Saturday, July 6, 2019

A big travel day and then Devil’s Tower

Today was the start of our third and final leg. We had an early morning flight from Spokane to Denver and then a super long 6+ hour drive to Devil’s Tower. 

Since most of the day was driving, let’s talk about our sweet rental car for this leg. At the Denver Hertz, they have the choose your own deal and we had reserved a compact. But, just as we got to the parking lot to pick our car, someone else took the last compact. So, we were told to pick a car from the full sized area. Michael spotted a hybrid Ford Fusion and so we went with that. It’s fancy! Our favorite feature is the adaptive cruise control. You set your cruise speed and if you get too close to a car in front of you, it automatically reduces your speed so you keep a set distance. So amazing! Definitely made these long drives easier. It also has auto windshield wipers and something Driver Alert which we had fun with. And it got great gas mileage. 

Speaking of driving, Michael drives about 70% of the time. I was doing some driving in rural Wyoming on this day when we started to see a big storm cloud. We haven’t had service on our phones for most of the trip and certainly didn’t in the middle of nowhere. We had the SIRUS radio on, so nothing there was updating us on weather. As we got closer and closer the storm cloud looked worse and worse, but we kept going. The car in front of us suddenly turned around, but there were cars coming from the other direction. We turned on the radio and did find a local station that happened to be playing the severe thunderstorm warning message. Then, we at least knew what we were facing. I drove on through as there wasn’t exactly a place to stop or really even pull over on these country roads. No hail, but lots of wind and heavy rain. We made it! But, stay tuned as this is a trend that continues. 

Once we finally did arrive at Devil’s Tower, we checked into the Devil’s Tower Lodge. Note: this is not a lodge affiliated with the park. It’s someone’s home. A bed and breakfast. Run by a local climber. It’s inside the park and has amazing views, but it was definitely a little strange. We and prepaid for dinner and had a very yummy home cooked meal overlooking the Tower. Then, we went down to see the prairie dogs, but they and gone to sleep. So, we did the hike around the base of the tower instead. Very nice!  

Race day and exploring Spokane

Super early morning for our big race. 4:15am alarm. Out the door by 4:40. At the bus by 4:55. At the start line by 5:15. Race began at 6am in the countryside of Missoula. A small group of runners for the half. Beautiful scenery for the run. We saw ponies chasing horses, a guy playing a grand piano, a women playing a kazoo, and lots of friendly neighbors with snacks for the runners. Overall, a very nice race, mainly downhill. We both finished in just above 2 hours and then enjoyed some post race snacks and walked back to our hotel. 

After we got all cleaned up and packed, we stopped at Edelweiss Cafe which was attached to Bayern Brewing for brunch. We had some yummy German inspired brunch dishes and Michael grabbed a beer downstairs before we headed back to Spokane. 

We decided to stop in Wallace, Idaho on our return trip as it looked very charming on our way into Montana. It was so cute! We stopped at Wallace a Brewing and Michael really enjoyed their beers. We walked a bit around town to stretch our legs. Lots of interesting history here. We would definitely come back and stay the night here or spend the day exploring the little town, the staircases, and the mining history. Apparently, it’s the only US city listed entirely on the National Register of Historic Places. A fun detour!

Our next stop was just outside Spokane at Latah Creek Winery. I figured if we were in Washington, I had to check out at least one winery. And this one did not disappoint! We arrived and took a bathroom break and when we came back, they had a table set us for us complete with 3 kinds of cheeses, chocolates, and crackers. Delicious! And we could taste as many wines as we wanted! Yes! The people were so friendly and I liked the wines so much that I bought two bottles: a Malbec and a Pinot Gris. I think they only do the food pairings on Sundays, but if you’re ever in the area, we highly recommend it! 

It was just a few more minutes until Downtown Spokane. We checked back into the Hotel Ruby2 (same place we stayed for a quick night on the way in).Then, we wanted to hit some food/drink places downtown before they closed. First up was Barrister Winery. The space was beautiful, but the wine was just ok. Next up, One Tree Cider House where I got to roll a 20-sided dice to determine which  ciders would be in my flight (you gots deal if you let the dice decide).Great fun and yummy ciders! Then, we got some ceviche at Zona Blanca whose head chef was on Top Chef! And the ceviche was really good. Next up was Iron Goat Brewery for a flight of beers and our final stop was the Sapphire Lounge for a buy one get one free drink provided by our hotel. 

After all that food and drink, I went right to sleep and a Michael took a stroll around downtown Spokane. We’d definitely come back to this town for a long weekend to explore a bit more!

A chill pre-race day

This morning we had a slower start to the day. No alarm! Our first stop was some huckleberry tea and a yummy breakfast sandwich at Montana Coffee Traders. The store was super cute and had all kinds of fun gifts if you needed something. Then, we headed out to Missoula with a quick detour at the Mountain Mission Winery. We did the $5 tasting. The widens weren’t great, but not terrible. And they had a great view. A good detour to break up the driving. 

When we arrived in Missoula, we headed to James Bar and 
had sliders and sweet potato tots for lunch. Pretty good. 
Then, we walked through their cute downtown to get our packets for our race the next day. 

When we returned to our car, we went on a little brewery/cidery tour. First stop: Big Sky. Mike got a flight and I had a small strawberry mint hard seltzer. Not bad. Then, we went to Western Cider. Super cute place. I didn’t want a whole flight, so I had just a glass of their sour cherry. Pretty good. Then, we walked to Imagine Nation Brewery. This place was awesome! Mike had a really good flight and I had some non-alcoholic hop tea made with tea from the local tea shop. They also had great art on the walls and we also the bought a painting...or two. But, we didn’t have an easy way to get them home, so we left them. :( 

We checked into our sad, sad Motel 6 and then walked to the Missoula Tea Company (I could stay here all day!) and then got to Biga Pizza just as they opened and snagged the last couple of seats at the bar. Ordered a bread and spreads plate and a yummy pizza. Enjoyed chatting with the chef/owner as he made all the pizzas for the big marathon crowd. 

Then, it was a walk home, a quick trip to the laundromat, and then bedtime as we had an early race day ahead. 

Montana and Glacier National Park

Leg #2 begins in Spokane. We arrived late on Thursday night and headed out early for Glacier National Park. More on Spokane later. We picked up the rental car at 7am, stopped at Incrediburger for a yummy breakfast sandwich to go (we got the New Mexican), and were on our way.

The drive through eastern Washington and the panhandle of Idaho was gorgeous. Lots of trees, winding mountain roads. 

Our first stop was Desoto Grill in Kalispell for lunch. We shared a bbq chicken plate. The food was fine, nothing special, but good.  Charming little place. Then it was back on the road with about 45 more minutes before we hit the park.

Once we entered the park, our first stop was the visitor center for some maps and finding out what was open trail wise. Then, we headed to Apgar Village to rent some bear spray for our hikes. The village is charming and we would return later that evening. 

Once equipped with the necessities, we started our journey up the Going to the Sun road.   The drive is amazing. Reminded us a lot f the Road to Hana. We enjoyed the views and made our first big stop at Logan Pass. We talked with the ranger there and since the Highline trail and the trail to Grinnell Glacier were still closed due to snow, she gave us a few other recommendations and we continued up the road. 

First stop: Jackson Glacier overlook. This is the only place on the road you can see an actual glacier, so we stopped to take photos. 

Then, we parked at Summit Gorge  to do the St. Mary’s and Virginia Falls hike. The first half of the hike was through some burnt forest, so you could see the lake and the surrounding terrain. We even had to stop for a deer and her three fawn who were having a snack in the middle of the trail. We also got to see a chatty marmot. There were three waterfalls total, each bigger than the last and the water was clear and tropical blue. The hike took us about 3.5 hours and it was totally worth it! We highly recommend it. 

When we made it back to car around 7pm, we decided to go just a little bit further up the road to Rising Sun. We knew we didn’t have time to finish the road, so thought we’d get to one more big marker. But, there was nothing really there for us, so we turned around and headed back. Unfortunately, they were doing road construction and so lots of delays getting past where we started our hike. 

The drive down was fun and included a small rain shower and a spotting of a mountain goat jumping down the rock face. We returned our bear spray and picked up some huckleberry ice cream and then tried to get to Columbia Falls in time for dinner. 

Checked into our hotel quickly (Travel Inn) and then found a bar called Gunsight that was open late for dinner and drinks and we actually enjoyed our time there and our food was good. 

Another successful day, another beautiful national park. Much more to do time!