Montana


Huckleberries and More Huckleberries

Huckleberry Patch - Sign 2

 

Huckleberry Patch Sign

Bob loves seeing that little bear lazing in a huckleberry patch – the logo for a company called the Huckleberry Patch, specializing in that little berry you mustn’t ever call a blueberry.

Huckleberries, designated the state fruit of Idaho, are found in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The Huckleberry Patch turns them into everything sweet and tasty.

 

We’ve patronized the store in St. Regis, Montana many times when traveling I-90. Today we found ourselves at the company’s motherland in Hungry Horse, Montana located a few miles west of Glacier National Park.

 

Huckleberries are often described as a small blueberry but locals are adamant they should not be called blueberries. We are told they can not be cultivated, that they only grow in the wild. Residents are very territorial about their “secret” patches. In fact this year one Montana man felt someone was intruding into his territory and shots were fired. No one was injured but it gives new perspective to an afternoon of berry picking. The other risk is that bears are quite fond the the small dark purple pearls.

 

Huckleberry Patch - Candy
Huckleberry Patch - Jars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you like your huckleberries in the form of syrup, honey, jam, preserves, jelly, vinaigrette, pie filling, barbecue sauce, or daiquiri mix. And, then there are the candies – huckleberry caramels, jelly beans, licorice, taffy, gummy bears, swirls or chocolate covered.   Or, how about fudge – huckleberry, huckleberry walnut, or huckleberry chocolate?

 

Huckleberry Patch - Fudge

 

Huckleberry ChocolatesDon’t overlook the huckleberry truffles in milk or dark chocolate. Decadent, but oh, so good. What a great gift they would be for a special someone back home.

 

Skipping right pass the soups, salads and sandwiches we made lunch on a slice of warm huckleberry pie a la mode, the ice cream choice being huckleberry – of course. One can even order an entire pie over the Internet it you need a fix once you’re home.

 

Huckleberry Patch - Pie

When traveling in the Northwest be sure to try huckleberries in some form. Bob was sure he was sure today that he was in Huckleberry Heaven – as happy as that little bear in the logo.

Trip to the Past

Garnet, Montana

Garnet, MT Townsite

Finding ourselves with a free afternoon we took the advice of the desk clerk at our Missoula hotel and headed to the hills for a trip into Montana’s past. Prospectors in search of gold first came to the Garnet Range (named for the semi-precious stone found here) in the early 1860s.

 

Garnet, MT StorefrontsThe mining camp named Garnet has gone through several cycles of boom and bust. Many of the original settlers had moved on by 1870. After repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1895 the town once again prospered supporting four stores, four hotels, three livery stables, two barber shops, a union hall, butcher shop, candy shop, doctor’s office, assay office, a school and thirteen saloons. By 1905 only 150 residents remained.

 

Garnet, MT DoorsThe final boom came in the mid 1930s with decline brought on by World War II. The post office closed in 1942. More than two dozen structures remain in Garnet, a few with private ownership but most are owned by the public and managed by the BLM which stabilizes and preserves the buildings.

 

During the summer BLM staff offer guided tours rich with stories of Garnet life through the ages. No staff was on site this September day but informative signs and a free pamphlet filled in with some of the historic tales.

 

We noted the variety of pines, firs and spruce in the forest and heights we don’t see in Colorado. Nearing the end of summer the ground covers and grasses presented a colorful contrast to the deep greens of the trees.

 

Garnet, MT Foliage

Getting There: The best access is from State Highway 200, from I-90 take exit 109, drive east on MT200 for 22 miles to a sign pointing south to Garnet Ghost Town. The 11 mile route passes through an experimental forest and the first three miles are paved with the last eight a wide, level gravel road.

 

 

We were amazed at how smooth this road was, no ruts or ripples, major streets in our town have more potholes. We started to return by the southern route but this road is much rougher, narrower, poorer maintained and marked. After a few miles we decided we were too old and the car too new for such an adventure. After a harrowing turn around we really appreciated the well graded route to highway 200.

A Carousel for Missoula – and, Bob

Bob at Missoula Carousel

When we travel we like to ride historic and/or hand-carved carousels, from New York state to Oregon we’ve visited these artistic creations. It took four years and over 100,000 hours of volunteer effort before the Carousel for Missoula took it’s first spin in 1995, truly a community effort and labor of love.

 

We’ve visit this Missoula treasure at least a half-dozen times when traveling through the area. When Bob made his bucket list for this trip high on that list was the Carousel for Missoula. We took two separate spins this afternoon – around and around at a pretty good clip. Afterwards we learned it is the second fastest carousel  in the United States. Bob’s smile was every bit as large as a three-year-old’s. The price was certainly right – 75 cents for seniors. We agree with their motto, “Where happiness comes full circle.”

 

 Next on the carousel checklist is the one in Spokane’s Riverside Park. Check back in a few days.

 

Missoula Carousel Door

Windows and Reflections of Bannack

Windows 20

While visiting Montana’s Bannack State Park I started noticing the characteristics of windows in the deserted 19th-century buildings. They varied from artistic to simplistic. Some of the panes were the original wavy glass while others were 21st-century replacements.

Windows 26

Whether peeking into a cabin at a potpourri of tools and paraphernalia deserted decades ago or gazing out while seated at an aged treadle sewing machine the windows seemed to frame Bannack’s past and present.

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Then I became intrigued with how the windows reflected the scenes before them – swaying tree branches, the crowd gathered in front of Hotel Meade or the upstanding Masonic Lodge / Schoolhouse.

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Observing and photographing the windows of Bannack added depth and perspective to out visit to Montana’s past.

When You Go:  Bannack State Park is located 26 miles southwest of Dillon, Montana. From I-15 exit #59 head west on Highway 278 for 20 miles. Turn south on the paved Bannack Road, follow for four miles. Turn left onto the graveled park entrance road. Well placed signs point the way.

Bannack Days

Return to the Old West

 

Morning Coffee The click of spurs on boardwalk accompanies two men down the deserted street, enameled tin cups filled with their morning coffee. Shaded by an old tree in the front yard of Montana’s first governor’s mansion, a spinner adjusts the tension of lanolin rich wool as she draws it into fine strands of yarn. Resting against the front of the combined post office/barbershop the barber and a friend shoot the breeze before the first shave and haircut of the day.

For one weekend each July Bannack, Montana comes to life recalling the 19th-century boom days of gold, growth and government. Frontier live is recreated by hundreds of volunteers for two days theLady with Wool third weekend of July. The wooden boardwalks once again are filled with people, many in period clothing. Bannack Days celebrates the town’s fabled history.

Demonstrations, hands-on activities, music and entertainment fill Bannack Days plus the opportunity to enter dozens of buildings. Start the day with breakfast at Hotel Meade before panning for gold, touring the mill or taking a horseback ride. Simulated shootouts and stagecoach robberies recall the days of highwaymen and a sheriff who ended up swinging from the gallows. Visitors can even rent costumes and become part of the scene. A horse-drawn wagon and Model A Ford truck shuttles tired tourists from one end of town to the other. Food concessions satisfy the hungry and thirsty. Note from Nancy – the hot donuts were the best!

Quilts Today, with designation as a state park, Bannack is preserved as a genuine ghost town not a tourist attraction. During a regular visit tales of the past and a stiff Montana wind may be your only companions.

When You Go: Bannack Days is always scheduled on the third weekend of July. A modest per person entrance fee is charged for the event. Bannack is located 26 miles southwest of Dillon, Montana. From I-15 exit #59 head west on Highway 278 for 20 miles. Turn south on the paved Bannack Road, follow for four miles. Turn left onto the graveled park entrance road. Well placed signs point the way.

Naughty Moose Munching

The name made we smile, the recommendation was glowing, location and timing were perfect for Friday dinner at the Naughty Moose in Conner, Montana. Located in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana, Conner is located 76 miles south of Missoula and 21 miles north of Lost Trail Pass – the Continental Divide crossing between Idaho and Montana.

Our B&B host exalted high praise when suggesting the Naughty Moose. From the exterior the log building appears more bar oriented than cuisine centered. Happily we found that not to be the case. Locally-made log furniture and an array of antlers, horns, skins and mounted trophy heads decorated the two dining rooms.

Naughy Moose Salad A very good margarita eased the day’s road pain as we ordered and awaited our salads and “Naughty” buns. The salads were fresh and attractively presented with spring greens, cherry tomato, mandarin orange slices and dried cranberries topped with shredded carrots and cheddar. The house dressing, Naughty Bun a creamy garlic parmesan proved an excellent choice. “Naughty” buns are lightly glazed cinnamon buns. Since they aren’t excessively sweet they made a tasty accompaniment with the salad.

Main courses arrived hot from the kitchen – the Friday night special, all-you-can beer battered cod, for Bob and the 10oz. cowgirl cut prime for Nancy. A very generous 10 ounces presented au jus. The 16oz. cowboy cut is served on the bone. We both had a generous portion of southern style green beans and doctored up large Idaho baked potatoes. The initial four large pieces of cod more than satisfied Bob’s hunger pangs so he turned down the offer of additional pieces. Almost fork tender, my prime rib was served what I consider a degree below medium doneness as ordered. I didn’t send it back and did find it delicious; however, next time I would probably ask for medium well. I heard a waitress tell another table, “The beef tends to be cooked on the rare side.”

The panfried chicken dinners were extremely tempting, longing to once again savor fried chicken like my Aunt Ellen’s. Because the chicken is panfried the old-fashioned way, orders take at least 45 minutes. We were too hungry and still had too many miles to drive to wait.

Totally satisfied after our entrees we passed on the dessert offerings. Or, to stop in the bar and listen to the live music. A trio, Code of the West, was playing and I believe we would have enjoyed hearing a set. By the time we left the dining rooms were nearly full, many of the tables taken by three generations of families starting their holiday weekend.

Hopefully our return trip through Montana will include another tasty meal  at the Naughty Moose – perhaps the panfried chicken.

When You Go: Naughty Moose, Mile Marker 21, Highway 93 South, Conner, Montana, 406-821-9955.Open Daily 2-9pm, Breakfast Sat. & Sun. 9-noon. Full bar, beer and wine. Prime rib served nightly.

 

Visitor Centers and Information Resources

Glacier National Park

St[1]. Mary VC No matter how much pre-planning I’ve done before a National Park visit once I arrive one of our first stops is usually the nearest visitor center. Whether it’s watching an introductory film, learning from interpretive displays, getting answers to specific questions or purchasing a hiking guide or detailed map an official visitor center provides the orientation and background for a successful park experience.

Three centers provide information and visitor services in Glacier. St. Mary Visitor Center welcome those entering the park from the east, Apgar Visitor Center serves those arriving through West Glacier and Logan  Pass Visitor Center stands atop the Continental Divide on Going-to-the-Sun Road. The parking lot for Logan Pass VC often fills to capacity mid-day in the summer. To ensure access plan to arrive early morning or late afternoon.

Logan Pass VC

Logan Pass Parking Lot

During our most recent visit to Glacier we found the rangers and information desk staff especially friendly and helpful. They were eager to share the latest trail conditions, wildlife sightings and even where to get the best cinnamon roll in Montana.

The Apgar center is extremely busy yet the personnel stayed cheerful and responsive to each individual’s specific questions. I recall the pleasingly plumb lady in front of me inquiring about a hike. She was from Ohio and had a four year old with her, the family clad in sandals. She had already Apgar VC selected a particular trail, insisting that she could walk at a rate of 5 miles per hour. The ranger tried his best to explain that altitude, elevation gain and trail conditions were not the same as circling a track in Ohio. He suggested attractive alternatives but she wasn’t budging from her decision. I only wished I could have applied a tracking collar to see how far she got.

Many Glacier Ranger Station In addition to the visitor centers there are two staffed ranger stations to provide information on specific areas, backcountry permits and book/map sales -Many Glacier, Two Medicine. Both are open from late May to late September, 7am-5pm. Backcountry permits are also available at the Polebridge Ranger Station.

Glacier joins with across-the-border neighbor Waterton Lakes National Park to form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Parks Canada operates a Waterton Visitor Center.

Take advantage of the visitor centers and ranger stations during your Glacier National Park visit. You too may be directed to an appropriate trail or enjoy a yummy cinnamon roll.

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