Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Thursday, October 4, 2012


We hit the road in a timely manner with Cousin Diane, her daughter Shelley, and Tucker in tow.    We decided to take a different road north – Hwy 15.   We started out through grazing areas, and moved on to wheat fields, miles and miles of wheat stubble.  Finally, north of Conrad, MT, we took a short cut over to highway 89 to be closer to the mountains.   This shortcut was a nice ordinary, paved road – no excitement there!

 We stopped at Marias Pass for a quick lunch.   Marias is the lowest pass on the Continental Divide in the state of Montana.  In the 1920’s, before this section of Hwy 2 was completed, travelers would load their vehicles on the train at East Glacier, and retrieve them 67 miles later at West Glacier.

 Across the road was a mountain with a white layer about ¼ from the top.   During the construction of the planet – the part of the mountain above the limestone line travelled about 70 miles from the southwest to end up on top of this mountain!

We got to Apgar campground in Glacier about 3, finally found a site with a large enough tent pad, and close to the washroom, and set up camp.   We had supper, loaded all the totes into the cab of the truck, and by that time it was dark and we went to bed.  It dropped to the 40’s over night, but we were quite comfortable in the tent.

Each night got colder.  I was ok – I had the 2” memory foam pad on top of my air mattress.   Shelley was in pretty good shape – she had a foam pad, too – but she got cold the last night.    Diane did fine the first 2 nights – the third – it dropped into the 30’s and she got quite cold.   I had my big quilt in the back of the truck – just because I hadn’t taken it out before we left.  We folded it in half and put on top of her air mattress and the last night, she slept comfortably.

Yes, it was cold.  I had all the stuff necessary for morning coffee, tea, whatever so we could grab it and start the water heating without delay.  Tucker we wrapped a blanket around him and held him close until he stopped shivering – the last morning we put him and blanket in chair, then covered all with a sleeping bag – he didn’t warm up until after we got on the road headed home.

OK – so we’ve covered the weather.  We arrived at the park on Monday evening.  Tuesday, we stayed in the park – drove as far as we could on the Going to the Sun road – which was only about 15 miles.   It was a pretty drive – for most of the way, along Lake McDonald – it was so smoky it was hard to see the mountains across the lake.   At the end of the road, we parked and Shelley and I took the short hike through the ancient cedar grove.   It was so quiet – and so awesome.  I got fascinated by the root systems where trees had toppled.  I took several photos. 

We returned to Apgar and perused the village.   Checked out all the souveniers.  I’m still looking for a souvenir T-shirt.  I guess I’ll just have to iron on a photo of Mountain Goats I took last time. 

Wednesday, after another good night’s sleep, and we were off to drive around Flathead Lake.   It was a very enjoyable drive – about 100 miles altogether.  And, still…. Smoky!

 We stopped at Big Fork, a very entertaining small town.  We slowed to enjoy a sculpture garden, and all of a sudden, Tucker started in barking, and BARKING and BARKING!   There on a low, flat rock – just above his sightline, was a sculpture of a cougar, and Tuck was not going to let it get his ladies!!!!   The artist was nearby and said she enjoyed seeing dog’s reactions to it.   Most big dogs, she said, turn and run.  Now, I’m not sure if that means they have more sense than Tucker, or that Tucker is braver????

As we walked around town, several people stopped us to pet Tuck and ask about him.  One lady actually called us to stop, she had been following, trying to catch up so she could see him up close.

Thursday morning the plan was to drive the 25 miles to Whitefish just to check out the town – we’d learned by then that we couldn’t do the walk in the treetops as it was only open Friday, Saturday & Sunday – and we were headed home on Friday.    Shelley had noticed the sign for Polebridge  - 24 miles, and was intrigued by the name – I kept wondering where I had heard it before.   That morning our neighboring campers told us they had driven up to Polebridge where there was a wonderful old general store with fresh baked goods and hot coffee.   So we decided to go there first.  We left the campground at 9:30 a.m.

We drove through an old burn area – I believe from 2003.  The regrowth as doing quite well.    The fall colors were beautiful – green and yellow trees, and old homesteads, and new cabins.   As soon as we turned on the road to the general store, I knew where I’d heard “Polebridge” before – my cousin’s 2011 calendar had a winter photo of it.  We drove down the hallway of trees to the bright red false front general store.   And, indeed, it had fresh baked goods – and delicious coffee.   The area was a natural clearing in the middle of the forest – basically on top of that  mountain – and you could see for miles to the distant mountains.  They had cabins for rent – a stage for entertainment and a half-moon house for visitor’s convenience.   On the porch were 2 payphone – for use when they worked – which they weren’t that day.  Anyway, the phone boxes were wood barrels hung on the wall with the front cut out for the phone.  Very quaint.   It was surprising how many people lived in that isolated area just a few miles from the border (border crossing closed  - permanently)

 As we got back to the main road (unpaved), we spied a sign indicating Whitefish 38 miles – if we turned right.   We decided, what the heck – if we go back and head for Columbia Falls – and Whitefish – it would be at least that far.  So off we went.   I am sure glad Luv has 4 new tires!  It was a Forest Service road.   Bumpy, even though it was well graded – that means between the chug holes, the road was flat – not washboard.

We are all so glad we did it!   It was an outstanding drive – no clinging to the side of the mountain – we drove through beautiful color.  While the trees just turn yellow, shrubs and other low growth turn orange and red – the contrasts were breathtaking.   We stopped at a beautiful small lake – clear as glass – you could see the fish!   We had “Jack – (GPS) set up and followed his instructions.   We kept driving and driving and driving.  The whole time, we only passed 3 vehicles.    We stopped for a bit at another lake just to drink in the view.

We got back on the road, and kept going, and going, and going – this took quite awhile since my highest speed was about 22 mph – most of the time it was half that.    Then, we came to a fork in the road – 3 roads.  Jack said, actually insisted, we take the right fork …….. but, that was already barricaded for the winter.   We started down the center fork on a wing and a prayer – we had some disagreement in the truck on whether we were headed in the right direction.   I turned Luv around – not too bad cause this was obviously a logging road and had lots of turn-offs.    We sat back at the fork in the road.  Contemplating, Diane had the compass, and said we were headed SW – I was looking at Shelley’s Montana Atlas, and noticed it showed longitude & Latitude, and I checked Jack and got the L&L of where we were and found it on the map.   Looked like the middle fork was the right one, so we started out again.  (Jack continued to insist we make a u-turn, but he was easy to ignore)

 We drove, and drove, and drove.   Finally, we had to pull aside so a Jeep could pass.  I flagged them down and asked if the road took us to Whitefish -  Yep!   Turn left when you hit the pavement about 3 miles ahead.   Whew! What a relief!   What an adventure.  We intend to take more Forest Road Adventures next year!

 we were in Whitefish very briefly – had to wait for the restaurant to open – so I headed for the quilt shop -  they were entertaining a busload of Canadian Ladies – so I didn’t hang around to buy anything, but I took notes of patterns I saw so I could look them up later.  In any event, our 24 mile trip to Whitefish took 5 ½ hours!   We would not have missed a minute of it!

Friday morning, we packed up and headed for home.   We continued our adventure by taking a shortcut from the downside of Roger’s Pass to Wolf Creek.  (Roger’s pass – the last time I drove down it, my brakes failed – if you don’t think that was an adventure – think again!)  I’d never been on this road – it was beautiful short-grass prairie, it was afternoon and the shadows on the hills were something to behold.   At one photo stop, I turned to get back in the truck, and there on the other side of the road, just inside the fence line were 2 deer, and they very politely stood still long enough for me to get a shot or two.

 Arriving in Wolf Creek which is where we could have connected with the interstate, we elected to take the old road – which winds along the banks of the Missouri.   We saw a small group of antelope on a hill, then spotted some deer swimming from an  island to the river bank.  That was interesting.

When it started getting dark, we popped onto the highway.   We drove along with the sun setting behind us and a full moon rising ahead.

 When we pulled into Diane’s yard – deer shot in every direction!   4-5 ran in front of the truck, some headed to the front yard, and 3 took off around the house.   One stuck around behind Luv until Tucker spotted it and bade him farewell!

And that, my dear friends is our Glacier Park adventure for 2012

Until next time,
Bear Hugs

Luv ‘n Boots and Tucker too
And don’t forget Little Bear

 She believed she could do it and so she did!

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