They call Montana “The last best place” and I can now say I know why. From the huckleberry ice cream (really, huckleberry everything), the deer and other wildlife that cross the less traveled roads at their leisure, down to the sprawling landscapes flanked by mountains and dotted with crystal lakes, everything is magical.
Johnny’s family has been visiting the magnificent state for 20+ years and I was granted the privilege of joining the crew this summer for six days. When we first arrived into Bigfork on Tuesday we headed straight to The Garden Bar for a burger – the staple local watering hole where we enjoyed live music several of the cool nights. That evening we had dinner at ShowThyme, my favorite restaurant from the trip, where I had the Toothfish special.
After a quick survey of the town, I knew I had stepped into a week of “simpler” bliss. Nestled into the side of a hill, Bigfork sits on Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, and hosts one main street lined with unique shops and restaurants.
On Wednesday we hiked a trail from the edge of town along the side of Swan River before heading back for lunch, to walk around the shops in town, and enjoy ice cream from Montana Bear Food (a local shop). I was torn between the two staple flavors – huckleberry or moose tracks – and went ahead and ordered a scoop of each. No regrets with that stellar decision. Dinner was at Johnny’s grandfather’s place where the 15 of us spread out through the house and the patio overlooking Flathead Lake.
Thursday we ventured onto the lake with Sea-Doo and standup paddleboard rentals and then ended the early evening with a boat cruise on the lake before dinner. Cruises down the river displayed classic wooden barns and fields that run off into the mountains. Looking down into the water you can see the rocks on the bottom in most areas. Across the surface you would mistake the blue-green water for tropical colors. The pictures capture exactly what it looked like – unreal.
Dinner was on the bank of a different part of the 27-mile-long lake at Many Springs where I enjoyed another fish entrée. I discovered that the things to order in Montana were fish or burgers, but steak may be for another trip. And huckleberry anything could be located for breakfast pastries, ice cream, pies and more.
Stay tuned for the rest…