Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kootenai Falls

I developed an appreciation for the Kootenai River on this trip.  The second morning of the trip I explored its confluence with the larger Columbia River in Castlegar and then we crossed it or followed it on our way east towards Crows Nest Pass.  And then today, we've seen Lake Koocanusa and are now following the river downstream from Libby where it drops spectacularly over Kootenai Falls.  One of the larger waterfalls - or series of falls - in the west. And one of the few that hasn't been turned into a dam or completely diverted for irrigation.

My 26 posts from this trip - all tagged under SeptTrip2012 - began and ended on the Kootenai.

Lake Koocanusa

Lake Koocanusa is a relatively recent phenomenon among western reservoirs, forming in the 1970s behind Libbey Dam. It's also large, extending well into Canada.  It was a beautiful drive through largely undeveloped territory.

Koocanusa is an indian-sounding name that actually just strings together KOOtenai with USA and CANada - sort of cute, sort of appropriate, and completely in keeping with the Corps of Engineers' love of long acronyms.


We ate well in Whitefish.  The Hidden Moose's breakfasts were great.  Dinner the first night at Ciao Mamba's was very good.  Dinner the second night was at LouLa's, also excellent.  And there were lots of places we just didn't have time to check out.  The pictures are courtesy of M, who takes pictures of our meals with the same gusto I take pictures of beaches.

In order: pistachio ice cream Cannoli at Ciao Mamba's, breakfast pizza at Hidden Moose, and then, all at LouLa's: baked brie in pastry with huckleberry jalapeno sauce, seared scallops on pureed broccoli, and a small piece of huckleberry peach pie.

It is important to point out that M and I generally shared most of the dishes seen here - we may be gluttons, but we are not pigs!

Big Mountain

We stayed in Whitefish two nights, at the very pleasant Hidden Moose Lodge.  It was nice not to have a long drive and to have a little more time to relax.  My idea of relaxing, at least in the morning, was to go up to Big Mountain and try out the zip lines.  Michele was even willing to give it a try.  Unfortunately, I exceed the engineers' size limits by a few pounds and disqualified us. They tried to make me feel better by explaining that this is a common problem for tall guys.  Tall guys who spend two weeks sitting in a car, driving from one road food hot spot to another!

We rode on the alpine slide and then we took the chairlift to the top of the mountain, which was pleasant, but the views were awfully hazy now that the smoke from the big Missoula fire has moved into the valley.

The two alpine slide photos are not mine, but were taken by the resort:  Artie Regan, Mountain Life Photography

Lake McDonald

We were stuck in a fairly line of cars coming down the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, thanks to the construction, but things thinned out as we got down to the lake.  We considered stopping at the lodge, but it was too early for dinner and we were sort of anxious to get on to Whitefish.  I stopped along the lake to take pictures of beaches -- clear water, red and green gravel -- but not for long.  We made it to Whitefish and, with TripAdvisor as our guide, had dinner at Ciao Mamba's.  The first of several excellent meals in Whitefish.

Saint Mary Lake

Our timing was fortuitous.  A few more days and Logan Pass would close for the season - earlier this year than usual due to lots of construction.  Even one more day and we would have been stuck with smoky skies. But as it was, we had blue skies and the construction delay was minimal.

We didn't spend much time in the park - just long enough to drive over the Going To Sun Road and make a few stops along the way.  On our short hike down to Baring Falls, M led the way, making noise to scare away the bears.  It worked - no bears!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fort Benton

In the 1860s and 1870s, this is where the riverboats on the Missouri stopped and unloaded all the people and stuff headed farther west.  It was a busy place.  Not so much anymore.

But the Grand Union Hotel was a great find, and it's dining room an even greater one.  The nicely restored hotel stands alone on the river bank, across the street from a long row of buildings that still bear some resemblance to the pictures on the historical signs of the 19th-century main street.  I couldn't help but wonder who else had stayed in our third floor room since the place opened in the early 1880s.


Okay, that's a pretty broad title for a post.  The middle of Montana might be more precise.  Or Highway 200.  We stayed at the Roughrider in Medora ND and had breakfast in the dining room (where D and I had breakfast after camping in Teddy Roosevelt National Park just a few months earlier - June 2012).  But while D and I had headed south from Wibaux towards Wyoming, M and I just kept going west, following Montana 200 through Circle and Jordan and Lewistown.  The pictures show the Judith Mountains, Square Butte, and M talking to Bev on the phone (I think that's the only way she survives her husband's fascination with long drives and wide open spaces - thanks, dear!).

All the way across the plains, the rolled hay kept making us think of something similar we saw in the pastry case at Hanisch's in Red Wing.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Our final stop before hitting the road and a thousand miles of prairie was the Sculpture Garden.  The centerpiece is the Oldenburg/van Bruggen Spoonbridge and Cherry.  We wandered for 30 minutes and were just heading out when we got a call from D saying that he had gotten the final class he had wanted.  We were in Jamestown ND by the end of the evening.

Guthrie Theater

We hadn't really planned on visiting the Guthrie, but it looked inviting from the river with it's cool architecture and strange cantilevered projection.  There's no charge to wander through and the spaces are amazing!  It provides great views of the city and the river -- framed by interesting windows and rendered like paintings by the tinted glass.


We drove up the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi and then through St. Paul.  We walked around the Macalester campus, then headed for Minneapolis where we explored the Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Falls - the only significant natural falls on the Mississippi (although not so natural anymore).

Moondance Inn

The trip back was a chance to try out some different kinds of places - both to stay and to eat.  The Moondance is a beautiful restored mansion in Red Wing, complete with a pair of Puli's (dogs with black dreadlocks at both ends and in the middle, so orientation is a challenge) and a great breakfast. I'm not sure the decor of these old-style B&Bs is necessarily our style, but we enjoyed our stay.