Bozeman, MT to Liberty Lake, WA



Today was a busy day. We always like to eat at the Nova Cafe when we’re in Bozeman. For one thing, they have a tea menu. I’m not really keen to start reviewing breakfasts, though, and there’s much more to tell today, so I’ll just mention that Caroline bought one of their orange teapots (a new one, in a box) as a souvenir.

First off, we went for our morning walk. For a change from the monotony of river walks (kidding!) we started behind the library and walked up Pete’s Hill and along the top of it. This ridge offers spectacular views of Bozeman and the surrounding farmland, with a beautiful backdrop of mountains. The paths are crushed rock and seem to be heavily favored by dog-walkers. There were a few cyclists on mountain bikes and one or two joggers, too.

Before I forget, this tour has a name now. Previous road trips all had names, such as ‘Wine and Dino’. This one shall be known as ‘Salmon Run’.

Having decided this, we promptly began discussing route changes that may make the name less appropriate. From the outset, the endpoint of this trip was supposed to be Seattle. We’ve never been because big cities aren’t really our kinds of places. Guess what – we aren’t going this time. We were having such a good time in Bozeman that we started talking about all our favorite small towns, like Sisters, Oregon and we realized that we could visit more of them if we weren’t striving so hard to reach Seattle.

So we spent an hour at the computer and on the phone trying to make changes. This got tricky, because it’s not easy to fix up a string of hotels including a summer weekend on short notice. Could have stayed an extra day in Bozeman, which would have allowed us to visit the Lewis and Clark Caverns, although we would have had to change rooms. But that would have made us a day late here in Liberty Lake, and they are booked solid. So today had to remain the same. After that, we couldn’t get into Yakima or Hood River, so we had to work around that logjam by booking two nights in Prosser (just down the valley from Yakima) and then Hood River, then Sisters, then back to Walla Walla to resume our previous routing.

Got all that sorted out including the near-term cancellations, and managed to get moving at around noon. Promptly had a near-miss at an intersection near our hotel when a Ryder truck coming the other way made a late left turn long after our light turned green. Full-on emergency braking allowed us to stop less than half a car-length from his rear wheel. He didn’t stop. Don’t know if he even saw us.

Just after refueling in Missoula, we entered an area of forest fire activity. At least, that’s what the roadside sign called it as it warned you not to stop. We closed our vents in case there was thick smoke, but what we weren’t expecting was the helicopter traffic. They were fluttering back and forth across the interstate to fetch water to drop on the hillsides on our right.

A Sikorsky Sky Crane flew across the road less than a mile ahead of us and then after slurping up a load of water through a fat hose, flew right in front of us on the way back to the fire. Did we get a fantastic picture? No – we were too startled! Moments later, we got a picture in which the giant helicopter is a gnat-sized speck. You can see it between the smoke plume and the top of the telephone pole. One of these days I’m going to fit the CRV with a dash-cam. 

Oh, did I mention it’s been hot? Daytime highs along our route have been in the 30’s Celsius, or for any American readers, into the nineties on the old Fahrenheit scale. Today we saw 37, which I think is pushing a hundred. We plan to do our walk as early as possible tomorrow.

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