Day 18: Clark Fork & the National Bison Range

Tako and I were out late (for us) with Amie on Wednesday, so we slept in this morning. I didn’t mention this before but our AirBnB in the Northside was super cute. It even had a little yard and patio where Tako could hang out while I had tea in the morning.

AirBnB Patio

Some jerk on AirBnB had the audacity to call this place “shabby.” How rude is that? Tako and I loved it.

We picked up Amie for river time around 11 a.m., and she took us to a quieter beach she knew of in East Missoula, along the Clark Fork.

Beach Time

Clark Fork River is a huge part of summer life in Missoula. Last time I was here, I watched people surf the river downtown at a spot called Brennan’s Wave. (Not my video.) Floating is also a huge thing here, of course. (If you haven’t floated, you haven’t lived.) A quick Google search can bring up all the best float input spots, but here’s a list of recommended of day floats if you’re interested. Paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, etc.

Our little piece of the river had a handful of floaters, a few paddleboarders, and a lot of fishermen. There was a bit of a current where we were that everyone would paddle over to and then get shot down river to float under the bridge and out of sight.

It looked like so much fun. I wish I’d gotten a video of any of them.

Tako’s love of rivers continues to grow! He swam with us for a little while. Well, “swam” is a strong word-choice. He stood in the shallows and batted at the water.

If he’d had a floatie vest — my fail for assuming he’d continue to despise rivers — he probably could have come all the way in, but pugs aren’t great swimmers. (They’re top-heavy little creatures.) So I carried him out to the deeper parts, and he dipped his paws when he wanted to. So spoiled.

Clark Fork River

I think he had a pretty good day.

And then it was time to say goodbye to Missoula and Amie, and head off towards Flathead Lake.

Before I left, though, Amie told me about this festival happening nearby on Saturday: Red Ants Pants Festival. Supaman is performing, and that is something I definitely want to experience! I might be shifting around my entire trip (again) to make this festival happen…

Image result for supaman
photo credit: Hal Cannon / NPR (full article link)

Stay tuned.

Amie also tipped me off to the National Bison Range, which was on my way to Hot Springs, MT (my AirBnB for the night). For a $5 fee, you can drive one of three loops around the habitat and see all kinds of wildlife.

Water Creatures

Antelope 2

The main draw is, of course, the bison, but they’re tricky and stay away from the roads, unlike the deer, who block your car when they feel like it.

Antelope
Yeah, I was there for a while.

I did see several bison, but all from quite a distance. This was the best I could do with my iPhone.

Bison

So here is a picture of the replica in their visitor center.

Bison Replica

Note: You have to pay your fee inside the visitor center. Tako wasn’t allowed in the center, but he was allowed on the grounds. The weather was pretty mild today, so I was able to tie him up outside the door to the center. Paying took approximately 30 seconds because the college kid behind that counter is efficient af, so it worked out pretty well for Tako and I.

In the parking lot, there’s a viewpoint marked where they encourage you to bring binoculars and check out the prairie from that vantage point. (Use of the viewpoint is totally free.) Next to that viewpoint is one of the most amazingly beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

No bison were harmed to build this sculpture. Yes, the antlers are real, but they were collected after death. (I asked.) And they’re all wired in place so no one can walk away with a set either.

antlers-1.jpg

Pile of AntlersAntlers and Sky

Look at the unreal color, that texture!

Speaking of this last photo, I am currently obsessed with Montana sky pictures. I did a whole dedicated post on Instagram, and I have a thousand more photos of horizons and sky that I won’t inundate you with, but please know they are epic.

Driving through Montana has to be one of the most gorgeous drives in the world. Each direction you go will be slightly different. I drove northwest today, and you can see some videos in my Montana story highlights of the amazing scenery.

 

High

Driving through Montana.

 

Low

Tako drank river water. A lot of it. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him for a few days to make sure he doesn’t get sick. Sigh.

 

Breakdown

Driven: 2796mi

Hiked: 41mi

Written: 3k

Listening to: “Crossroads Blues” Robert Johnson


One thought on “Day 18: Clark Fork & the National Bison Range

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