Sunday, October 6, 2013

Offbeat Northwest: Camping in Montana

Woman stalks husband with ax
Happy Memories Camping
I love camping, but I've never been in Germany. This is partly because we moved to Berlin with 2 suitcases and have literally no equipment. It is partly because our travels outside of the city are in their infancy and I still have relatively no idea of the campgrounds in these here parts. And it is partly because of the Germans.

The one time we tried to go camping was in the Spreewald, just south of Berlin in L├╝bbenau. It went like this.

Ian: "Are there any camping spots available this weekend?"
Campsite: (laugh) "No."
Ian: "Are there any camping spots available in the coming weeks?"
Campsite: "No, there are no spots for the rest of the year!" 

Germans. Always prepared, unlike us.

On our trip back to the States this summer, camping was high on our to-do list. We fled our beloved state, friends, and parents for the great state of Montana. It is our default to head west to the coast or south to California and we wanted to do something different. East took us through Ian's hometown of Yakima, Tri-Cities, Spokane, Silverwood Theme Park, Coeur d'Alene & Wallace, Idaho. It was very Americana....

Driving through Eastern Washington
....and it was a lot of driving.

Note Ian being a good driver with the eyes on the road
How much driving was it?

If we drove straight from Seattle to Flathead Lake,

7 hours 33 minutess
798.2 km / 495.9 miles

No wonder we were a bit grouchy and nervous all this madness wasn't going to be worth the very long journey.

"I hope this drive is worth the wait."
Nervous Giggle.

Ian: Silence

Then we crested a hill.

Camping At Flathead Lake

Camping in Montana, USA
First glimpse of Flathead Lake
Breath-taking. Isn't that what they always say about natural wonders? But it really was. I felt myself gasp like a soap star who just saw her plastic surgeon making out with her husband.


It was worth the drive.

Flathead Lake, MT

As we drove in, we noticed the campsite was completely empty. It was a bit creepy after years living with people all around us, all the time in Berlin.

But wasn't this what we wanted? After all the clamor of city living, the joy of being back in the States, surrounded by our friends and family - wasn't it time for a little peace and quiet?

We put on our big boy & girl pants and set-up camp along the shore of the lake.

Camping in MT, USA
Our campsite

Berlin Ian lake in MT America

Camping in Montana, USA

Camping in Montana, USA

Camping in Montana, USA
Pro Tip: Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer makes for great camp reading


Camping Food

Because we are gross hogs of human beings, we may have been looking forward to camp food the very most. For 2 nights away we spent almost $70 and had to stuff ourselves at every meal to eat most of it. But don't worry - we did eat most of it.

Camping in Montana, USA

Camp Food: Hot Dogs

Camping in Montana, USA

Our Camping Eats:

  • Hot Dogs (duh)
  • Loads of grilled onions & pepper
  • Baked beans!
  • Pepperjack cheese - lots of it
  • Big Beefy Steaks with eggs for breakfast ('merican!)
  • IPAs (definitely a food group)
  • English muffins
  • S'mores (for the uninitiated this is the mandatory campfire desert of marshmallows, chocolate & graham crackers) 

Camping in Montana, USA

Camping in Montana, USA
Thanks lovely Travis & Kelsey mug for (temporarily) housing our IPA! Love a great wedding

How Not to Go to Glacier National Park

Camping in Montana, USA

This is just outside the entrance of Glacier National Park. Look at that nature! Check out the water! Ian's t-shirt seems to demonstrate that Sasquatch is in them there hills!

So why didn't we go in?

Good question. Great question. The short answer - we're idiots. (Not surprising, right?)

The long answer: It costs $25 to drive onto the park and works as a 7 day pass. Totally fair - but we only had maybe 2 hours to spend in the park. Hrm. In all the free literature in every coffee shop in Montana no one thought to mention this fee. Worse still, our visit in early June meant much of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (one of the main highlights) was still closed. Snow fall is heavy in these parts and it was surprisingly chilly for our visit. 

No matter - we turned around a bit embarrassed, but none the worse for wear, and went shopping.


Shopping is not our natural go-to when vacationing or camping, but shopping was both bizarre and wonderful in rural Montana and Kalispell.  Western wear galore, antiques and some very hip shops greeted us everywhere. Germans delight!

(German Insight: There are still remnants of German fascination with all things Western. Fostered by Karl May, a German writer who strangely never stepped on West coast/best coast, it is not uncommon to find cowboy boots, dream catchers, and fake native American musical groups all over Germany.)

Camping in Montana, USA

Western Wear Store in American West

Ian actually wears a ridiculous amount of plaid so he found an authentic western shirt to bring back to Berlin and I just marveled at all of the gorgeous boots. As a former equestrian, I always wore practical boots but some of these are spectacular.

We also ventured into the many Native American shops. Definitely touristy, most of the offerings were just weird.

Step into the Old West Sign Bald Eagle

Shopping in Montana
A bunch of skulls? Certainly.

Camping in Montana
Buffalo jerky? But of course!
A lot of Jesus? Yikes...

The town also had some trendy shops, like this very indie flavored ice cream shop, Sweet Peaks. With our absurd load of camping food I was adamant we not eat in town, but the sun was shining and buying a cone at a hippie-dippie all-natural ice cream shop was the least we could do to "fight the man" (aka the remaining conservatives in generally liberal Kalispell).

Eating mint & salty caramel on the sweet (pun intended) balcony atop the shop

Though we felt bad spending what little time we have at home (i.e. in the States) away from our family, this trip was one we'll be talking about for years. Camping! Eating! Driving! Ok - we could have done with less driving, but we did have fun. And isn't that what it's all about? Even though we went east, I think we've done did the Wild Wild West.


Mandi | No Apathy Allowed said...

I love Montana! We spent nearly every summer in Western Montana when I was a kid and I have fantastic memories of trees and creeks and campfires and s'mores and fishing. Every year we also brought back tons of Wild West kitsch back to Seattle with us.

Glad to see you guys had a great time too!

ebe porter said...

How lovely Mandi! As you can see, we were duly impressed by our almost neighbor of Montana.

~ cheryl said...

This was a funny post - and you truly did find a beautiful spot at Flathead Lake.

ebe porter said...

Glad you enjoyed Mrs. cheryl :) It was beautiful, and that shot of us camping with the axe is one of my favorites ever.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008