Sunday, May 29, 2011


This is the shore of Whitefish Lake, here at the end of May. Usually the water level rises in early June, then recedes a little. When we got here on May 5, the tree on the left was 9 paces from the shoreline. There's not much left of our beach, and with still quite a snow pack on Big Mountain and all the surrounding peaks, we may see an even higher waterline. Our beach may go away for a bit. Area rivers are rising as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Another adventure on our day off....
We drove about 96 miles south of Whitefish, just south of Flathead Lake.
The National Bison Range is administered by U.S. Fish and Wildlife as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It was established in 1908 and is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. Wildlife found on the range include pronghorn antelope, bison, deer, elk, bighorn sheep and black bear. However, today they weren't found by us....we did see some bison, pronghorn, and deer. Beautiful views from the top!

Some of the scenery we saw on the 19 mile drive up and around Red Sleep Mountain where the refuge is located.

We finally came upon part of the 300 plus herd of bison. On our way, we saw a pronghorn meandering by himself.


Another rainy day, so here we are in Kalispell, just up the street from Amber's house...the Conrad Mansion sits on a bluff overlooking the valley and the Swan mountain range. Charles Conrad was a founder of Kalispell, and came here in 1891. After working in Fort Benton, Montana, for 4 years with his brother, at a shipping firm which they eventually bought, he diversified and founded Conrad National Bank, among other ventures. He and his wife, Alicia, had 3 children, the youngest of whom lived in this home until 1964. In 1974, she gave the Conrad Mansion to the city of Kalispell in memory of her parents. The house is three stories, and contains 13,000 square feet of living space. There is an elevator to all three floors, among several other "modern" wonders.
An added perk was that the lady who gave us the tour grew up in Forest Lake, MN, about 25 miles from where we lived. All during the tour, we would remember names from living there, and discovered we had a lot of acquaintances in common.....small world, for sure!

This is the formal entry to the home.

Mrs. Conrad played the piano, and entertained her lady friends in the music room. The table has an original (circa 1891) Battenberg Lace tablecloth.

Mr. Conrad's desk was custom made, and looked out of one of the many large leaded-glass windows in his home. His office was made private by huge pocket doors, and heavy velvet drapes. The drapes and all the window coverings in the house are original, having been stored in the attic for many years.
All the lights in the home are original. They're set up for either electricity or carbide gas. Mr. Conrad had his own electrical power plant nearby. The dining table has six more leaves that can be added, and can accommodate up to 24 people.

Off the dining room is the garden room, complete with babbling brook and a little waterfall.

Here is the predecessor to the Viking, an electric dishwasher.

The bedrooms were upstairs on the second level. Each one had a walk-in closet!

On the second floor was a pool and game area. Mr. Conrad liked to include the ladies here; otherwise, they would adjourn to the music room while the men smoked, drank and played pool.

Here you see the sewing room and an early form of the clothes dryer. The rack slides into a chamber that is heated by a woodstove next to it. Very modern!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


25 years ago, R.C. Beall couldn't find a good cup of coffee in Montana. So, he bought a coffee roaster and some coffee that a farmer friend had been keeping in his barn in Whitefish.
He started roasting coffee in his old farmhouse on hwy 93, and has built it into a thriving business.
We toured the facility for about an hour, and it was really interesting! MCT has stores in Whitefish, Kalispell and Columbia Falls, in addition to the roastery on Hwy 93.

Green coffee beans from all over the world are shipped here; they include organic, fair trade, and shade grown certified coffees.

We got to see one of the coffee roasters, plus, Darrell got some great tips from its operator about his home roasting process. Kathryn brews us a variety of coffees to sample. I was surprised when she told me all the coffee they sell at MCT is french press brewed. They double the amount, then add an equal amount of water to increase the quantity.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


In visiting the NPS Glacier website, I came across this picture of the west side of Going to the Sun Road (GTSR). We're told it's going to be a late opening this year...possibly end of June?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


On Wednesday and half of Thursday, we went to orientation for all the park hosts in District 1 of the Montana State Park system. District 1 is in the Northwest corner of the state, and has the most parks in one area for the whole state. It covers the campgrounds and fishing access sites all the way around Flathead Lake, and all the way up to Eureka, near the Canadian border.
Some of these host positions are paid, and others, like ours, are on a volunteer basis. Darrell & I volunteer 3 days a week at Les Mason, in exchange for our campsite.
We saw new faces, and some familiar ones, too. We covered a lot of ground, including reminders on paperwork, new laws, our new computerized reservation system, and new fees going into effect. There has been a major reorganization going on at FWP, as has been the case for most states facing budget cuts and shortfalls. Montana is no different; however, they seem to be on the tail end of negative effects from the economic downfall.
The next big news in Montana is the major snowmelt coming. Rivers and streams are being watched carefully....this has been a big, bad winter all across the country!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Our first trip to the park was a little different this time. Because of so much snow, Going to the Sun Road was closed at Lake McDonald Lodge. At this point you can park and either hike or ride your bike up to the "Loop" (where the road starts going UP), and is closed until mid to late June. We hiked a total of 6 miles on the road, because our bikes were getting a tune-up at Glacier Cyclery. We hope to bike the distance to the Loop when we get a good weather day. No pictures of the lodge yet, it's still having its spring cleaning.


Lake McDonald on a crisp, clear morning

McDonald Creek

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Last year, the city of Whitefish dedicated a new
trail system, which, right now, has 3 trails for
hikers, bikers and equestrians to choose from.
It meanders through the forest on Lion
Mountain, and today's hike was 2-1/2 miles.
This year, 2 more trails will be constructed.
It was a nice beginning to our summer of
hiking here in Montana.

This is our reward at the overlook....a view of
Skyles Lake.
After our hike, we took a drive up to Big
Mountain. There is still lots of snow on May 10.
The snowfall in this region reached 185% of
the average...thanks, La Nina!


It was finally warming up, and you can see these guys wanted to take advantage of the sun. They all had plastic sleds with them....but the hill they were climbing was NOT a sledding hill.

We watched for quite a while as they continued to climb to the top of the hill, and over....they never did come flying back down. We'll never know what happened!

Sunday, May 08, 2011


Amber is a fisheries biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
To get a clearer picture of what she did, we asked if
we could go with her when she went out in the
field. Here she is, cleaning a fish trap on one of
the creeks that runs into the North Fork of the
Flathead River. The fish come upstream to
spawn in the spring, and get funneled into
these traps, and she or her crew visit them on
a daily basis to take data on any fish caught, and
also to clean the traps and fences of debris.

Ok, so, take your parents to work day has turned out to be a not so typical event. At our second trap location, we find ourselves sort of rappelling down a slippery ravine. Luckily, someone left us a rope for assistance. Going down was a thrill.....coming back up was....well, priceless? Not.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Heading north in Montana

The first pass we come to is called Monida. Just over the border from Idaho, it is an abandoned town where the Union Pacific had an icemaking plant. The name comes from Mon-tana and Ida-ho....Monida.

Beavertail Hill State Park, located just southeast of Missoula, is where we spent our final night. Just 1/4 mile off the main highway, but far enough from the noise, it sits on the Clark Fork River. I left the window open on the cool evening so we could hear the water going by, interspersed by the occasional train whistle. We were the only campers there.

Glamping at its finest

This is one of Montana's premier "glamping" spots. Each of its palatial canvas-walled tent camps comes with butler service and furnishings worthy of the Ritz. Dining provides sauteed quail with summer black truffles, just for an example. The facility sits on 37,000 acres of rugged wilderness, with the Blackfoot River running through it. Guests can sign up for fly fishing, hot-air ballooning, horseback riding....then when they're done, they can have a spa treatment in the wilderness. from $820. Yikes!
We'll take park hosting for free....