Lightening, and fires, and bears, oh my! Sometimes life gets in the way of your plans. No, not even your meticulously calculated excel spreadsheet plans can stay perfect. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the West has been having more than a few wildfires recently. Sadly, our plans had to change because of the fires last month at Glacier National Park and current fires in the North Cascades. We were hopeful early snow and storms would help, but those dreams went out the window when a main campground was closed to tent campers due to bear activity. Since I’m not really trying to have this little road trip end due to an interested bear, we decided to check out Missoula, Spokane, and Bellingham instead!
While looking for some lunch after leaving Yellowstone, I found Mark’s In-and-Out Burger! This counter has been open in the tiny town of Livingston, Montana since the 50’s and seems to be loved by all. By the time we left, their small parking lot was flooded with cars lining up and down the street. I’m not sure if we were that hungry (we may or may not have demolished multiple burgers, fries, tots, a corn dog and possibly the best chocolate shake ever) or if it’s actually true, but we both thought it beat the infamous In-and-Out! Check out their original prices from 1954!
Missoula might be the best kept secret in the US. Being in this town feels like you’ve stepped in to one of the coolest creative spots, before anyone else has caught on. I imagine the energy here feels somewhere like Austin or Nashville – years before everyone and their mom started to move there, drive up the prices, and frankly make it a little less cool. This trip would be over, we’d be looking for jobs, looking for an apartment, IF Missoula didn’t get an average of 40 inches of snow each year. I have to say that’s a non-starter for me and probably one of the reasons it’s stayed as fun as it is (the Minneapolis lesson holds true – the cold keeps the bad people out). This is the second largest city in the state and home to the University of Montana. We found a bustling downtown scene with a street fair when we arrived. Through the main drag we found an awesome wine shop, cool vintage shops, and even some solid beers. It’s got all these conveniences, but when you look around you’re still surrounded by the beautiful Montana landscape with rolling mountains on every side. The fabulously spicy pumpkin bread from a bakery near our Airbnb (a funky house/trailer), sealed the deal that this town deserves some serious love!
From here we traveled to Spokane, where we stayed at this adorable Airstream! We have another Airstream booked in California, so I felt like this experience would show me if that was a good idea or a total mistake. Since I could not stop smiling and photographing this place, I have to say I’m now looking forward to the camper life even more! It’s so fun to see what people can do with these tiny living spaces. A well designed tiny kitchen is the epitome of what make my cute-but-functional yearning heart happy. Our hosts happened to raise chickens and kindly left us some fresh eggs! We decided to get some goodies from Culture Breads and stay in to binge some HBO. What’d y’all think of the new Westworld season? I know I’m late to the game, but I was a little disappointed by the ending!
Bellingham was also a happy surprise to us. Lovingly referred to as Bham, this town sits just south of the Canadian border in Washington. We initially looked into this place because we couldn’t find much close to North Cascades National Park. We didn’t want to camp because heavy thunderstorms were in the forecast and we just discovered the tent isn’t exactly waterproof. We thought we could go to Bham, drive a couple hours to North Cascades, do a hike, and drive back. I’m exhausted just writing that sentence, so I was overjoyed when our super kind hosts recommended going up to Mt. Baker (less than an hours drive) for equally gorgeous views. I’m so glad we did that because it ended up being the grossest day across the state! We couldn’t exactly see much, but the fall colors really popped in this weather! If we had driven 4+ hours for no glacier views, I would’ve been more than bummed. We spent the rest of this foggy rainy day enjoying some college football. Luckily, since this spot was so close we were able to stop by again before heading out to Seattle. Check out our two attempts below!
If you had told me there was a mountain behind all that fog initially, I’m not sure I would’ve believed you.
When you need a hiking break, Bellingham is bubbling over with breweries (maybe even more than the Bham I’m used to)! We checked out Aslan (named one of Oregon’s top breweries), Kulshan, and Wander. Aslan won us over with a waffle-fry poutine with mushroom gravy and their Study of Dreams, a barrel-aged sour. Remember when I said a hiking break? Yeah, that’s because Bellingham has almost 70 miles of trails you have to explore! We checked out the Lake Whatcom area and were lucky to get some sunshine while winding around the mountains and lake.
I would LOVE to go back and see the parks we missed one day, but I’m so glad our little detour brought us to these fun places!
Next Up: Seattle!