Great American Road Trip: Part 8

Missoula

August 13–21, 2018

My second trip to Montana came a three weeks after my initial stopover in Big Sky Country. This time, I approached Montana from the West, carrying a payload of personal effects for my friends who were moving from Berlin to Missoula. I drove eight hours straight from Seattle to Missoula, through the very smoky and desert landscape of Central and Eastern Washington. The western forest fires of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia were at their peak during this time, and it made the whole area look very post-apocalyptic.

Once in Missoula I met another friend Stephen (also a friend from Berlin), who had driven across North America from Ontario in his self-built camper. All three of us unloaded the items from my van, had a couple of beers, then Stephen and I found a spot to park the campers on a side street.

The next day, after taking some time to catch up on emails and do some grocery shopping, Stephen and I headed west about 40 minutes to the same Fish Creek campsite where I had stayed nearly one month earlier. We met my friend Francisco and his sister there, and had quite the fun night cooking under the stars, playing guitar, and laughing quite a lot. The next day Francisco and Solene set off toward Yellowstone, and Stephen and I headed back to town.

Stephen and I spent a week in Missoula and the surrounding area, and it was the first time so far on my trip where I felt I really had time to sit down and work on planning some of the next steps of my life once this journey ends. I spent a few days in relaxed mode, applying for jobs, having some phone interviews, doing laundry, and helping build a bed frame (this took way more time than we originally planned), and checking out some of the local bars.

My friend was starting a PhD program at the University of Montana, and had several things to do to get situated both in his apartment and with his new labmates during the week. Over the weekend, however, we had the chanced to travel into the mountains, and we headed down to Lake Como. We spent the weekend doing some hiking, camping, and enjoying being out in the wilderness.

Lake Como (left) and views of the valley beyond during our 19 km hike (right)

We came back on Monday midday so that I could do one more load of laundry, a few more job interviews, and then get prepared for the next part of our journey. Stephen and I debated for quite a while where the next leg of our journey should take us. We both wanted to head north to Glacier National Park and then into the Canadian National Parks of Banff and Jasper, but the forest fires were raging across much of the west coast, severely limiting the visibility of the mountain scenery and making air quality a bit hazardous. We had thought about possibly traveling southward through Idaho and Oregon, but eventually decided we would risk the potential for smoky haze, remain optimistic, and head Northward.

Before making it all the way to Glacier National Park, we drove about 2 hours east of Missoula to a National Forest campsite (I am still amazed at the number of free National Forest dispersed campsites in Montana) along the Blackfoot River. The following day we would make our way north to Glacier National Park.

National Forest Campsite along the Blackfoot River. Did I mention it was FREE!?