PATTIE DISCOVERS THE PNW … RV CAMPING IN IDAHO & MONTANA (Part 2)

by Patricia “Pattie” Elwing

Patricia “Pattie” Elwing

Continuing on our camping journey…

A friend told me once when I was commenting on not being a beautiful long-legged blond, that “diversity is beauty.”  I realized she was right and that it is our differences that make us all unique and interesting.  The same is true in nature. We love the ocean views and also the mountain views and even though we have our preferences it is often the contrast that leads us to seeing the real beauty in life.  

The Steptoe Buttes near St. John had been a refreshing site on the way down to Lewiston.  In contrast, as we made our way north from Lewiston once again, the Palouse of southeastern Washington and along north central Idaho, allowed for a deep breath as space opened up around us.  Matt had travelled these roads many times in his youth and enjoyed seeing them again.  It was all new land to me and I appreciated its beauty and value for its agricultural gifts to our Country.  Idaho revealed its beauty by introducing trees to the scene all along the road as we travelled North on Hwy 95 along the West side of Lake Coeur D’alene, Idaho.  Driving up through Sand Point and around Lake Pend Oreille, we arrived at our next destination, Beyond Hope Resort RV Park (www.beyondhoperesort.com) off of ID-200 E.  

Hope, Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho

We pulled into the Beyond Hope RV Park where we had reserved a space for 3 days.  It offered full hook ups and easy access down to the private beach.  The people working the check-in are helpful and friendly.  There is an onsite restaurant, which is only open a few days/hours a week.   The owner is friendly and said he had a shortage of workers and his family was having to pitch in and run the show.  I was sorry to miss this dog-friendly, waterfront restaurant, as it has great reviews.  They offer a boat dock area and well-kept boat slips that did not seem overcrowded at that time.  You can’t beat the breathtaking views from the private beach looking out at Hope Bay, and opening up to the surrounding islands and mountains.  We made a few stops on our Lakeside biking, which offered the opportunity to check out the entire park and other rental locations/camping grounds nearby.  Always take a bike!

lake
Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake, Essex, Glacier National Park right along the Going to the Sun Road.

Historical/fact findings:  At 1,150 feet deep in some regions, Lake Pend Oreille is the 5th deepest lake in the United States.  Having seen three spellings of Pend Oreille (pronounced: pond-u-ray), on the surrounding area signs, I did a little research to discover, “Kalispel” is an anglicization of their name in their own language Salish.  Ql ispe’ (meaning “Camas People,” Camas is a root that was a staple of their diet.)  The Salishan language was shared by the Kalispel, Flatheads and other peoples of the region.  The indigenous peoples, the Pend d’Oreilles were divided geographically into two groupings, the “upstream people ” are commonly referred to as the Pend d’Oreille.  The “downstream people”are  commonly referred to as Kalispel.  The Pend d’Oreille means, ‘hangs from the ear,’ a title attributed to them by French colonists and traders in reference to the large shell earrings worn by both men and women.   

McGregor Lake. Montana

On the recommendation of a friend, we planned to visit McGregor Lake as we entered Montana travelling along Hwy 2.  We chose McGregor Lake RV for our stay, which is located between Libby and Kalispel in Marion, Montana.  There was not direct access to the Lake from our campground, however, Little McGregor Lake is right out its back door and dry camping (no hook-ups) is available.  As with all of these camping grounds, reservations are recommended.  The RV Park has full hook-ups and a sweet little ¾ mile trail around the park that is perfect for walking pets, and being in the mountains.  Some of the guests travelling in their RVs make it an extended stay location.  We met a few neighbors who had been out travelling for a year or more and had formed a friendly community, as often happens in RV Parks.  We enjoyed a day of Stand Up Paddleboarding from a park/docking area about a mile from Marion and found it to be some of the cleanest, most pristine water we experienced on this trip.  Grateful to have the bikes with us, we cruised around and took easy trips for dining at The Lodge at McGregor Lakes just across the highway for pretty decent meals and casual outside dining with a view of the Lake.  www.mcgregorlakesrv.com www.thelodgeatmcgregorlake.com

mountains
Going-to-the-sun Road
Views from along this 50 mile scenic landmark crossing is steep and winding but has many pullouts for viewing.

Flathead Lake, Montana 

Travelling on Hwy 93 south took us right to the Lake and the moment we entered Somers and Lakeside, the amazing views started rolling out before us.  We arrived at Rollins RV Park to find a hillside arrangement with 3 tiers of RVs all with great views of the Lake across the highway.  My five star rating goes to Rollins RV Park and was my favorite RV park on this trip.  The folks in the park office literally guide you into your space and tell you just to leave your garbage at the front of your space for daily pick up.  M&S Meats provides a small store on the grounds with amazing quality meats and necessary items.   At Rollins Restaurant we enjoyed a lake view sitting on an adult swing as we had breakfast.  There are a lot of grassy areas, a playground for children, a comfortable visitors recreation center with ping pong tables, laundry facility, 4 communal fire pits and outdoor games are set out for your enjoyment.  I played frisbee golf for the first time…and called it exercise for the day!   www.rollinsrvpark.com 

We celebrated my birthday on Saturday, July 10th aboard the Far West Boat Tours mid-day tour.  This is a wonderful way to see a good portion of the Lake and although no refreshments are offered, guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages and even small well-behaved dogs are allowed!  We enjoyed the great photo ops and met some nice people aboard.  www.flatheadlakeboattour.com

Glacier National Park

While staying at Flathead Lake we also took a road trip over to Glacier National Park.  There is so much to see along Hwy. 93/35 North, even before you reach the “Going-to-the-sun” road.  This is a scenic landmark crossing Glacier National Park and runs between the West Glacier entrance and the east entrance of St. Mary.  We decided to go in from the St. Mary side, late in the day as reservations/tickets must be purchased 2 days in advance to enter between 6am-5pm.  Get ready for some awe-inspiring nature.  It is a lot to take in and you will want to stop several times along the way.  Tip:  download Gypse Guide for a wonderful phone app which offers well-done guided tours in several National Parks.  The peeps we met on the cruise the day before had recommended the app, as it points out landmarks, facts and ideal places to stop for lunch, hiking, scenic views all along the “Going-to-the-sun” road.  The app can be used when entering from either side and adds a great value for about $7.99. 

mountain stream

Facts:  The 50 mile paved road was completed in the 1930s.  You will want to allow 2-3 hours to explore the complete distance.  The road is narrow, steep and winding, with numerous pullouts for scenic viewing.  Our guide even offered hiking locations along the way, noting the time needed.  It will take several more trips to really grasp the vast beauty of this area, a designated National Historic Landmark, National Civil Engineering Landmark and National Register of Historic Places.  The only road in the US with all three designations.   

The Crown of the Continent Ecosystem is a natural area extending across the Canada/U.S. border to encompass both Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Park.  The ecosystem straddles the Continental Divide and includes nearby wilderness areas, national forests, Indian tribal lands and private land. 

I’ll end my discovery story here.  Seeing this Country is a great joy of mine and so I’ve included a few pix as well.

In-joy,

Pattie

1930 tunnel
This tunnel was completed in 1930

Patricia “Pattie” Elwing, moved to Washington State in August 2020.  A West Coast woman, her love for travel and discovering new places leads her around the world, and currently around the Pacific North West.  Watch for “Pattie Discovers the PNW” articles in the Huckleberry Press where she will offer fresh reviews and information about places she visits.  If she sparked the travel bug in you, or you try a recommended location, leave her a comment below!

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