When we were planning our trip, I told Zach to pick our US stopping points. I wanted to stop somewhere in western Montana since we planned to enter British Columbia at Roosville. The trick was choosing a campground that was out of the way enough that a site would be available (without a reservation) on a Saturday night. Zach wanted to stop south of Kalispell and ended up choosing Monture Creek Campground in Lolo National Forest.
We left our house at 10am. For some reason I decided against stopping for coffee first and then didn’t really want to stop along the way. This meant by the time we reached Dillon at 3pm I was nearing hangry status. Sweetwater Coffee, our usual place, had just closed, so we ended up walking to another nearby restaurant, Muffaletta’s Cafe. Usually open till 5pm, they were closing early – of course – but let us order their daily special to go. Hallelujah. We were surprised to find that the Penang curry wrap was actually more like a drowned burrito, but it was absolutely delicious. We scarfed enough down to curb our hunger and saved the rest for dinner at our campsite.
We followed the Interstate for a while longer, then exited for a smaller two-lane state highway, and ultimately a more rural state highway which led us to the turnoff for our campground. It was a beautiful drive through valleys filled with cows, horses, and gigantic overflowing haystacks flanked by mountains in the not-so-distance.
We arrived at the campground a little after 6pm and thankfully, there were two open sites. We chose the larger of the two – it may have been a group site – and set up. It rained briefly after we got the tent up, but it was only a quick downpour. The campground was small, only five sites, and well shaded by towering ponderosas. The trailhead at the end of the campground provided access to both the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas. Our site sat alongside Monture Creek, and it was immensely pleasant to listen to its gurgle as we inhaled the fresh piney air. We ate the rest of our burritos and enjoyed being out of the car.
Unfortunately, the brief rain shower was actually a harbinger of the thunderstorms to come. We were kept awake much of the night by peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. It didn’t even rain until morning once the thunder and lightning had moved past us. We paid close attention to the proximity of the lightning, and on two occasions it was close enough that we retreated to the safety of the car to watch the light show. I half expected one of the flashes to illuminate a giant grizzly. Despite that irrational fear, it was mesmerizing to watch the forest light up bright as day with each series of strikes.
Sleep deprived and in need of caffeine, we packed up quickly in the morning and began driving toward Seeley Lake. We stopped at Jitterbug Java for our fix and continued along MT 83 at a leisurely pace cruising through national forests and catching glimpses of sapphire lakes and snow-capped peaks. We stopped briefly at Holland Lake (which Zach had considered for our first night but thought too popular) and admired the view, determined to come back.
We continued in a dreamy way until we reached Swan Lake where it was time to diverge toward Kalispell for lunch at Montana Coffee Traders and a trip to the grocery store. We continued our march north leaving the Flathead Valley behind, cruising through Whitefish, following MT 93 on its path northwest, ever closer to the border.
As we neared Eureka, the final town in Montana, we noticed a small sign for H.A. Brewing and an arrow for the next right. We were intrigued. As we approached the next right, there wasn’t anything indicating it was the correct turn, but we decided to go for it. We followed the road for a while to see if a brewery existed and just as we were about to turn around there it was! A brewery! We stopped to have one beer and enjoy the randomness of our discovery.
Part of me wished we could stay longer, but we needed to continue moving. In 20 miles, we’d hit the border and be that much closer to our first destination, Kootenay National Park.