05 June 2014

The Blackfeet Nation Montana My First Road Trip

May 27, 2014 was the day that my first ever road trip began. Kinsey Barnard, fine art photographer and my mom, is no stranger to road trips in the motorhome. Me, well, I’m a road trip virgin. Not only was this a momentous occasion for me but for Kinsey too. This would be her first road trip since Lakota crossed the rainbow bridge. She just couldn't seem to face the idea of traveling without him. They had shared so much on the road together.

It took Kinsey forever to get Clementine, that’s the motorhome, road ready. First there was the de-winterizing and then there were the systems checks. Gotta make sure no pipes got froze, the water heater works, the refrigerator works, the water pump works, the range works, the microwave works, the john works. Gads, there’s a lot of stuff the old gal has to do. We even took Shakedown Run to Glacier. Then there is the packing and provisioning.

When you live in a place like Montana, where the temps can go well below zero you pretty much have to empty your RV for winter. Then in spring you have to pack it all back in. Kinsey whizzed back and forth, in and out of the house so many times I got dizzy just watching. You shoulda seen the amount of food she packed away. Our trip was to last a week. She packed up enough food for a month! I really shouldn’t say anything because a love of good food is one of the many things we have in common.

Finally, the big day arrived. Kinsey had chosen St. Mary, Montana for our first trip. St. Mary is located on the east side of the Rockies on the Blackfeet Reservation. Many people are not aware that when they are at St. Mary they are guests of the Blackfeet. People are mainly focused on the entrance to Glacier National Park. Kinsey is no great fan of the US National Parks because they don’t allow dogs on the trails. Lucky for me, if a place doesn’t allow dogs she doesn’t care to go there.

Bright and early, maybe more like 9:30, Kinsey hooked up Shadow, that’s our little Ford Focus tow car, and we were ready to rumble. What was the first stop we made? The grocery store! I should be careful here, the stop was for cookies for me. From the Flathead, the road you take is 2 East through the Marias Pass and over the Continental Divide. The creeks were rising that’s for sure. Everywhere along the way water was gushing down the mountainsides. We stopped along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River for a picnic. The river was screaming. Kinsey had stopped here several times with Lakota but said she’d never seen anything like it.

Clementine and Shadow at the Northfork of The Flathead
There are two ways you can get to St. Mary. You can go through East Glacier taking 49 over to 89 or you can go the long way round by going all the way into Browning. Browning is sort of the capital of the Blackfeet Reservation. From Browning you go north on 89. There are length restrictions on 49 so if you are in an RV you’ll probably want to take Browning route. Kinsey's first time she accidentally got on 49 before she realized she shouldn’t be and there was no turning back. At that time, the sign advising the length limitations was after you were already at the point of no return. Let’s just say it was one of her more hair raising adventures. Glad to have missed it. Anyway, the drive over to St. Mary was nothing short of gorgeous.

Through the windshield 89 north Blackfeet Reservation
We got into St. Mary around two and checked into the KOA. Kinsey doesn’t usually stay at KOA’s but it’s still early in the season so there weren’t too many people. The other large park is up on a hill and the wind blows up there like nobody’s business. The first order of business was to go over to the Duck Lake Lodge and pick up a recreation permit for the Blackfeet Reservation. You need one of these if you plan to fish, hike or camp on the Blackfeet Reservation. The road to Duck Lake has some good vantage points for viewing Chief Mountain, a sacred mountain to the Blackfeet and an endless fascination for Kinsey.

Chief Mountain from the Blackfeet Reservation
After picking up the permit we drove around the area a little. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves on a road that said we needed to be either a Blackfeet tribal member to pass or have permission. There was a number to call for permission but it was out of service. Did Kinsey turn back? Oh, no, not that princess of the road less traveled. She figured she’d ask for permission if someone stopped us, nobody did. We passed a few vehicles and Kinsey gave the single finger wave. If you know the wave you’re pretty much accepted everywhere out in the country. Be careful though, don’t use the wrong finger.

In the early evening we took a walk down the road on the west side of Lower St. Mary Lake. It was a beautiful warm evening.

Lower St. Mary Lake - Blackfeet Reservation
  So far, I’m thinking I’m liking this road trip business. Can't hardly wait for tomorrow.

Be sure and check out Kinsey's new blog The Liberated Photographer.

©Kinsey Barnard


judyb said...

Molly, What a great trip! I love this part of the country. Have fun & keep posting. That prep part is a lot of work but worth it! Safe travels!

Kinsey Barnard said...

Thanks Judy! Will do.