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University of Montana

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Montana Road Trip: Part 2

As promised, I'm back with Part 2 of our recent trip to Montana. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here. The day after graduation, the husband and I decided to go exploring. Hiking the "M" (which you can see in the distance in some of the pictures here) has always been on my Missoula bucket list, but I've never gotten around to it.

That, my friends, has been remedied.

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We stopped a lot to take in the view (and to breathe...we're flat-landers, okay?) and were rewarded for our efforts. The view just got better and better as we headed up the mountain:

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University Hall on the University of Montana campus:

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The Loyola "L" on nearby Mount Jumbo:

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Going up?

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Eventually, we made it to the "M" along with many other morning hikers...and their dogs:

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After hiking the "M," we had planned on checking out a ghost town just east of Missoula, but it was...well...closed. I know there's irony in there somewhere.

The website for the ghost town stated that it was open year-round. We actually drove most of the way there, following signs that were a bit confusing. Some implied that the attraction was in some sort of 'visit at your own risk' state, some looked as though we were on the right track and others were completely covered in black plastic. Once we started seeing the covered signs and noticed the road conditions getting worse (ungraded dirt roads = bad for my car), we decided to turn around.

Luckily we were only a couple of hours from the banks of Flathead Lake. I've been hearing about the lake ever since Jamie moved to Montana and I had yet to see it.

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So, Flathead Lake it was. And let me tell you, it was beautiful. We ended up driving almost all the way around the lake, but stopped at several state parks and turn out areas to check it out up-close.

Here are a few views from Finley Point State Park:

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Bonus: Montana weather was about 15° above normal while we were there. That means it was warm enough to stick my feet in the water!

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We also stopped at Wayfarers State Park. The water actually sparkled:

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This serene view was captured at the entrance to a campground on Blue Bay:

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On the way to Flathead Lake, we turned a corner and the Mission Mountains came into view. They are stunners. On the way back to Missoula from Flathead Lake, we decided to stop at a rest area to get a better look:

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Absolutely beautiful.

After a day of exploring, we spent a little more time with Jamie and her family and headed back to the hotel to get ready to leave the next day.

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We decided to take a different route on the way home and headed out of Missoula on U.S Highway 12. The drive home looked like this:

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We followed the Clearwater River for quite some time and decided it was too beautiful not to stop and explore. We even managed to get a bridge in the mix.

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These footbridges were all along the river and I'm sure make for great fishing access. I guess that's just one more reason to return, right?

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The husband loves to fly fish, so I'm guessing we'll see this river again.

On the way home, we traveled through parts of Idaho we had never seen before. The towns were small and the scenery was beautiful. Then we went through the most boring corner of Oregon, hit Nevada and just kept going. We thought we might stop for the night in Winnemucca, but we were still feeling pretty good at that point. We made it home in just over 16 hours and were so glad to sleep in our own bed that night. Traveling is fabulous, but there's something pretty great about coming home too.

You can check out more of our travel photos on Flickr.

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How was everyone's weekend? Any road trip action?

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Sharing is caring! If you liked reading this post as much as I liked creating it, please share it with your friends. It would mean so much!

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Montana Road Trip: Part 1

Question: is it really a road trip when the destination is way more important than the journey? Probably not.

Oh well. I'm still calling our recent jaunt to Montana a road trip. So there.

You see, we hopped in the car a few weeks ago to drive to Missoula with one goal in mind: to watch my best friend Jamie graduate from the University of Montana.

Our route looked a little like this:

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It also looked a lot like this (Note: if you follow me - @jensnyder - on Instagram, you've probably seen these before):

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{Nevada}

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{Nevada}

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{Nevada}

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{Nevada}

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{Budweiser plant - Idaho Falls, Idaho}

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{Just after entering Montana}

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{Things started to green up a bit as we got closer to Missoula, Montana}

To be fair, we didn't drive the full distance in one day. We stopped and stayed one night in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It's a small town surrounded by farm land, but they did have a an incredibly clean (and fairly new) Holiday Inn Express. We couldn't have asked for a better spot to rest up for the night. Did I mention that everyone was super nice there. Well, it's true.

While we didn't stop much to enjoy the scenery along the way, we did see a lot from the car. Nevada is so.......brown. It's still sort of beautiful in its own way, though. My favorite part was passing through the correctional facility area where signs are posted warning people not to stop or pick up hitchhikers. The facility is literally in the middle of nowhere. Let's just say they didn't have to tell us twice. We were happy to keep on trucking.

Southern Idaho looks fairly industrious. They grow good food there, much in the same way we grow good food here in California. I respect that. I may not want to live in the towns we journeyed through, but I'm always glad to have mental images of different parts of the country tucked away in my memory bank.

When we got to Missoula (if you're new here, you can see how much I adore Missoula here and here), we got an early check in at the Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula. The hotel was sufficient, but not as updated as I had hoped. It was, however, right on the river and super close to the university. Sometimes location wins.

See what I mean?

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This cute little park was right in front of our hotel and connected to a river walk along the Clark Fork River. The hotel is also located right in Missoula's downtown business district, so we were able to check out a few spots during our trip like Caras Park (GREAT farmers market on Saturdays), The Mercantile Deli (loved their breakfast panini), Tamarack Brewing Company (Yard Sale Amber...learn about it) and Noteworthy Paper & Press (cutest stationary & print store ever). We also had time to visit my all-time favorite: Taco del Sol. I can't even put into words how much I love their food. If you're ever in Montana, go there. You'll be glad you did.

Anyway, back to the waterfront. I've also always been intrigued by this:

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It's a man-made water feature right in the middle of downtown Missoula called Brennan's Wave. People (and dogs, apparently) flock to it.

You can learn more about Brennan's Wave here.

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The morning after we arrived, we geared up for a full day of graduation festivities.

And by festivities, I mean cheering like nobody's business when they called Jamie's name, BBQing with her friends and family and, yes, posing for silly pictures.

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{Post-graduation at the university. So proud of you, Jamie!}

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{Taking a break from the difficult task of enjoying BBQ and Summer Honey to pose for pictures. Tough life, right? -- Photo courtesy of Jamie's friend Jon.}

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{Things got silly when someone started talking super heroes. This is our best Spiderman, right here. Don't judge. -- Photo courtesy of Jamie's friend Jon.}

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Stay tuned for Montana road trip: Part 2 next week (updated with the link!). I've got more to share, people. Have any of you been to Montana before? What did you think? Anyone planning a road trip this summer? I want to hear about it! Just be sure to link up in the comments.

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A Little More Montana

Just to get you up to speed: I posted yesterday about flying to Montana to surprise my girl, Jamie for her birthday over NYE weekend. Once we recovered from a little too much fun, we headed into downtown Missoula for some shopping. This was my third trip to Missoula and, though I love California, I always feel really comfortable there. Missoula is home to the University of Montana and it's definitely a college town. It's sort of like a downtown Davis/Berkeley mash-up with fewer people and large side of rugged thrown in for good measure. I dig it.

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