Montana Stories and Tips

Day 3 - Montana

Mission Mountains Photo, Montana, United States

My third day turned out to be one of those days when nothing goes right. I left Bozeman is a light drizzle, but the clouds soon parted and I thought I was going to have another bright sunny day. I only had about 200 miles to drive before I reached Missoula, but I had gone from rain to sun to rain again. Still, I had hopes that my travel north would get me clear of the weather.

I started up the Route 93 from Missoula to Flathead Lake and immediately was in a construction zone. It was Sunday, so I wasn't concerned about men and equipment, but the road was torn up, and I mean it was down to the sub-layer of mud. I drove over it for about 30 miles and was about to turn around and go back.

I asked a local resident about the construction and he assured me that I would be out of it in another five miles, so I pressed on. Sure enough, I got onto good road, but then I missed a turn for the National Bison Range, a huge refuge for bison and several other forms of wildlife. To go back would have entailed a twenty mile backtrack, so I decided to skip it. I wish I hadn't.

There was a rest area near the town of St. Ignatius, where I got my first glimpse of the Mission Mountains, named for the St. Ignatius Mission, although they were partially blanketed in clouds.

Continuing north, I eventually reached Flathead Lake, a large inland lake with many islands and several state parks along the banks. It is believed that this is the only remaining lake from what was in prehistoric times a huge lake geologists call Lake Missoula--more about that later. I followed the shoreline for miles, with lots of nice views. However, it was not good picture-taking weather.

I reached the little tourist town of Somers and turned east on Route 83 to round the top of Flathead Lake. At that point, I was as close to Glacier National Park as I was going to get. Turns out it was still 40-50 miles away, but the mountains were nice and the sky was showing signs of clearing.

Driving east to the base of those mountains, Rote 83 then turned south to go down the east side of Flathead Lake to the town of Seeley Lake. Once again, the rain caught up to me, and I drove through another downpour. However, the scenery was pretty nice as I was going through the Lolo National Forest. On both sides of the road there were long-stemmed flowers with huge white blossoms. There were thousands of them growing wild in the forest. I asked about them in town, and was told that they are called beargrass, and the blooms are short-lived, so I was lucky to have seen them at all.

I couldn't take a decent picture of the beargrass due to the heavy rain, but I came across some of them later in the trip, on the road to Mount St. Helens in Washington State. The picture that accompanies this day's trip was actually taken hundreds of miles away and several days later.

Just after I left the town of Seeley Lake, I came to another small mountain lake, this one named Salmon Lake, and the weather had cleared enough for me to get a few good photos of this one. At least the day ended on a bright note for me.

If I had had more time, I might have visited the Smoke Jumpers Museum at the Missoula Airport, where they train firemen for the task of parachuting in to fight the forest fires that seem all too frequent in that part of the country. I suspect they might use some of the B-26 planes that I worked on in the US Air Force back in the 1950s. However, it was Sunday night, so the museum was closed. As I said in the beginning, it was just one of those days.

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