Favorite Places in Montana: A List

Saucey Beach

“Saucey” Beach.  Named after visiting friends.  A relatively secluded rocky beach on Lake McDonald.  Afraid I can’t tell you more than that… 🙂

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Going to the Sun Road.  How can you not love a road with that name? It is stunning and it never gets old.  Entirely worth coming to Montana simply to drive that stretch of highway.

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The Hyalite Canyon.  We camped there on our Dinosaur Trail trip last summer. It was my favorite campsite of the trip, which boasted a lovely clean site, friendly but unobtrusive campground hosts, and the lovely song of the creek to sing you to sleep.

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Fish Creek on Lake McDonald.  The perfect place to dip in very cold water on hot summer days, and a wonderful kayak launching beach.

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The North Fork Road, Polebridge and various Flathead National Forest Cabins:  So much to see up the North Fork Road, which follows along the North Fork of the Flathead River.  Go to Polebridge for crazy 4th of July parades and to the Polebridge Merc for baked treats.  We have stayed in the Forest Service cabins during hunting season–enjoying a lovely sense of isolation.

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Gem Mountain/Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine:  I love digging through bags of gravel for sapphires.  My husband gets me a bag every Christmas.   The sapphire is the clear rock in the center.

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Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman:  We stopped here while on the Dinosaur Trial.  The dinosaur collection was so cool–and the rest of the museum is wonderful, too.  The boys loved the show in the planetarium.

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Quinn’s Hot Springs:  Montana has a lot of hot springs.  We have been to the Symes Hotel and Hot Springs a few times, but especially enjoyed out first visit to Quinn’s Hot Springs.  A nice cabin, great hot springs pools, and a wonderful dinner.

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Virginia City:  Oh!  The History! The entire town is so well-preserved–and the stories are fascinating.  If you love “ghost towns” this MUST be on the destination list.  Another favorite is Garnet Ghost Town.  It is well worth the long, gravelly, bumpy drive.

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The Belton Chalet:  The food is ridiculously good.  Just tonight we ate a “baked caramelized onion, bacon & white cheddar dip served with crostini”.  Oh my goodness.  Mouth-gasm.  Thank you Chef Melissa!  We have stayed at the Lewis and Clark cabins, and snow-shoed from our cabin door.  We wave at the train as it goes by.  Love this place.

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River’s Edge Park, Columbia Falls:  We feel so fortunate to have this wonderful park so close to our house.  We like to walk the dog down there and let her swim in the Flathead River.  This is where the community garden is located, and there is talk of a dog park one day.  It is a great place to throw a frisbee, fly a kite, watch for otters and muskrats, and to contemplate the river.

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The National Bison Range, Moise:  We go there at least once a year, usually in the spring when the babies are out.  Even if you don’t see any animals, it is a magnificent drive.

I’m sure there will be a part II to this post.  Maybe even a part III.

This is my life…my backyard.  Jealous?

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It’s the Time of the Season…to Start Planning my Garden!

Does this happen to all gardeners?  After Christmas, a switch turned on somewhere in my crowded head and now I find myself obssessively planning my garden and my yard.

We are building a garage/shop (“we” meaning my husband) and I just realized that due to “new” shade, I will probably have to move my raspberries.  So if I move my raspberries, I won’t have as much room for my tomatoes and peppers.  Of course, I can’t do anything but think about it–the ground is frozen, and the future tomato/peppers/raspberry area is currently seeing heavy construction use.

This will be my third year growing the rest of my food in our town’s new Community Garden.  It is an amazing opportunity to raise veggies–the soil is nearly rock-free, which is hard to find in my neighborhood. In my yard, I can’t stick a dandelion fork in the ground without hitting a rock.

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Wall O’Waters

The first year, I harvested one 12×12 plot.  Last year, I worked  one and a half plots.  This year I’m going for three plots.     I am a relatively new gardener, but I have already learned a lot.  I learned that in NW Montana, Wall O’Waters are necessary around tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers LONG into June…I learned that there is a reason for the spacing information about tomatoes.  I learned that cabbage worms are gross and a menace (and hard to get out of broccoli).  I’ve learned that you can never grow enough basil.

I’ve learned that cornmeal seems to be a good deterrent for the ants in my strawberries.

I use a garden planning software called GrowVeg.com, mostly because I need something to do while I wait out the long Montana winter.   I have been having much too much fun organizing and designing my garden layout.  This year, we will be growing our potatoes in the Community Garden.  We’ve tried to grow them in the yard, but there just isn’t enough sun…and, of course, we have a crazy Murphy the Newfie who knows where the potatoes are planted.  We are going to try corn this year.  Cukes, zukes and other squash will get their “own” plot.  I spend a lot of time mentally designing bigger and better vegetable supports.

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Tinsley House

Last summer my family took a trip on the Montana Dinosaur Trail.  At Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies, we toured the Tinsley House, which is a living history farm.  All of the garden cultivars are heirloom, some even 100 years old.  But what I loved most were the handmade tomato cages.  I tried to talk my youngest into making some to sell at our local Farmer’s Market, but he doesn’t seem terribly interested.

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Tomato Cages

I’m also excited for the Community Garden at large.  We are going through some changes, but I think good things are in store.  In the fall we planted our first raised bed of garlic, and this spring we will make another of onions, to be divided among plot holders.  We will set up a green house early, so people can start their seeds.  We will add some raspberry canes, build a raised herb garden, and plant some strawberries and some blueberry bushes.   The new local brewery, Desert Mountain Brewing and Draughthouse plans to grow hops along the north fence.  Eventually we would like to add a gazebo.

I would love to get high school students to design and paint the side of the storage shed.  I am also going to enlist the high school Key Club in helping to plant, maintain and harvest the Food Bank plot.

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The Community Garden

Alas, all I can really do right now is dream.  I need to wait another 3 months before I can start seeds, and another 5 months before I can start really getting my hands dirty.  Until then, I will just imagine the amazing food that will be grown in the 2013 garden!

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Murphy when she was just an itty-bitty Newfie at the Museum of the Rockies