Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 6, Helena to Livingston and Chico Hot Springs

Breakfast was lovely. There were beautiful hot scones waiting on the table for us, light and fluffy scones, not the crusty tough kind. The hostess, Pat, baked them herself, as well as the breakfast frittata, served with sausages and hot pots of coffee and cream. It was a great way to start the day. 

Carolina B&B Breakfast Room
Coffee and Tea Service
Sun Porch/Reading Room
Carolina Frittata, Sausage and Fruit
Pat’s Famous Scones

At breakfast we met Dave and Carol, from Everett, WA, who were married five years ago at The Carolina and who come back every year to celebrate their anniversary there, they love it so much. 

We drive towards our next stop, Chico Hot Springs, but we stop once again in Townsend. We have been looking for a car wash, our time in Glacier National Park has left us mud-stained and mud splashed; we have dead bugs on our windshield and every time I lean on the car to take a photo, I end up with mud on my legs.

We have MUD everywhere

We really like Townsend. We love the sign in the car wash. I love that while I am reading some Montana mysteries, Townsend is mentioned here and there, and I have a photo of the Commercial Bar, notorious among alcoholic cops and people who start drinking early in the morning. 

The Great Wide Open
“You know those are not real horses don’t you?” No. I didn’t recognize it was an art installation.

It is a beautiful day. 

On every trip, I try to schedule a wild card. A wild card means I don’t really know if we are going to like this or not, it might be out of our comfort zone, but we might also stretch and find we enjoy it. I had found Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, another place frequently mentioned in Montana detective series, and had reserved a rustic cabin, which happened to be all they had left that looked like what we might like. I was making reservations early in December, so I thought it odd that so much was already reserved.

So on our drive, I experience a few little anxieties, like did I make sure this “rustic cabin” has it’s own bathroom? What if it has a musty smell? What if this is some kind of tawdry experience that we might find distasteful?

We stop in Livingston en route; we want to visit the Railroad Museum and to have lunch at the Murray Hotel, where we had reservations last year we had to cancel when COVID overturned everyone’s lives.

Livingston, MT
Murray Hotel, where we would have stayed

The railroad museum was fabulous. AdventureMan loves history and loves railroads. I found some really cool movies, one in particular, Invisible Boundaries which tracks Yellowstone’s Great Animal Migrations. The film was gorgeous. Some of was filmed from helicopters, some by an independent filmmaker who trekked with wildlife specialists and a wildlife artist. The film is lush with color and action; the still shots and the artwork are breathtaking. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

The Cashier at the Railroad Museum told us many people come to Livingston to visit Dan Bailey’s, famous for angling outfitting

We had thought we would eat at the Murray, but saw Fiesta de Jalisco and had a craving for Mexican food, so we ate there. It was another restaurant which was careful – seating was separated, people were masked (not while eating). Best of all, the food was really good. I had a chicken mole’ and AdventureMan had a tamale and taco. 

“You have to see the rest room!” AdventureMan tells me

(We were greatly surprised that in all the tourist spots, prices were so reasonable. We think Pensacola has a reasonable cost-of-living; the places we found in Montana and Wyoming – OUTSIDE the national parks – were not more expensive than Pensacola.)

We walked after lunch, and found a cute gift shop where I asked if they had any cherry juice from the Flathead valley, and the woman running the shop looked at me and said “We don’t have it here, but I think I know someone who does” and called a friend. “Yes! She has it!” she told me, so we walked to the Copper Moose where we found the cherry juice and all kinds of wonderful Montana specialties, and some great conversation. We love bringing back local treasures to our family when we travel, and we found some really great treasures at the Copper Moose. We bough the large bottle of cherry juice; we should have bought two bottles, we love it so much. It is tasty, without being too sweet. It mixes well with water or with gin or tonic or seltzer. We were looking for a liqueur to pour over ice cream, like Chambord, but we never found it.

Chico Hot Springs was just a short drive down Paradise Valley from Livingston. Chico Hot Springs was really fun. Our cabin was not ready, but they checked us in, gave us wrist bands to use for the hot springs, and towels and said they would call when the cabin was ready. Just as we had parked, our cabin was ready, so we quickly drove up the hill to our cabin, dropped our gear, (checked to make sure there was a bathroom, and there was) and headed back to the springs.

C.J.Box, in his Highway Series, refers to the old Chico Springs as a former Sanitarium.

AdventureMan had told me he would just sit in the sun; not me! Hot Springs are natural! They have minerals! We used to live in Wiesbaden where people came from miles away and paid a lot to “take the waters.” I hadn’t been in ten minutes when AdventureMan came and joined me. I was delighted. It’s out of his comfort zone. We need experiences out of our comfort zone, we are still capable of growth and new experiences.

After a short while, we headed back to the room for a short nap before dinner. I caught up on my trip notes while AdventureMan went deep into sleep. By dinnertime, we were both relaxed, refreshed and ready.

View toward mountains
Dining Room at Chico Hot Springs

Reservations were a must. The Hotel had contacted me a couple months before and notified me that because of COVID, and employee shortages, and a requirement to socially distance, and the high volume of people wanting to eat in their dining room, if we wanted to eat there, we really needed to make a reservation, which I had made. 

We had an isolated table. Everyone there did. We had a delightful server, Purity, who really knew the menu and the wines. I discovered they had a very large wine tasting room just off the nearby bar, with a lovely selection of amazing wines.

Everything I ordered was off the evening specials menu – they had me at Butternut squash soup and Alaskan halibut. AdventureMan had Prince Edward Island Mussels and the Alaskan halibut, we both had white Bordeaux to drink and ended the meal by sharing a creme brûlée. The meal was magnificent, one of the best on our trip, probably because the wine was so perfect with the meals.

It was nearing sunset. We decided to take a drive along an unpaved road leading out of the hot springs area down into a valley area. We saw a mother deer with two fawns, and we watched the sun set behind a mountain. When we got back to the cabin, there was a fowl – a grouse (?) without fear, waiting to greet us. AdventureMan said he heard coyotes yipping nearby during the night; I slept through it. Our cabin was isolated from the main part of the hot springs complex, and very quiet. We had a wonderful sleep in this rustic cabin. 

One of the things AdventureMan says he loved about these rustic cabins was that they had great lights for reading. We don’t understand why hotels and inns have beautiful nightstands, and even maybe beautiful lights, but the bulbs are puny and they don’t put out enough light by which to read. Chico Hot Springs rustic cabins had good lighting to read by, and lots of hooks to hang up our clothes. We also had all the privacy in the world; the rustic cabins were relatively remote. 

September 14, 2021 - Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Local Lore, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , ,

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