Friday, August 20, 2004


WHITEFISH, MONTANA – My friend Sue always told me I would like Montana. Turns out, she was right.

After a night of shaking ground, piercing whistles, and thundering trains, we groggily set out for the solitude of Northwest Montana. Driving north and then west of Sandpoint, we followed the unbelievably beautiful Kootenai River through its majestic valley toward the sleepy town of Libby. As we sped past, fly fishermen stalked trout, under the watchful eye of bald eagles doing the same. This scene repeated itself in every valley we traversed as we plunged deeper into Montana, yet because of our schedule we had little chance to break out the fly rod. Undaunted, we continued on towards Kalispell. As we approached the pastoral Flathead Valley, and turned north towards Whitefish, a sheer wall of mountain and rock thrust toward the sky on the eastern horizon. Sue is apparently a very smart woman.

Whitefish is home to Big Mountain Ski Area, and like Sandpoint, it has that diametric mellow-adrenaline vibe common to western ski towns. Dogs passed in the back of pickup trucks, and every car carried a mountain bike, kayak, or both. Naturally, we felt right at home.

Planning to camp in Whitefish, we had scoped out campgrounds in advance, and felt confident would avoid another “train incident,” and yet another sleepless night. What our research didn’t tell us is that Whitefish, and unfortunately our pristine campground on the south shore of Whitefish Lake, sits right on the main rail line from Chicago to Seattle. The same set of tracks that runs through – you guessed it – Sandpoint, Idaho.

Thus far, four trains have passed in a flurry of noise and momentum, but at least tonight our campsite is a few hundred yards away, nestle in a grove of aspens. Tonight will be better. After all, we are in Montana.

Day 2 Road Trip Factoids:
Miles Driven Today: 268
Miles Driven Total: 638
Montana Trout Stream Passed: 11
Montana Trout Streams Fished: 0
Bald Eagles Seen: 2

Enjoy the Photos.