Montana— Big Sky Country

July 8th, 2010 2 Comments »

The state of Montana always elicits a sort of dreamy-eyed wildness when mentioned. Montana has a low population, vast undisturbed wilderness and fosters independence in all who reside there. My trek through Montana was in western Montana, as I had seen eastern Montana and knew I would prefer being closer to the mountains.
I had also met someone from Kalispell last spring (my Farmer’s Insurance agent) and she encouraged me to check it out and so I did. First, let me say all of the Flathead Valley was lovely and though I liked the Skagit Valley in WA and the Rogue Valley in OR, I finally had the kick in the head moment I’d been waiting for all this time. I could see myself there and was sad to leave it.
My first video of the area is from an unlikely place, but it caught my eye and I just could not rest until I got to see it and make a movie about it. It was called the Humane Society of Northwest Montana which is located on the northern end of Kalispell. A nice young man named Dennis was my tour guide and I was very impressed with this facility especially since it highlights the possibilities for a community and for people who may have the option to leave something special that benefits people and animals.

Northwest Humane Society & a tour with Dennis

My friend Barry Dopp who lives in Challis, Idaho told me I had to visit a little town near Glacier National Park called Polebridge. He said they had an incredible bakery & a funky July 4th Parade that while he had never seen, he’d heard was a blast. Astra and I were staying just north of Kalispell, camping, freezing and having a decent time besides that. So the morning of July 4th rolled around and we were still on Pacific time and woke late and hit breakfast late, too. I struggled to find the time the parade started on line and when I did locate it, we had to scramble to get there by noon.
Polebridge is not on many maps as it’s tiny and situated around Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest. We were headed through the park but I could not find any road signs directing me to use that road so I stopped at a gas station outside the park and a young woman explained to me that I should take a short cut due to the traffic and delays. She wrote them down and they sounded like a wild goose chase over dirt roads with turns and twists, but they worked!! We arrived 10 minutes before the parade and I am so glad we made the trip. Take a look at this— the 4th will never be the same.

July 4th, 2010 Parade in Polebridge, MT~ 22 miles south of the Canadian Border near Glacier National Park

On my travels through Kalispell I was looking for folks to interview and I met two nice young people (I know that sounds I am their grandmother, but I am due to hit 40 soon) and they were trying to help me find something to video. After a few minutes discussion I finally decided that it was them I should interview. They were both exceptionally friendly and articulate and were great examples for their community.

Tierney & Josh~ Kalispell Montana

We stayed in Kalispell over the July 4th weekend and I stayed in a KOA between Kalispell and Whitefish. My KOA experience was great and if you are reluctant to camp, give them a try. It’s a great introduction and I always meet fantastic people. I spent the 4th celebrating with Canadians mostly from Alberta and though it was not their national holiday, they had a great time shooting off fireworks & kicking back! Our neighbors to the North are a jovial, easy going nation. Love ’em.

Below are two videos from this time. One is an interview with Walter, one of the owners and the other is from Astra sharing her experiences about camping and the trip. She overcame a hurdle this summer and proved that her tenacity will be a life long trait. Both videos contain the same footage at the end, but I felt obliged to include it in Walter’s interview for the KOA since it will likely get more hits on YouTube.

Kalispell KOA Independent Website

Kalispell KOA

Astra’s Update and the Wild Petting Zoo

I left Kalispell and headed south down to Missoula, a cool town I’ve always liked that mushroomed over the last ten years and left me in shock, as I suppose even college towns are not insulated from urban sprawl. I didn’t video it because along the way I spotted a sign for the National Bison Range and I turned off the main highway decided to check it out. If you hear me say on video that we are going to ‘check it out’ and that sounds contrived to you, just know that it almost always happened that way. Some footage was planned, but normally I saw a place or event that caught my eye and stopped. I would get this feeling like someone was poking me and I knew I had to stop.

The National Bison range is administered by the Department of the Interior, the same branch that handles the National Park Service, The BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and many other agencies. The Forest Service actually falls under the USDA. This place is blessed with vistas that brought me to tears. The wildlife was intriguing and caused much excitement for everyone, but all I could think was that the Flathead Valley was the mythical Eden. The video includes some great shots of calves with their mothers. However there were some people trying to walk up to these bison which to me were much less acclimated to humans than the bison in Yellowstone. A female became very agitated while we and other folks were near the calves (in our cars except for a few idiots). She snorted, stomped her hooves and fixed me with a glare that sent a chill down my spine. It was the animal equivalent of you are about to cross a line– back off now. I pulled forward a bit and Astra videoed a special shot of a mother and calf nursing. It makes me sad that there is no real open range anymore. Even this area was fenced off though the deer and antelope can probably go where they like.

The National Bison Range: Flathead Valley

Astra made her own movie one day and wanted everyone to know that she was on the trip too and working just as hard as me to find a new place to live so we agreed she would video one day. I am proud of this movie. Astra is only 9 years old and she did a great job with her movie.

Astra’s Mini Movie: Idaho and Montana

Occasionally I would receive suggestions from people I met along the way. When I was in Kalispell one rainy morning Astra and I chanced by a park and pulled over to walk around the medium sized pond that had many geese. I met a young guy and we chatted a bit and he’d had good experiences in Darby and recommended I see it. I knew I would pass through Darby on my way to Idaho and decided to stop and see if I could find someone to talk with me. I met a remarkable young woman named Becka who had developed a nice life for herself and I was very surprised that at such a young age she seemed so grounded. Her interview and scenes from Darby and the luscious candy shop where she worked are in this video:

Darby, Montana & Becka Marshall

This video was actually filmed in Idaho and since I don’t have an Idaho section, I am placing it here because it occurred around the same time period. Everyone I met and videoed was a stranger with the exceptions of Jen and my friends the Kublers with whom I evacuated Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Jen Purvine has been my friend for about 15 years. We met in Idaho City, ID when we had both been working on the Boise National Forest and have remained close ever since. Jen has Renaissance qualities; she is good at so many things and lives her life fully, always learning more and her enthusiasm never seems to waiver. She is one of the few people in my life that I can turn to for an unfettered opinion. Jen and I also share a strong sense of duty and equanimity towards all living things. She leads by example and the least significant of creatures does not go uncared for on her farm. I think her unique qualities should not be hidden away in the middle of Idaho and more people should know her and what she does. During her interview, I did prompt her to reveal the overall cost for caring for these animals to make a point that asking folks to take on rescued animals implies a permanent financial responsibility for the life of the animal. I think people often neglect this fact when trying find homes for unwanted pets.

Jen lives in Challis, Idaho which is geographically isolated in either direction on the highway, 60 miles north or south of any other city. It sits in a valley through which the Salmon River flows.

Challis Idaho Local Webpage

Rescue Farm