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 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 5 East Glacier to Helena

AdventureMan and I have different perspectives on this day. He thinks it wasn’t so bad. I think it was the worst day of our trip.

It started off great. We slept in – well, until 0730, which for my body time is 0830. We ate breakfast, packed out, thoroughly appreciating our three nights at Traveler’s Rest and the spaciousness and convenience of our beautiful cabin there. 

View of Traveler’s Rest From SR2

AdventureMan suggested one last drive to Two Medicine, and it was beautiful, a totally different day from our first drive.

On the way back, we stopped at the glorious Glacier Park Lodge, and then for our last time at the Glacier Trading Post and picked up two pieces of huckleberry pie for the road. The crust on these pies is as delicious as their fillings!

Glacier Park Lodge

As we head out of Browning, AdventureMan says “We can turn off the Bossy Lady now; we have been on this road so often we know the way without her, and you can turn her back on when we get near Helena.”

This wind farm went on for miles!

Long story short, an hour or so down the road, AdventureMan says “None of this looks familiar!” I say sure it does, because it’s all rural stuff, grain and storage for grain, railroad tracks, but it nags at me that AdventureMan might be right. 

When I check, we are on A road but not the road we had intended. This road takes us to Great Falls and the interstate. We near Great Falls around lunch, find the Bear Diner and have what we agree is the most forgettable meal of our entire trip. 

Cute place, large menu

AdventureMan is right, it wasn’t a bad place, the service was good, I was just grumpy to be in Great Falls and eating calories that didn’t thrill me.

It is August, and nearly 80°F and this is at the entrance of the Bear Diner. It gave me a chill knowing winter can arrive suddenly, and it is best to be prepared.

This is also a day when there is a lot of haze, and I am a little nervous about breathing the particulate matter from the burning wildfires.

Carolina Bed and Breakfast, Helena, MT

We get back on the road and arrive in Helena at 2:00, early for our B & B reservation. Fortunately for us, the room at The Carolina B&B is ready, and the hostess is very gracious, welcomes us, shows us to our room, The Anisette, and shows us around the beautiful mansion, full of beautiful furniture, carefully gathered, curated with care, and china, and exotic curios, full of artistic works and models and framed art. Everywhere you look is something of interest. 

Our room, the Anisette, which has a bathroom behind the mirrored door
Bathroom next door to our room; not all rooms had their own bathrooms
A gathering room on the top floor
Bedroom on top floor
Another bedroom

Tonight AdventureMan chooses a place for dinner, and we head downtown to one of the trendiest restaurants in town, Hokkaido, where we feast on Japanese cuisine. They specialize in Ramen and sushi, so I order some broth and a poke’ salad and a sushi roll, AdventureMan orders a seaweed salad and a couple rolls, and we share a large pot of green tea. Every table around us is filled with happy customers, old and young. It was the most varied demographic I have experienced, old and young, foreign and domestic, all economic levels, and the food was delicious, the service efficient and also friendly and helpful. 

After dinner we explored Helena in the glowing late evening sunlight. We found a “mosque” which turned out to be the civic center, and AdventureMan found a statue of Theodore Roosevelt which turned out to be a statue of someone else in front of the Capitol building. We were staying in a very old neighborhood full of spectacular houses and a gorgeous old Catholic church, so we were able to spend some time walking before we turned in. 

Helena Civic Center
Cathedral of Saint Helena, in the last gleams of the day’s sunlight

We were so glad to have chosen a room with its own bathroom. All through the night we could hear doors opening and closing, people using the bathrooms next door to our room. You could hear couples whispering to each other, which warned us to be careful because if we could hear them, they could also hear us.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Geography / Maps, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment