lake. We were able to leave the canoe at the take-out and hike 1.5 miles back to our car through protected wetlands and speckled sunlight. Next we conferred with the local “mountain bike expert” about places to hike nearby and were told to check out Morrell Falls, just 7 miles outside of town. He mentioned that the water level was low so they weren’t much to look at, but we decided we would camp nearby and give the trail a shot in the morning. We found a great site just off the road and made ourselves nice and cozy (and warm) inside the back of the car.
Today was great. We woke up in the morning rested and eager to hike. We drove the remaining mile to the trailhead and hiked 2.5 miles in to the astonishingly beautiful Morrell Falls. It seems that Montana residents have very high standards for nature. We did not think the falls were anything but magnificent. We ate lunch back at the car and then headed off on a long drive south to Missoula and then north through the Flathead Indian Reservation toward Flathead Lake. The scenic route took us through a number of small towns and the National Bison Range (where we saw tons of cows but only a few bison). We stopped in Polson at the base of Flathead Lake (the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi) to walk around and say hi to a whole family of deer on the side of the road. We kept driving until we got to a KOA Kampground in between the towns of Kalispell and Whitefish. We decided to camp here tonight because we were ready for showers, plus for $20 we also got a outdoor hot tub, electrical outlets, and free wi-fi. It’s the little things that matter when you’re on the road. Also, we just found out there is a petting zoo! We got to hold and cuddle the softest rabbit on earth, pet a bunch of miniature ponies, scare off some llamas, and Don got to finally fulfill his lifelong dream of petting a cow. He had tried multiple times on bike tour but was consistently rejected, this time he was successful and quickly made a new best friend.
Tomorrow we head into Whitefish and I can’t wait. I’ve wanted to visit this town for over a year now, and so far the area around it is better than I could have hoped. Who knows, maybe if we’re lucky Glacier National Park will open up for us by Tuesday! We’re not holding our breath and we’re not too concerned. Everything happens for a reason.