Saturday, August 18, 2007

#4 - Whitefish & Kalispell

After seeing all there was to see in Eureka, we drove south 49 miles to Whitefish and set up camp at the Whitefish RV Park for four nights. This campground was in a perfect location about one mile (walking distance) of downtown, on the highway to Kalispell and near the turn-off to Glacier Park. The campground is very neat and clean and tucked away behind the Cheap Sleep Motel (no kidding). It's also buffered from the highway noise by a small strip center that includes a Chinese restaurant, a Subway sandwich shop, Radio Shack, a day care center and a small casino. It's very convenient mix of uses for folks who want to drop the kids off at the day care and grab a sandwich before a stop at the casino.

Downtown Whitefish --- Whitefish RV Park

The official population of Whitefish is about 7,000 but there’s lots of sprawl development that pushes the “greater Whitefish” population to at least 15,000. We took a long walk uptown one afternoon. There’s lots of touristy stuff, restaurants and other interesting things to do and see. Ron, the train buff, went to the historic railway station one evening to meet the westbound Empire Builder. Montana is burning and the sky is full of smoke so the evening sky has some very unusual coloring.

Westbound Amtrak Empire Builder at Whitefish

The day we arrived, we took a drive down to Kalispell and toured the 13,000 sq. ft. Conrad Mansion. Charles Conrad was a business tycoon and one of the founders of Kalispell. He and his family did a lot of good things for Montana, including some serious conservation efforts and the preservation of an important buffalo herd before it was wiped out. His house was designed by architect Kirtland Cutter and built in 1895. It's now a museum, with most of the original furnishings. Beautiful house and an interesting tour.

After the tour we stopped at the local Chamber of Commerce office for information, just as they were setting up for a pig feed in the adjacent downtown park. They invited us to join in, so we did. They had the grand champion pigs and beef from the fair on display (but not to eat). A big buffet was laid out in the gazebo that included a full barbecued pig and lots of side dishes, including cookies and soft drinks – all free. Good pig!!! and very nice people!!!
Carving the pig in the park. Free pig for everyone.

We spent the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 17, at the Northwest Montana Fair in Kalispell. It was dusty, dirty and smelly . . . just what a down home fair should be. We wandered through all the exhibits, including the livestock and topped off the day with huckleberry milk shakes (yum). Wild huckleberries are selling for $42/gallon this year.
Smoky skies at the Kalispell Fairgrounds --- Young lady with her grand champion (1,230 lb.)

#3 - Eureka

The small town of Eureka is tucked away in the northwest corner of Montana, about nine miles south of Canada. Ron lived here in 1955-57 and thought it would be fun to stop by for a 50-year visit to see how things had changed . . . or not changed.

We set up camp for two nights in a small campground seven miles west of town, along the steep banks of Lake Koocanusa, a long lake that formed in the 1970s behind Libby Dam. The campground had a small marina and gravelly beach on the lake, which made it very popular with water-oriented yahoos, including many Canadians. Our neighbors parked their trailer there for the entire summer and commuted back and forth from Calgary. There were lots of boats, off-road vehicles, kids, bicycles, golf carts and other dust-churners during the day. But they were all considerate and it was very quiet at night.

Lake Koocanusa

Bonnie is getting good at RV cooking, especially using the foil technique. She wraps up all kinds of good stuff and we put it on the barbecue. Delicious and with virtually no clean-up.

We spent most of a day in Eureka, visiting the historic village, the old dilapidated Great Northern Railway station where Ron’s grandfather worked until about 1960, and took a walk on the Eureka River Walk, a very pleasant paved pathway along the Tobacco River. We ran into long-time resident Ann Baney at the historic village. Ron’s mom taught school in Eureka the mid-1950s and Ann remembered substituting for her. We had a nice chat about old times and changes over the past 50 years. Ron’s best friend in Eureka was Dennis Dierman. We learned that his mother, Marge Dierman was living in a local nursing home, so we paid her a visit. She was pleasantly surprised to have someone from the distant past drop in. She was very alert, remembered Ron and we had a nice chat.

Eureka River Walk and first house in Eureka