Tag Archives: Summer

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Three

I’m just going to say it: spending a week in the backcountry of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness was a memory I’m never going to forget. But before I get too sappy, let’s pick up where we left off from parts one and two of this trip.

Day six was our last official day in camp and while most of the group opted to do a horseback trail ride to the Flathead River, I decided to stay at camp and go fishing with Bill—another guest on the trip. And while we had a great time fishing the purest water I’ve ever seen, it was the experience of fishing at this particular place that made it such a wonderful day.

Our fishing hole on White River.

Our fishing hole on White River.

You see, my mama and my grandpa (as well as my grandma and aunts and uncles) used to come into the Bob Marshall Wilderness every summer for their family vacation. The best part: they fished this exact fishing hole on White River.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

No filter or editing; the water really is this color.

And while my grandpa has been gone for a few years now (and I still miss him every day), it was so special to know that both my grandpa and my mom had spent time casting their own fishing lines in this spot. Sidenote: this was a memory my mama shared with me after I came out of the Bob. Looking back on that day, I spent quite a bit of time just sitting on the shore of White River and trying to soak up every moment. Now it makes sense to me why I was so drawn to that particular location; being in the same place my mom and grandpa had been decades before turned that Montana memory into something that I can only describe as part magic and completely special.

I'm certain that I'll love this place forever.

I’m certain that I’ll love this place forever.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Fishing will Bill, another sweet (and funny) grandpa.

Patiently waiting.

Patiently waiting.

I love a feisty fish.

I love a feisty fish.

Pretty little trout.

Pretty little trout.

The little fly that landed the fish.

The little fly that landed the fish.

After a few hours on the river, we headed back to camp to meet up with the rest of our crew. At dinner on our last night, we sat around eating ribeye steak (which was THE best steak I’ve ever had) and sharing highlights from our trip. Our group shared moments that included Amy’s cooking, the views from the Chinese Wall and making the ride to Gladiator. When it was time for my turn, I teared up…and not because I was sad, but because a trip like this isn’t something that can easily be put into words. To sum it up, it was one of the most impactful trips I’ve ever taken. We all went to bed that night knowing that we had all shared an experience that would stay with us forever.

On the last day, we awoke early and prepared to hit the 24-mile-long trail to Benchmark.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

This is how light it was at 5:38 a.m. in the mountains.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

By 9 a.m., we were climbing up the Continental Divide toward White River Pass.

Looking west.

Looking west.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass.

Giving the horses a rest on top of the pass is always a good idea, especially with this view.

Standing at a place that's frozen in time.

Standing at a place that’s frozen in time.

Cementing this view in my mind.

Cementing this moment in my mind.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

Giving Popeye a well-deserved break from carrying my booty up the mountain.

We walked a few miles down from White River Pass along creeks and through forests before mounting our horses to ride the rest of the way to our lunch stop. While we were taking a break, the two pack strings caught up with us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those mules can move.

Tucker and his pack string.

Tucker and his pack string.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Crossing the creek, with a stop to let the mules drink.

Turk and his string.

Turk and his string.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

A well-behaved mule string is a beautiful thing.

Riding back through an old forest fire. As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

Riding back through an old forest fire.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I've ever heard.

As we made our way through this burnt forest, a wind howled through the trees creating one of the eeriest sounds I’ve ever heard.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Getting closer! At this point, we were about 2.5 hours away from the trailhead and our rear ends were feeling it.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Officially leaving The Bob.

Just a girl and her horse.

Just a girl, her horse and their shadows.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar and Amy's folks: Mark and Renee.

We were met at the trailhead by Bryar (Amy and Tucker’s oldest son) and cool drinks.

For fun (and to help me remember the trip and be able to share this off-the-grid Montana experience with you), I created a little video. Take a look…

A few things to keep in mind if you’d like to take a pack trip into one of Montana’s most beautiful places, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex:
-Go with an experienced outfitter. Mills Wilderness Adventures has more than 100 years of experience packing into The Bob and it shows in how they handle their stock, welcome their guests and act as true stewards of the land. Other recommended outfitters can be found here.
-Book your trip in advance. If you want to take a pack trip in summer 2017, start researching the area and outfitter you’d like to go with now.
-You don’t have to be an avid horseback rider to take a pack trip. If you’re not, your booty will be sore (especially on day one and day seven) but riding that far is manageable. Don’t let the distance scare you.
-If you book a trip with Amy and Tucker Mills, get ready for some of the best storytelling you’ll ever hear. While Tucker has a quiet demeanor, he is one of the best storytellers in the area.
-If you plan on using your cell phone as your camera, bring a portable or solar charger.
-For packing, be sure to bring a button-down shirt (or two); hiking boots (don’t forget these at home – I was SO glad I had cowboy boots and hiking boots); and riding gloves (to help keep your hands a bit clean during long rides).

As for me, this trip was special because it’s a memory that could only be made in Montana. And that’s something I’ll be grateful for forever.

xo,
TT

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part Two

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that earlier this summer I fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine and took a pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness will Mills Wilderness Adventures. Sidenote: if you’re just joining me, you can check out part one of the pack trip here.

On day four—the day after our incredible ride to the Chinese Wall—I decided to hang out at camp, relax and try my hand at taking photos. I was joined by two pals, Turk and Cinnamon, and we headed down to play in White River.

The path from camp down to White River.

The path from camp down to White River.

I'm fairly certain this little path was magic.

I’m fairly certain this little path was magic.

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Getting his saddle ready to ride. My favorite part of this photo: he didn’t know I was taking it.

Turk (and his trusty steed) crossing White River.

Turk (and his trusty steed) crossing White River.

Turk and Cinnamon.

Turk and Cinnamon.

After chatting with Cinnamon along the river, we turned around and saw this scene. This was one of the favorite moments from my trip: just a cowboy hanging out, talking to his horse.

After chatting with Cinnamon along the river, we turned around and saw this scene. This was one of the favorite moments from my trip: just a cowboy hanging out, talking to his horse.

PSA: I love riding horses...but you don't have to be a horseman to enjoy the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Its trails are also perfect for hiking.

PSA: I love riding horses…but you don’t have to be a horseman to enjoy the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Its trails are also perfect for hiking.

Heading back up to camp.

Heading back up to camp.

Hanging out with the horses AKA the perfect companions.

Hanging out with the horses AKA the perfect companions.

After our day hanging out at camp and taking pictures, we awoke on day five to one of the most perfect mornings of the summer.

Good morning to you too, Rocky Mountains.

Good morning to you too, Rocky Mountains.

Low-hanging clouds.

Low-hanging clouds over camp.

Early-morning light.

Early-morning light.

Following breakfast, Bob (one of the wranglers and perhaps one of the kindest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting) headed out with his pack string to ride the 24 miles back out to the Benchmark Trailhead. While I knew Bob had done this ride solo many times, as I watched him and his string make their way down the trail I was filled with feelings of awe and wonder as they rode off into the forest.

Bob leading his team.

Bob leading his team.

See ya next time.

Bob saying his goodbyes.

After sending Bob off down the trail, we prepared to head out for today’s destination: Gladiator Mountain. A 12-mile-long ride, I hadn’t heard of this mountain before now, but Amy told me it was one of her favorites so I was pretty positive I was going to love it.

From camp, we stayed parallel with White River for a spell as we made our way into higher elevations and through forested terrain.

From camp, we stayed parallel with White River for a spell as we made our way into higher elevations and through forested terrain.

Looking back toward White River.

Looking back toward White River.

The views from here were AMAZING.

The views from here were AMAZING.

Our first pit stop: Needle Falls.

Our first pit stop: Needle Falls.

Taking in the view of Needle Falls.

Taking in the view of Needle Falls.

This marker was just hanging out, in the MIDDLE of the WILDERNESS.

This marker was just hanging out, in the MIDDLE of the WILDERNESS.

Tucker checking stirrups.

Tucker checking stirrups and the cinch.

Climbing and climbing and climbing.

Climbing and climbing and climbing.

And climbing and climbing.

And climbing and climbing.

After riding across some of the most interesting terrain I’ve ever seen, we arrived to a gorgeous meadow at the base of Gladiator Mountain. And I have to be honest: I was completely surprised at the beauty of this place. I knew it was going to be pretty, but I didn’t expect this lush oasis surrounded by mountain peaks.

My favorite view.

My favorite view.

Our crew eating lunch and marveling at the incredible mountain that rose up before us.

Our crew eating lunch and marveling at the incredible mountain that rose up before us.

Tucker and Gladiator.

Tucker and Gladiator.

Soaking up the sun and the beauty of this meadow.

Soaking up the sun and the beauty of this meadow.

After spending as much time as we could ingraining this place and this moment into our memories, we headed back down the mountain for camp. And that, my friends, was quite the ride. We took a different trail down and the terrain in front of seemed to go on forever, as the only thing in view was endless mountain peaks.

Making our way down.

Making our way down.

Mountains upon mountains.

Mountains as far as the eye can see.

We also found this massive sinkhole on the side of the mountain.

We also found this massive sinkhole on the side of the mountain. Needless to say, we didn’t get too close.

The lovely Janet.

The lovely Janet.

And looking back on those two days now, I know one thing for sure: I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

xo,
TT

A Pack Trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness: Part One

Taking a pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I grew up on the doorstep of The Bob along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front where I could look out my window and see it everyday, and while I had played in this wilderness on day hikes and rides, I’d never spent an extended amount of time in my backyard treasure. Which, let’s be honest, is kind of weird and really lame.

Montana's Rocky Mountain Front AKA the gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front AKA the gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

While several members of my immediate and extended family did horseback pack trips or hiking trips in the Bob Marshall pretty regularly, including my mama (who went in every summer with her family growing up), my grandpa (who made countless trips into The Bob, even during his later years in life) my big sister and both of my little brothers. And yet, my messy-haired blond self never went on any of those trips.

However, ALL of that changed this summer when I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine and spend a week in the heart of one of Montana’s most spectacular places—the Bob Marshall Wilderness. And in case you’re wondering how this dream of mine finally came true, it was because of my friend (who is also my cousin, because Montana is small and my family is big) Amy Mills. Amy and her husband Tucker own Mills Wilderness Adventures and they regularly take guests into The Bob and as luck would have it (and because they’re really nice and knew I had never gone on a pack trip), they invited me to join them for a trip this summer. Needless to say, I jumped at their invitation and on July 14 we headed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to spend a blissful week in one of the most incredible places on earth.

On the first day of our trip, we met in Augusta and headed to the Benchmark Trailhead for a trip that was sure to be one of the best adventures of my life. We got to the trailhead where Tucker and his crew were waiting for us with pack strings and horses saddled and ready to go.

Morning light at Benchmark Trailhead.

Morning light at Benchmark Trailhead.

By 8 a.m. we were on the trail making our way to White River, our camp for the week. Today’s ride was 24-miles-long and would include cresting the Continental Divide at White River Pass. There was a moment on the ride where I looked back at the rest of the group and saw the mountains rising behind them and wondered if this is how early explorers felt when they set out to explore the West. That feeling was quickly replaced by one that is best described as surreal. Even though The Bob has always been my backyard and I’ve looked at its landscapes thousands of times, I almost couldn’t believe the beauty of it was real. Our views included open meadows, cliffside trails and terrain that was burnt during a forest fire in 2007.

Making our way through a landscape that was burnt in a 2007 forest fire.

This part of the ride (through an old forest fire burn) was hauntingly beautiful. 

At our mid-morning break, the pack strings passed us. Those mules can MOVE.

At our mid-morning break, the pack strings passed us. Those mules can MOVE.

Amy and Hawk leading our group up the trail.

Amy and Hawk leading our group up the trail.

White Rive Pass: Elephant Ear to the left and Haystack Mountain (the start of the southern portion of the Chinese Wall) to the right.

White Rive Pass: Elephant Ear to the left and Haystack Mountain (the start of the southern portion of the Chinese Wall) to the right.

Janet, an avid horsewoman and perhaps one of the loveliest gals ever, checking out the view of the Flathead Alps from White River Pass.

Janet, an avid horsewoman and perhaps one of the loveliest gals ever, checking out the view of the Flathead Alps from White River Pass.

I loved seeing the rest of the guests loving my Montana so much.

Beth and Jeanine capturing a memory. I loved seeing the rest of the guests loving my Montana so much.

"Meet me in Montana, I want to see the mountains in your eyes."

“Meet me in Montana, I want to see the mountains in your eyes.”

After 8+ hours of riding, we arrived in White River and my feelings about camp may have been partially due to my incredible sore booty and achy legs, but it was so beautiful.

The view from camp at White River.

The view from camp at White River.

Day two of the trip was spent doing one thing and one thing only: resting our booties. We also wanted to give the horses a day off, since they were the ones who actually hauled our behinds the 24 miles in to camp. Also, I’d like to give a special thanks to my horse, Popeye. He carried me and my cameras into camp like it was no big deal.

Each night, the horses and mules were put out to pasture. And each morning, the wranglers would bring them back in.

Each night, the horses and mules were put out to pasture and each morning, the wranglers would bring them back to camp.

Crossing White River.

Crossing White River.

Bob finishing up his morning wrangle.

Bob finishing up his morning wrangle.

After a full day of rest, day three brought the moment of the trip I was most excited about. We were going to ride 12 miles from White River to one of the most stunning geological formations in the country: the Chinese Wall. A 22-mile-long rock escarpment, the Chinese Wall reaches heights of 1,000 feet and runs through much of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Standing here, on top of the wall and looking out over endless mountain ranges, is one of my most special memories.

The mountain ranges seem to go on forever.

The mountain ranges seem to go on forever.

Dream come true. Photo: Tommy Meyer

Dream come true. Photo: Tommy Meyer

Amy and Tucker, taking in the landscape.

Amy and Tucker, taking in the landscape.

Standing on top of the wall.

In addition to the cooking, planning, driving and leading guests in and out on horseback, Amy is also a great sport and moonlights as a model when I ask her. 🙂

I think this is what they call a #MontanaMoment.

I think this is what they call a #MontanaMoment.

Basically on top of the world. Photo: Tommy Meyer

Basically on top of the world. Photo: Tommy Meyer

White River from Haystack Mountain (the Chinese Wall).

White River from Haystack Mountain (the Chinese Wall).

Jumping for joy after spending time on top of the Chinese Wall.

Jumping for joy after spending time on top of the Chinese Wall.

And that my friends, is just the beginning. Can’t wait to share parts two and three with you soon!

xo,
TT

25 Photos from Summer in Montana

Truth be told, it doesn’t get much better than summer in MontanaAnd this year, summer has been pretty fantastic. From visiting Bighorn Canyon in Southeast Montana to biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, it’s been full of adventure, beautiful weather and lots of memorable moments. Before the days of summer fully give way to fall, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at a summer spent in Montana.

Here’s a look at 25 of my favorite summer memories from living, working and playing in Big Sky Country.

1. Bighorn Canyon. 

Visiting Bighorn Canyon in the southeast corner of Montana was the highlight of June.

Visiting Bighorn Canyon in the southeast corner of Montana was the highlight of June.

2. Mission Mountains from the top of Ravalli Hill. 

One of the best views in Montana.

One of the best views in Montana.

3. Gladiator Mountain. 

To get here, you're well-advised to take a hearty horse.

To get here, you’re well-advised to take a hearty horse.

4. American Indian dancers at Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo. 

The dancers + this backdrop made for a perfect morning.

The dancers + this backdrop made for a perfect morning.

5. A late summer sunset. 

A Missoula sunset.

A Missoula sunset.

6. Horses at Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork. 

Letting the horses out to pasture.

Letting the horses out to pasture.

7. A misty morning in Glacier National Park. 

Snow and low clouds lingered in mid-May.

Snow and low clouds lingered in mid-May.

8. Missoula from Waterworks Hill. 

Taking in the view of the Garden City.

Taking in the view of the Garden City.

9. Twilight on Flathead Lake. 

I think this is what they call a perfect Montana summer night.

I think this is what they call a perfect Montana summer night.

10. Riding through remnants of a forest fire. 

Riding through several miles of forest-fire burn was one of the most vibrant memories from the summer.

We rode through several miles of forest-fire burn and this experience is one of my favorite and most vibrant memories from the summer.

11. The Rocky Mountain Front east of Lincoln. 

Country roads, take me home.

I can only imagine the scenes along this road.

12. The Clearwater Canoe Trail. 

Sky and land collide near Seeley Lake.

Sky and land collide near Seeley Lake.

13. Storm clouds over Lake McDonald. 

One of my favorite scenes, the boats of Glacier Park Boat Company at Apgar in Glacier National Park.

One of my favorite scenes, the boats of Glacier Park Boat Company at Apgar in Glacier National Park.

14. The Blackfeet Nation + Glacier National Park. 

This view is just off Highway 2 between East Glacier Park and Browning.

This view is just off Highway 2 between East Glacier Park and Browning.

15. Main Street in Augusta, Montana. 

One of the perks of small-town living: little traffic.

One of the perks of small-town living: little traffic.

16. Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

One of my favorite memories of the entire year: biking in Glacier National Park.

One of my favorite memories of the entire year: biking in Glacier National Park.

17. The Augusta Rodeo. 

One of the greatest things about summer is that nearly every town in Montana has a rodeo.

One of the greatest things about summer is that nearly every town in Montana has a rodeo.

18. Playing in the water at Placid Lake. 

The Seeley-Swan Valley is home to hundreds of lakes. Placid Lake just happens to be my personal favorite.

The Seeley-Swan Valley is home to hundreds of lakes. Placid Lake just happens to be my personal favorite.

19. Cotton-candy clouds. 

Montana sunsets may be the best sunsets.

Montana sunsets may be the best sunsets.

20. White River, Bob Marshall Wilderness. 

Montana's backcountry looks like THIS.

Montana’s backcountry looks like THIS.

21. Sawtooth Mountain + Montana’s plains. 

One of the most stunning places to see is where the mountains and plains meet.

One of the most stunning places to see is where the mountains and plains meet.

22. The Chinese Wall in Montana. 

Standing on top of the Chinese Wall.

Standing on top of the Chinese Wall, a 22-mile-long rock escarpment in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

23. Country roads. 

Driving Montana's country roads is something I highly recommend when visiting Big Sky Country...because of views like this.

You can never go wrong taking a country road.

24. The Crown of the Continent. 

Many park visitors come in July and August. This photo is why I love visiting in June.

Many park visitors come in July and August. This photo is why I love visiting in June.

25. A barn in Gold Creek. 

To me, farms and ranches are Montana.

To me, farms and ranches are Montana.

It was a great summer.

xo,
TT

My 5 Favorite Photo Moments in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness

You know those times when you’ve just experienced something amazing that you don’t even know how to start putting the experience into words? Well, that’s me right now at this exact moment as I’m trying to write about my week-long pack trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness with Mills Wilderness Adventures

And since I don’t currently have the words, for now I thought I’d show you my top 5 photography moments into a place that’s affectionately called “The Bob” by locals.

Take a look…

1. The Chinese Wall. 

Taking in the view from the south end of the wall.

Taking in the view from the south end of the wall.

2. Morning light in White River. 

Looking at our tents from the cook tent.

Looking at our tents from the cook tent.

3. Wildflowers + Gladiator Mountain. 

After crossing rocky terrain, this lush mountain meadow was an incredible surprise.

After crossing rocky terrain, this mountain meadow was an incredible surprise.

4. Forest light. 

Turk walking his horse down a short path to the river.

Turk walking his horse down a short path to the river.

5. The morning wrangle for horses + mules. 

Each morning, a wrangler would go and gather the horses and mules.

Each morning, a wrangler would go and gather the horses and mules.

Can’t wait to share more about the trip!

xo,
TT

The Best Hidden Gems in Glacier National Park

When I think of Glacier National Park, the first thing that comes to mind is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. After all, the 50 miles of this two-lane highway takes travelers to some of the most stunning landscapes in Glacier Park. But I have to tell you that there’s so much more to the Crown of the Continent than just driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The tunnel on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The tunnel on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

In an effort to help you get the most of your visit to Montana’s Glacier National Park, I’ve rounded up some of the park’s best hidden gems. 

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road. Okay, we all KNOW this is not a hidden gem, but the timing of when to drive it is indeed a hidden gem. My best advice: go early in the morning (as in be through the park entrance and on the road before 8 a.m.) or in late afternoon (we’re talking after 5 p.m). Most of the visitors to the road are hitting it during late morning, mid-day or afternoon and to be honest, the road gets really crowded during this time of day during July and August.

Taking in the view from a roadside pullout.

Taking in the view from a roadside pullout.

2. Take a boat tour at Rising Sun. While there are many places to take a guided tour with Glacier Park Boat Company in Glacier National Park, Rising Sun (located on the east side of the park on St. Mary Lake) is one of the lesser-visited destinations. Plus, this lake cruise is different from some of the others, due to the incredible landscapes and history of this side of the park.

Little Chief cruising on St. Mary Lake. Photo: Tyrel Johnson

Little Chief cruising on St. Mary Lake. Photo: Tyrel Johnson

3. Enjoy a cocktail at Many Glacier Hotel. Truth time: there’s limited lodging availability at Many Glacier Hotel during July and August, but don’t let that stop you from visiting this incredible place. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, it’s well worth making the drive to the Many Glacier Valley and enjoying a cocktail (I recommend the huckleberry smash) on the massive deck that overlooks Swiftcurrent Lake.

Taking in the view of Swiftcurrent Lake.

Taking in the view of Swiftcurrent Lake.

4. Cruise the Going-to-the-Sun Road with Sun Tours. Offering three tours daily (two tours depart from the east side of Glacier Park , while one departs from the west side), Sun Tours provides an incredible look at the Backbone of the World from the perspective of the Blackfeet Tribe. For more photos of what to expect on a tour, check them out on instagram.
Sidenote: I’ve taken one of these tours and they are amazing! Not only do you get to sit back and soak in the beauty of the park, but it’s incredible to be able to learn about the park from Blackfeet tribal members. 

Views of Mount Oberlin, Birdwoman Basin and Mount Cannon. Photo: Sun Tours/Bear Star Photography

Views of Mount Oberlin, Birdwoman Basin and Mount Cannon. Photo: Sun Tours/Bear Star Photography

5. Visit Kintla Lake. It’s no secret that I love Polebridge and Bowman Lake, but if you want to explore a place that’s even more off-the-beaten-path than those two, head to Kintla Lake. While it’s located in the North Fork of the park and is fairly close to Polebridge and Bowman, it takes longer to get there which means one thing: fewer people. Plus, it’s beautiful.
Sidenote: the road out to Kintla Lake is pretty rugged, so be sure you have a high-clearance vehicle (SUV, truck, etc.) and take your time. 

Kintla Lake. Photo: Tim Rains/NPS

Kintla Lake. Photo: Tim Rains/NPS

Happy summer!

xo,
TT

Montana and Wyoming: Celebrating the National Parks with Pepsi

It’s no secret that 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which is resulting in more people than ever getting out to explore and visit our national parks. In Montana, we’re fortunate to have two national parks: Glacier and Yellowstone,  while our BFF to the south—Wyoming—also has two national parks: Grand Teton and Yellowstone. 

Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

And since we’re BFFs (and because many of the visitors to Wyoming and Montana visit more than one national park during their time in our two states) we decided to team up and do something fun to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial: we worked with our pals at Pepsi to create a special edition fountain cup. 

Cheers.

The cups are already making their way into local stores!

The Pepsi cups feature photography from Glacier, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, as well as a website where you can enter to win weekly prizes AND a grand prize 5-day road trip from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Montana’s Glacier Country. If you want to enter to win (of if you just want one of these cups), you can find them in stores from Jackson Hole to Whitefish and Idaho Falls to Great Falls.

But I want to tell you the best part: you don’t HAVE to snag a cup or buy a soda to win prizes. Just go to www.glaciermt.com/pepsi and enter to win.

Hey you pretty little cup.

Hey you pretty little cup.

Two cuties (aka my mom and brother).

Two cuties (aka my mom and brother) modeling their Pepsi cups.

About to go fill this with all the Diet Pepsi I can find.

About to go fill this with all the Diet Pepsi I can find.

IMG_3720

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some (diet) pepsi to drink!

xo,
TT

A Summer Weekend at Placid Lake State Park

I feel like we’re at the point in our relationship where it’s time to introduce you to one of my favorite places that I’ve been kind of keeping a secret. Please meet my love, Placid Lake State Park

A Fourth of July sunset.

A third of July sunset at the lake.

While I’ve mentioned Placid Lake in the past, I haven’t really shared too much about it with you. But it’s time and the truth of the matter is that Placid Lake is—hands down—one of my favorite destinations in Western Montana.

Why? Well, I’ll tell you…
1. It’s just off-the-beaten-path enough that it takes a little more effort to get there.
2. The campground is fantastic (with electric sites for those of you with RVs and campers).
3. The boat launch is easily navigable and you can rent boat slips.
4. They have showers. (And to be honest, the fact that I can take a 3-minute shower while camping for $1 in quarters is what truly converted me to loving this state park the most).
5. It’s a short drive to Seeley Lake.
6. I really, really love state parks.

Here’s a look at a recent weekend at Placid Lake State Park.

Sunset at the lake.

Sunset at the lake.

My favorite spot on the boat.

My favorite spot on the boat.

Purple mountain majesties.

Purple mountain majesties.

A view from the campground.

A view from the campground.

My buddy Dwain playing on the water.

My buddy Dwain playing on the water.

A perfect day for sailing.

A perfect day for sailing.

Your turn: where’s your favorite place for a weekend away? 

xo,
TT

A Summer Road Trip: Clearwater Junction to Polebridge, Montana

It’s hard to stay in one place during summer in Montana. There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to adventure in, around and through this place I call home. And I have to tell you, this year is no exception and with gorgeous weather, the need to hit the road came earlier than usual. So on one sunshine-filled day this June, my two traveling companions (affectionately known as boo and baby girl) and I loaded up the car and decided to take a road trip north. Our destination: Polebridge, Montana.

Polebridge, Montana.

Polebridge, Montana.

Why did we choose Polebridge for this specific road trip? Well, it’s because neither boo nor baby girl had been there and the three of us decided it was time to change that because Polebridge is a place that everyone should visit during their lifetime.

Often when we travel north through Western Montana’s Glacier Country, we hit Highway 93 and travel along Flathead Lake. But not this time. Instead, we opted to go through one of Montana’s most lovely valleys: the Seeley-Swan on Highway 83. And I have to tell you, it was such a perfect day. The company was fun, the views were beautiful and the drive from the southern end of the Seeley Valley to the northern end of the Swan Valley is one of the prettiest in the state.
Sidenote: you can read more about my love of the Seeley-Swan Valley here

Our travel route for the day.

Our travel route for the day.

On this particular day, we decided to officially start our trip at Clearwater Junction, home to Stoney’s and the most photographed bull in the state.

Good morning, handsome.

Good morning, handsome.

Additional stops in the Seeley-Swan included Salmon Lake, the Clearwater Canoe Trail, Holland Lake and Laughing Horse Lodge (which is now officially on my must-stay list!).

Take a look…

Taking in the view from the shore of Salmon Lake.

Taking in the view from the shore of Salmon Lake.

Gotta love these clear waters.

Gotta love those clear waters.

Hands down, the Clearwater Canoe Trail is my FAVORITE activity in the entire valley.

Hands down, the Clearwater Canoe Trail is my FAVORITE activity in the entire valley.

This valley is home to hundreds of lakes, including Summit Lake which sits just west of Highway 83.

This valley is home to hundreds of lakes, including Summit Lake which sits just west of Highway 83.

This view, with a dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere, called to my heart.

This view, with a dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere, called to my heart.

A short drive down Holland Lake Road from Highway 83 will take you to Holland Lake.

A short drive down Holland Lake Road from Highway 83 will take you to Holland Lake.

From the trailhead, the hike to Holland Falls in an easy 1.6 miles.

From the trailhead, the hike to Holland Falls in an easy 1.6 miles.

Just one reason to love country roads.

The grounds at Laughing Horse Lodge.

The grounds at Laughing Horse Lodge.

The garden at Laughing Horse Lodge.

The garden at Laughing Horse Lodge.

I could have spent all afternoon here.

I could have spent all afternoon here.

It was my first time stopping at Laughing Horse Lodge and by the time we left, all three of us were ready to just end our trip here.

It was my first time stopping at Laughing Horse Lodge and by the time we left, all three of us were ready to just stop and spend the night here.

Kathleen (the owner of Laughing Horse Lodge) tends the gardens, cooks the dinners (which look amazing) and welcomes guests to her property. Oh, and she's nice. Nice people should never be taken for granted.

Taking advantage of my visit to the garden. Kathleen (the owner of Laughing Horse Lodge) tends the gardens and cooks dinner at her on-site restaurant. Oh, and she’s nice.

After we left the Seeley-Swan Valley, we continued north but not without making a stop for lunch at my favorite Montana cafe: Basecamp Cafe in Columbia Falls.

Note: if you ever want to woo me, just make me tacos with cilantro.

Note: if you ever want to woo me, just make me tacos with cilantro.

After fueling up (and loading up our starving tummies), we continued the drive to one of the wildest and most awesome places in Montana: the North Fork and Polebridge.
Sidenote: all of the electricity in Polebridge is from generators or solar power. 

Baby girl and I donning our new snapbacks from our pal Kevin at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Baby girl and I donning our new snapbacks from our pal Kevin at Flathead Lake Lodge.

There are two routes you can take to the North Fork: 1) you can take the North Fork Road from Columbia Falls to Polebridge and 2) you can go through the west entrance of Glacier National Park and take the Camas Road to North Fork Road. Route #2 cuts some gravel off your drive and gives great views of Lake McDonald.

There are two routes you can take to the North Fork: 1) you can drive the North Fork Road from Columbia Falls to Polebridge and 2) you can go through the west entrance of Glacier National Park and take the Camas Road to North Fork Road. Route #2 cuts some gravel off your drive and gives great views of Lake McDonald.

The famous Polebridge Mercantile.

The famous Polebridge Mercantile, home to huckleberry bearclaws and macaroons.

The Northern Lights Saloon, owned by another sweet gal named Heather, is a great place to stop and get a cold beverage or have dinner.

The Northern Lights Saloon, owned by another sweet gal named Heather, is a great place to stop and get a cold beverage or have dinner.

After spending time in the merc and saloon, we ventured into Glacier National Park and drove to Bowman Lake.

The trail to one of the prettiest places in the park.

The trail to one of the prettiest places in the park.

Bowman Lake.

Bowman Lake.

Boo, myself and baby girl at Bowman Lake.

Boo, myself and baby girl at Bowman Lake.

My only question is this: where are we off to next?

xo,
TT

The Top 10 Things to Do Near Glacier National Park

We all know that Montana’s Glacier National Park is amazing. It just is. I mean, does it get much better than 1 million acres of glacial-carved terrain, the epic Going-to-the-Sun Road and the feeling you get just being in Glacier National Park? Maybe not. But I’m here to tell you, it gets pretty darn close.

Hello, Glacier National Park.

Hello, Glacier National Park.

Around here, a lot of focus gets placed on Glacier National Park (which is completely deserved by the way) but the truth of the matter is that there is more to this corner of Montana than just the Crown of the Continent. And you deserve to know some of the best things to do outside of Glacier National Park, because sharing is caring.

Before I get started on this list, there were two guidelines I followed when pulling it together: 1) All of the items on this list are within 30 minutes of Glacier National Park and 2) I have personally been to them (so I feel really confident recommending them to you).

Without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 things to do near Glacier National Park. 

1. Take a guided horseback trail ride on the Blackfeet Nation. Hands down, this is one of the best activities I’ve ever done. Maybe it’s because the Blackfeet Indian Reservation has a special place in my heart or maybe it’s because Mouse Hall (who I totally adore) leads the crew at Glacier Gateway Outfitters. But to be honest, I think it’s both of those combined with the incredible experience of riding a horse in wide-open country as you climb trails, nearby mountains and learn about the Blackfeet Tribe and their history, all while taking in expansive views along the Rocky Mountain Front.
Storytime: last time I rode with Mouse, my horse’s name was 7up and he was feisty as all get out…which is probably why I loved him. He didn’t like the other horses and got bit by a wasp on our ride down from Baldy Butte and still, the ride was incredible. It was also amazing to see how Mouse handled all of the horses. Each of the horses knew he loved them and in turn, they loved, trusted and respected him. I’ve not seen anything quite like that anywhere else. 

Mouse on top of Baldy Butte.

Mouse on top of Baldy Butte.

2. Visit The Museum of the Plains Indian and Blackfeet Heritage Center in Browning. Hands down, these two places (that just happen to be next door to each other) are my top two places to stop in Browning. The Museum of the Plains Indian has an incredible history of several of the Plains tribes (be sure to watch the video before touring the museum), while the Blackfeet Heritage Center has work from hundreds of American Indian artists on display.
Insider tip: while in Browning, be sure to check out Faught’s Blackfeet Trading Post, Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village and Western Curios. 

The museum is home to incredible artifacts and displays.

The museum is home to incredible artifacts and displays.

3. Stroll the grounds and sit in the lobby at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park. I’ve had a love affair with Glacier Park Lodge for as long as I can remember and it’s a place that I love sharing with other people. Whether you’re staying at the lodge or just passing through, it’s definitely worth a stop. You can read more about Glacier Park Lodge here.

My happy place, Glacier Park Lodge.

My happy place, Glacier Park Lodge.

4. Have dinner at the Izaak Walton Inn. Located halfway between East Glacier Park and West Glacier is Essex and the Izaak Walton Inn. Their on-site restaurant has become one of my favorite places for dinner in the region. Afterward, sit on the patio outside and watch the trains roll past.

Hello, handsome.

Hello, handsome.

5. Cool down at the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center. Situated just down the road from the west entrance of Glacier National Park is the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center. It’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs, learn about the area, cool down with local ice cream, grab a coffee, take a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters (they have a horse corral out back) and peruse made in Montana items.

The horses of Swan Mountain Outfitters hanging out in the corral.

The horses of Swan Mountain Outfitters hanging out in the corral.

6. Visit Hungry Horse Reservoir, the area’s best-kept secret. While it won’t be a secret anymore (woops a daisy), Hungry Horse Reservoir is a great place to go to get away from the masses. Located a short drive from the town of Hungry Horse, the reservoir and its surrounding area offer fishing, boating, swimming, hiking and camping. Plus, it’s beautiful.

The view of Hungry Horse Reservoir from above.

The view of Hungry Horse Reservoir from above.

7. Taste Montana spirits (and take a tour) at Glacier Distilling Company. Making its home in a red barn in Coram, the Whiskey Barn at Glacier Distillery offers tours and tastings daily from Noon – 8 p.m. during the summer. Plus, they have an outdoor patio where you can kick back, rub shoulders with the locals and taste Montana.

The Whiskey Barn.

The Whiskey Barn.

8. Stroll through Columbia Falls. Truth time: Columbia Falls is one of my favorite towns and is often overlooked as a place to stop. But that, my friends, is changing. This town has some exciting stuff happening and is home to a thriving farmers market (Thursday nights May – September), a brand-new hotel named Cedar Creek Lodge, Backslope Brewing (one of the state’s newest breweries), great dining, a coffee shop and a fly shop. In six words: Columbia Falls is worth a stop.

Confession: Columbia Falls is home to my favorite cafe.

Confession: Columbia Falls is home to my favorite cafe.

9. Drive the North Fork Road to Polebridge. The best adventures are often found along gravel roads and the drive to Polebridge is no exception. The drive will take you along incredible views into Glacier National Park and some beautiful landscapes. Once in Polebridge, be sure to kick back at the Northern Lights Saloon (and grab dinner there) and peruse the Polebridge Mercantile.

I love the Merc!

I love the Merc!

10. Eat a steak at the Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club. Last fall was my first encounter with the Cattle Baron Supper Club in Babb. And it was a great one. If you like steak, this may be the place you have the best steak of your life. Insider tip: order extra bread. It’s homemade and delicious.  

Before dinner in Babb, be sure to drive and take a look at Chief Mountain.

Before dinner in Babb, be sure to drive and take a look at Chief Mountain.

Happy exploring!

xo,
TT