Idaho, Re-Imagined

sandpoint

Idaho has never seemed like a very exciting place to me. What do they do there, anyway, besides grow potatoes? I don’t recall ever talking to anyone that’s been to Idaho as a tourist, so as we headed to Idaho, I wasn’t very excited about the prospect. As a matter of fact, I had serious trouble finding what appeared to be a great campground with full hookups in the Idaho panhandle as we prepared for our arrival, coming into the state westward from Montana, heading toward the state of Washington. I finally ended up making a reservation at the Bonner County Fairgrounds Campground in Sandpoint, Idaho. How elegant could that be? Ugh.

Sandpoint, Idaho; however, changed my mind. This place turned out to be a very tourist-focused little town built around a beautiful lake with a city beach that compares with the very best. Downtown has a ton of cute shops and restaurants to browse. Dogs are welcome everywhere. There’s a row of shops built on a bridge across the lake, including a few restaurants. We chose an Italian café overlooking the lake, enjoying local wines with dinner. Amazing! Who knew?

The lake was busy with boating activities, and there are railroads all over the place – even built as bridges over the lake. Very charming with the mountains still always as the backdrop.

For a one-day respite, Sandpoint was fabulous! I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And, by the way, the campground behind the fairgrounds was very clean and green. They had some horse shows going on in the fairgrounds which gave us something different to occupy a little of our spare time. All in all, a very enjoyable stay.

The Mountains of Montana

montana

Our approach to traveling the U.S. has been to keep our hours traveled per day to 5 or 6….or less. So when the Glacier National Park was farther away from Cody, Wyoming than we wanted to travel in a single day, we picked a spot on the map in between the two destinations. We landed in Garrison, Montana. I lost a piece of my heart here. The mountains and wide open spaces are amazing. The speed limit’s 80 mph. Beautiful and unusual birds appear on every corner. Deer and elk are everywhere. And again, the mountains, mountains are always the backdrop. One morning here, for whatever reason, my coffeemaker refused to work. I needed coffee. I left my husband making breakfast, jumped in the truck, and drove about 9 miles down the highway from the RV Park where I found a McDonald’s and a gas station…there was less than a quarter tank of gas in the truck. What could possibly be more freeing than rolling down the road at 80 miles an hour in a 10-year-old pickup truck in big sky Montana with no makeup, wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants, all by myself?! I opened the windows and turned up the radio just because I could. There’s simply not a better way to start a day.

After 2 nights in Garrison, we headed on up to Glacier National Park where we parked the RV in a small town named Hungry Horse as our base for 5 nights to allow us to explore the area freely. Wow. The park is just beautiful beyond words. The blue-green underlay of the glaciers simply jaw-dropping. The huge expanse of the canyons and the size of the mountains are indescribable. The thing to watch out for is the scarily dangerous mountain ledge roads. At least there are guide rails and fences to be sure drivers know where they can and cannot go safely. Our first day was spent in the Eastern more developed portion of the park where most tourists usually go. The second day, we spent in Hungry Horse exploring this quaint little town where everything is huckleberry this and huckleberry that. I am deeply and satisfyingly in love with huckleberries. Oh my. The third day, we took off to the West side of the park where roads are unpaved and only a single vehicle can pass at a time. Have mercy! We felt so very adventurous as we passed deer grazing in meadows, forests hiding secret streams and waterfalls, people camping in tents alongside rivers and lakes, and voila! We arrived at this beautiful little lake where there were picnic tables and campsites set up. The water in the lake was clearer than I remember ever seeing, and the rocks in the bottom were all different colors. Mountains were all around us. So beautiful and other-worldly. We pulled our lunch out of the truck and sat at a picnic table next to the lake to eat. Most awesome day!

If I had to pick a favorite place in Montana, it might be a little community named Polebridge. We happened across Polebridge as we navigated the wild and more undeveloped Western side of the Park. It consists mostly of a café, a mercantile store, a produce market, and a few small cabins they rent out for vacationers…..all on a gravel road. We pulled up to the mercantile store, walked through, came out with a bottle of Huckleberry Peach wine made in Montana, and two huckleberry bearpaw pastries that were absolutely divine. We also stopped at the produce market and picked up a few ears of corn and tomatoes grown locally. Oh the goodness of it all!

Back in the town of Hungry Horse, we were looking for a place to eat after 7 p.m. one night and the only place that looked open was a little club named Packer’s Roost (it is a very small town and really only open for tourists, and only during certain months of the year). The food here was, from our perspective, unremarkable. I did try and enjoy a locally made beer named Moose Drool. LOL. Really tasty, regardless of the name. The reason I mention this place is that a man, woman, and their two grown sons sat down beside us, as we had taken two seats at a large table because they were the only open seats when we got there – they took up the rest of our table. I just wanted to mention this because it strikes me as so unexpected sometimes, the people you connect with, if you get off your couch and out of your box, so to speak. The man and woman had just returned to live in Montana where they grew up. They had lived in hot and dry southern California for about 20 years for business reasons, and just recently retired. They were anxious to return to Montana where they felt they could breathe in the cooler mountain air. They spent about an hour and a half regaling us on the places in Montana to see and what not to waste our time on. This was so fabulous and sent us back up into the park the next day for a walk through a Cedar tree forest by a lake which they said had been their favorite place to take their sons when they were young. Such a sweet place and a sweet family that I am so happy to have spent time with.

It was with a heavy heart that I finally left Montana, heading West into the state of Idaho.