2006: Glacier

Hungry Horse and Whitefish



After one night in Deer Lodge, we moved on to Hungry Horse, Montana. When I informed my mother of this, she found it so hilarious I thought she was going to choke on the other end of the phone.

Amusing as it may be, it wasn't the town's name that brought us here, but its proximity to Glacier National Park.

We had a reservation at the Mountain Meadow RV Park, highly recommended on the RV review site. While at first we had another noisy spot near the main road, after two nights of roaring engines Mike arranged with the management for us to move to a much more pleasant location. We were finally in a quiet, peaceful campsite with shade trees, so we ended up staying for almost two weeks while exploring the delights of northwestern Montana.

One of those delights is the humble huckleberry. Well, humble or not, it's a major industry for Montana in July and August. You can get huckleberry jam, huckleberry preserves, huckleberry ice cream, milk shakes, pie, honey, topping, and even huckleberry soda. None of it is cheap; the huckleberry is less than half the size of a blueberry and very labor-intensive to pick. A 12-oz jar of jam fetches over $8, and a single piece of pie in a local restaurant is $3.95.

In addition to its unique name and its unique berries, Hungry Horse boasts ownership of the eleventh-largest dam in the USA.

Northwestern Montana's biggest industry appears to be outdoor recreation, and the town of Whitefish is a prime location for it. Whitefish is about fifteen miles away from our base in Hungry Horse, and while we'd heard and seen the name, we had no idea what was there, so we went exploring one day.

In addition to some nice lakes for water sports, Whitefish has a sizeable ski area called Big Mountain. We wound our way up the side of the mountain just to see what was there, and discovered a whole day's entertainment.

Bravely ignoring the big taco salad I'd just had for lunch AND the kid before me who had just lost his cookies,
I started the festivities off with this:------------->

I kept the taco salad. Take that, kid.

Everything after that should have been downhill, but instead we continued uphill. We rode a chair lift to the summit of Big Mountain. There was a wedding about to take place at the restaurant on top; it was a bit surreal to watch all these young people in tuxes, suits, and skimpy dresses riding up along with the rumpled tourists.

Because of the wedding, we couldn't use the restaurant, so instead we strolled around, enjoyed the view, and reminisced on our long-gone skiiing days.The entire mountain was abloom with fireweed, which we recognized from our trip to Alaska six years ago.

We returned to Big Mountain on another day to experience "Walk in the Treetops". A private logging company has built a network of plank walks and platforms in the treetops on their land near the resort, and the resort leads tours on this contraption twice a day during the summer.

First we had to strap into mountain-climbing gear and learn exotic terms like "belay on", to communicate to our climbing partners that we were, indeed, properly snapped onto a safety line.

Next was a thirty-minute hike up the hill to get to the treetop walk. The only wildlife we saw appeared briefly before we started -- a mountain grouse (left) stalking us thru the nearby weeds.

Our guide was, um, a very enthusiastic young woman. While the treetop walk itself was fun, I could have done without the preamble of frequent stops for chirpy, interminable lectures on local plant life, interlaced with infomercials about the virtues of the logging company and its ecologic approach.

We returned to our on-the-ground camp that afternoon to enjoy a killer sunset followed by a mountain thunderstorm.