Mountains, Mermaids and Moose Drool

Western Montana and Glacier National Park - Aug 2008

Next Stop Missoula
Missoula is a historic lumber town in the mountains of western Montana that boomed with the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the 1880s. The town is a center for outdoor recreation and home to the University of Montana (Go Grizzlies!) and the Big Sky Brewing Company (creators of 'Moose Drool' - Montana's favorite microbrew). In many ways, Missoula reminds me of my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Town and Country
Missoula is located in a valley and the surrounding mountains and rolling hills make an interesting backdrop for the town's historic turn-of-the-century buildings.

Evening Light
One of the town's most impressive buildings is the 1908 county courthouse designed by famous Montana architect A. J. Gibson.

Great Falls Tower
From Missoula, it was over to town of Great Falls which was once an important shipping, smelting and ranching town on the edge of the great plains. The town's landmark is the 135-foot tower of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad depot. The railroad has not been in operation since the 1980s and now the building is used for offices. The red and yellow logo sign at the top is not painted on, but rather made from a mosaic of colored ceramic tiles.

The Sip-N-Dip Tiki Lounge
By some reviews, the 1960s era Sip-N-Dip Tiki Lounge in Great Falls, Montana is the coolest bar on planet earth and I am not going argue. Windows behind the bar look into the bottom of the raised swimming pool where a mermaid - complete with tail - splashes about on Friday and Saturday nights. Music is provided on an old electric keyboard by 71-year old 'Piano Pat' Spoonheim who has been working there for over 30 years. You have not truely experienced life until you have sat at the bar with a glass of Moose Drool in hand, watching the mermaid swim and listening to Piano Pat play a truely memorable rendition of Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire'.

Two Medicine Cruise
From Great Falls, it was north to Glacier National Park where I stopped by Two Medicine Lake for a cruise on the good ship Sinopah which has been used for tourist trips since the 1920s. The boat is named for Mount Sinopah, the tall peak in the background.

Evening Lake
While in Glacier, I stayed at the historic Many Glacier Lodge between Sherburne and Swift Current lakes. Evening shadows painted Lake Sherburne in shades of blue and grey.

Bear in Mind
As I was stopping to photograph the lake, I spotted a couple of large shapes wandering along the opposite shore. Two young Grizzlies were coming out of the woods to play on the beach. While one bear heads for the water, the other delays near the treeline (upper right) to chew on a stick or a bush or a hiker or something.

Cold Above and Below
The following day, I took a long day hike into the mountains near Jackson Glacier to beautiful Gunsite Lake. Low-lying clouds sealed off the top of the basin above the lake and created the sense of being in a giant tupperware bowl. The water was as cold as it was clear.

Florence Falls
A short detour from the trail took me through a jungle of thimble berries to the roaring cascades of Florence Falls.

Christmas Comes Early to Logan Pass
On my way back to the airport, I followed the famous 'Going-to-the-Sun' road over 6,000 foot Logan Pass where an in-coming storm created an early winter blizzard.

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